City council in Whitehorse on June 17, 2019. Whitehorse city council voted in favour of adopting the new policy at its Aug. 10 meeting following a lengthy discussion which resulted in an amendment that will see prospective contractors who have been excluded from bidding able to take to take their case to council for review. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

City adopts new procurement policy

Policy comes into effect Jan. 1, 2021

A new procurement policy will govern City of Whitehorse contracts and purchases beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

Whitehorse city council voted in favour of adopting the new policy at its Aug. 10 meeting following a lengthy discussion that resulted in an amendment that will see prospective contractors who have been excluded from bidding able to take their case to council for review.

Under the policy, the clause dealing with exclusions allows the city to bar contractors from bidding if there are issues with previous work the contractor has done that has gone unresolved or if the contractor is in legal proceedings against the city.

Coun. Dan Boyd first proposed an amendment that would have taken out the exclusion over legal matters, noting that suppliers “have every right” to take the city to court, with Coun. Laura Cabott stating her agreement. Others suggested the provision should remain in the policy to protect the city.

“We’re talking about taxpayer’s dollars,” Coun. Steve Roddick pointed out.

It was Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu who then proposed the provision to keep the clause in the policy, but with the addition that council could review cases of exclusion.

Curteanu suggested that would see seven members reviewing the matter.

After adopting the amendment council members voted in favour of the overall policy that will govern how purchases are made.

One of the more major changes will see city staff given administrative authority in awarding contracts. Currently, contracts are often put to city council for a vote, a situation that raises liability issues, city staff have stated previously.

While staff will deal with contract awards, there would be a “commencement” process in place where council would be required to give its authorization before procurements estimated to be more than $500,000 or deemed to be a significant risk, involve security concerns or are of significant community interest, could proceed.

Cabott argued this will actually give more responsibility to council in moving forward on projects.

The commencement period will also allow council to maintain oversight on work going forward, Roddick said.

“I’m excited about that,” he added.

Also in place are requirements for bi-monthly reporting on forthcoming procurements and semi-annual reports on contract awards of more than $100,000, single or sole source awards, emergency purchases, contract extensions or renewals and any instances of non-compliance with the policy and actions taken to deal with such cases.

A local preference clause is also included that will see the city give preference to a local business where the bid price is not more than three per cent higher than the lowest compliant non-local price where the procurement is between $50,000 and $100,000.

Meanwhile, for contracts that are between $10,000 and $49,000, local preference will be given where the bid is not more than five per cent higher than the lowest non-local bid.

Finally, for contracts of $10,000 and less, local preference would be given where the bid is not more than 10 per cent higher than the lowest compliant non-local bid.

As for what constitutes a local business, it’s defined as “a business that has a valid city or inter-municipal business license and has a physical address located in the Yukon from which its business is conducted.”

Before the policy came forward for a vote by council, a submission by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce on the policy was read into the record.

The chamber noted it was pleased to see the focus on local business and that the city had incorporated some of its earlier recommendations into the policy. It did, however, highlight concerns remaining over the changes that will see administration award contracts rather than being under “council’s watchful eye.”

During discussion, council members highlighted the ongoing efforts that were made to consult and come up with the new policy.

“This has been one of the hardest pieces of policy we have gone through,” Coun. Jan Stick said.

Over the coming months city staff will be working to develop the procedures under the policy before it comes into effect Jan. 1.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council

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