Government’s sole sourcing raises more business ire

In January, Norm Smith learned construction giant Dominion Fairmile was sole-sourced a $50,000 contract to put blinds in the athletes’ village.

In January, Norm Smith learned construction giant Dominion Fairmile was sole-sourced a $50,000 contract to put blinds in the athletes’ village.

Smith was assured the job would go to tender.

The Woodbine Window Coverings owner inquired about the blind contract two years ago, listed himself as an interested contractor and has monitored the construction progress ever since.

He originally dealt with the Canada Games Host Society, but learned the project had been handed over to Community Services.

Listed on the government source list, Smith was in touch with Community Services until October.

“And all through they assured us that this contract would go out to tender and they would use suppliers on the YTG source list,” he said.

Then Smith was stonewalled.

He couldn’t reach anyone involved with the project until early January.

“I had the feeling they were avoiding my phone calls,” he said.

When he finally did reach Canada Games Community Services rep Joanne Harach, Smith was told the contract had been sole-sourced.

“She told me they had made a decision to sole-source this, as they didn’t have sufficient time to put it out for tender,” said Smith.

“But that’s patent nonsense.

“They’ve known about this since windows were put in that building, and they gave the $50,000 contract to Dominion, the construction managers for the project.”

Dominion, with offices across western Canada and Ontario, was sole-sourced the $980,000 contract for construction management of the athletes’ village in July 2005.

“It’s not sour grapes that I didn’t get the contract,” said Smith.

“It’s sour grapes that they didn’t go through due process and put it out for tender.”

And it wasn’t a matter of not having enough time, said Smith.

“We bid on tenders for YTG all the time,” he said.

“And there are lots of tenders with huge dollar values that close within three or four days — that’s not a problem.”

It’s no secret there are windows in the athletes’ village, added Smith.

“Anyone with a modicum of common sense would have realized they needed window coverings.

“They knew, because I’ve been talking to them.

“In fact, I reminded them at the beginning of October they should get on the window-covering business, and they said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going out for tender.’”

Harach told Smith that Dominion approached her with samples and suggested she use the Dominion crew already on site, he said.

“Joanne said, well it was getting late in the day and Dominion came to us with samples, so we sole-sourced the contract.”

But it’s not necessarily cheaper or faster to use the crew already working at the village, said Smith

“They don’t even know what it would have cost had they put it out to tender. And I guarantee, in a $50,000 contract, the bids would have been within a range of $6,000 to $8,000.”

Under the government contracting directive, any contracts between $10,000 and $50,000 must invite bids from at least three sources.

And in section F of the contracting rules it states: “in special cases authorized by a minister a contract may be sole-sourced.”

So it falls on the minister of Community Services, said Smith.

“Where is he?

“I sent him a letter, and he should be on this like a ton of bricks.”

The territorial government has contracting rules and regulations in place so it will survive people moving in and out of departments.

These rules are supposed to protect the general public from people making decisions within government that benefit them or their friends, said Smith.

“When they elect to take on jobs, like they have done, distributing public funds and private donation funds for the Canada Games, they are then in a position of public trust,” he said.

“And there’s nothing they do that should be held back from the public — there’s no secrets — everything has to be completely transparent.”

But Smith, who hand-delivered a letter to Harach last week, is still waiting for answers.

In his letter, dated January 22nd, Smith asks Community Services:

Who received the contract to install and supply window coverings?

What is the contract worth?

When was the decision made to sole-source the contract?

When was the purchase order and work order issued?

And why didn’t the project go to tender?

“The answers will be pretty damning for YTG,” he said.

“Because then they can’t hide behind the fact that it was too late in the game and they had to sole-source it — that’s complete nonsense.”

The athletes’ village job would have taken Woodbine all of three or four days, said Smith.

And Woodbine’s suppliers could have delivered within two weeks of ordering.

Smith just finished a job at the Yukon Inn, putting curtains in 50 rooms.

It took him a week.

“And putting in curtains is a hell of a lot harder that putting in blinds,” he said.

“We’ve done every major construction project in the Yukon for the last 25 years, just about — we’re used to doing that stuff.”

There are three or four contractors on the government source list who bid on all these jobs, added Smith.

“And they would have liked to bid on that (window coverings) contract too,” he said.

Contracts this size don’t come along very often, he said. “Most of us make our money dollars and cents, here and there.

“I smell a rat, in the way the athletes’ village has been built and paid for,” said Smith.

“How many contracts up there have been sole-sourced or people excluded?

“There’s something wrong.”

Harach and Community Services minister Glenn Hart did not return calls by press time.