Whitehorse city council will be applying a policy that could give local consultants a greater advantage in being awarded City of Whitehorse contracts, but city staff will look at it further before it comes back for a vote.
At council’s June 15 meeting, Coun. Laura Cabott brought forward a motion for applying a part of the city’s policy on awarding consulting contracts, allowing council to put greater weight on local content in consulting contracts.
Council ultimately decided to have administration look at it again and potentially change some wording.
Under the proposal, the weight allocation for local content on consulting contracts would be set at 20 points (the current practice is up to 20 points as determined by a department manager); and where a written recommendation is put to council where the local content is less than 20 points, council would consider it and then either approve it or confirm the full 20 points for the local firm.
The changes would “remain in place until March 31, 2021 or until such earlier time as determined by resolution of council.”
Mayor Dan Curtis and Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu voted against referring it to administration, each stating they would rather see the matter looked at as part of the overall new procurement policy that’s being drafted.
At an earlier meeting of council, Cabott had said she planned to bring it forward in an effort to support local purchases at a time where the economy is being impacted by COVID-19.
“This would give local firms a slight advantage,” she said at the June 15 meeting, after reading her motion that pointed to the economic impacts COVID is and may continue to have.
As her motion read: “… the COVID-19 global pandemic has caused health and safety measures to be put in place which have led to significant negative impacts on Whitehorse business; and …. Whitehorse businesses need support to manage through this difficult and uncertain time.”
Staff provided information to council, stating that all eight Request for Proposal contracts in 2019 were awarded to local firms. Any contract over $50,000 must go through a formal award process.
“Given that all 2019 RFPs were awarded to local companies, it does not appear that the proposed changes to the policy would be of significant benefit to the local business community,” the report reads.
“Current work to develop a new procurement policy includes examination of potential incentives for local procurement, considered within a broad procurement policy context to ensure consistency of the end product for Council approval.”
Cabott stressed that her proposal does not change an existing policy, but rather would see council apply a part of the policy that’s not currently being applied. It’s a move, she said, that can help address the economic situation local firms are and will be facing given the pandemic.
She also noted that while the 2019 contracts were all awarded locally, given the impact of COVID-19 it’s anticipated there will be more Outside competition for contracts in the territory.
Coun. Dan Boyd raised questions about the wording of the motion, noting he would like to see whether the city could look at it on a case-by-case basis and what the implications to that would be.
He suggested the possibility of having administration bring forward a list of upcoming RFPs in future months. Council could look at the RFPs and decide the weighting for local content in each.
Boyd also noted it could well be that his idea may not work for the city, but it’s something he would like to explore.
Coun. Samson Hartland also said he’d like to see it looked at a little more before council votes on it.
While the “intent is right”, he said some work could be done to refine it. Highlighting the numbers showing all 2019 RFPs were awarded to local firms, he also suggested it could be providing a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.
Others echoed that concern with Curtis and Curteanu stating their preference to focus on the new procurement policy. Curtis said city officials and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce have had recent discussions about the new policy and the issue specifically around local content weighting in RFPs could be looked at in future talks.
As city staff highlighted in its report to council: “Current work to develop a new procurement policy includes examination of potential incentives for local procurement, considered within a broad procurement policy context to ensure consistency of the end product for council approval.”
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