New processes could be in place for anyone bidding on City of Whitehorse contracts after Jan. 1, 2021.
At Whitehorse city council’s Aug. 3 meeting, members were presented with the proposed procurement policy that would replace the current purchasing and sales policy governing how the city purchases goods and services.
The proposed policy is the latest draft after the first was sent back to administration in February. At that time the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and others brought a number of concerns forward over the importance of local purchases and how contracts would be awarded.
One of the major changes would see city staff given administrative authority in awarding contracts. Currently, most contracts are often put to city council for a vote, a situation that raises liability issues, city staff have stated previously.
The latest draft of the policy would continue to see staff deal with contract awards, but as Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, explained in a report to council, 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 be of significant community interest, could proceed.
“This process will give an opportunity to ensure the policy principles have been addressed appropriately in the proposed procurement,” she said. “This arrangement is supported by the requirement for bi-monthly reports of forthcoming procurements to be presented publicly to council, thereby also enhancing public awareness of anticipated procurements.”
The bi-monthly reports would list procurements coming up that are expected to be more than $100,000.
There would also be semi-annual reports detailing contract awards of more than $100,000, procurements, 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 has also been added into the policy that would 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 would 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 in the proposed policy as “a business that has a valid city or inter-municipal business licence and has a physical address located in the Yukon from which its business is conducted.”
The draft policy also outlines that city council can request a fairness monitor be used in procurements where it’s deemed warranted.
Before Constable’s report, city clerk Norma Felker read a submission from the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce (as in-person delegations are not happening due to COVID-19 measures) highlighting concerns emphasizing the importance of supporting local businesses and arguing the city should specify in the policy a target of 85 per cent spending be done locally.
During a lengthy discussion following the report on the policy, Coun. Dan Boyd raised a long list of issues about the proposed draft questioning provisions of the policy that would exclude contractors from putting in bids in some circumstances if there have been issues with previous work that haven’t been resolved or if the contractor is seeking legal action against the city.
Constable explained the clause is fairly standard in such policies and outlined a number of steps that would be taken to deal with corrective action before a potential contractor would be excluded from bidding.
“These all have to do with risk management on the city’s part,” Constable said.
A number of court cases from Alberta and British Columbia were also cited in showing the rights of municipalities in excluding contractors from bidding in some circumstances.
Boyd said that while he is not disputing the clause could be included in the policy, he argued against barring contractors from bidding because they are seeking legal action against the city.
Coun. Laura Cabott stated her agreement with Boyd, noting that just because someone is involved in a lawsuit doesn’t mean they should be excluded from bidding.
“I do have a problem with that,” she said.
Boyd continued to take issue with a number of points of the policy and noted he’d like to see a response given to the concerns brought up by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce ahead of council’s vote on the policy scheduled for Aug. 10.
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