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Games contracts sole sourced

All contracts awarded for the 2007 Canada Winter Games Athletes’ Village were open for public bidding.

All contracts awarded for the 2007 Canada Winter Games Athletes’ Village were open for public bidding.

That’s what village project manager Mike Frasher said last week.

“All of our work has been tendered,” he said.

“We put it out, we get market prices and we award contracts — it’s all open to the public.”

Well, except for the exceptions.

And Frasher’s $329,000 contract is one of them.

It was sole sourced.

So were many others.

Barr Ryder, the Edmonton-based firm responsible for developing the athletes’ village concept design was sole-sourced a $1.7 million contract.

And Albertan supervisor James Graham, who has worked for the territorial government in the past, received $70,000 for project advice and management services.

He is, supposedly, supervising Frasher, said Liberal critic Jason Cunning.

“So we have one guy being paid $329,000 and then there’s another guy supervising him for $70,000.”

Governments get into trouble when they start sole sourcing contracts, said liberal MLA Pat Duncan yesterday.

In November, Duncan asked the Yukon Party about its “haphazard tendering policy” for the athletes’ village.

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

Duncan asked the Yukon Party what special case warranted its flagrant violation of the contracting rules.

She received no response.

“Fentie obviously didn’t answer,” said Cunning.

“He just said, ‘Oh, athletes’ village, good; Canada Games, good — asking questions, bad.’”

“As I understand it, from the contracting community, the contracting guidelines, which are worked out with the contracting community, weren’t followed as strictly as they should have been,” said Duncan.

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

For contracts exceeding $50,000, contracting authorities must issue a public request for bids.

To avoid the latter, Graham’s $70,000 contract was split in two, with one contract for $50,000 and another for $20,000.

“They’re breaking up the contracts to fit them into the limits — it’s all very convenient,” said Cunning.

But even at $20,000 and $50,000, the contracts should have invited bids from more sources, in accordance with the contracting directive.

However, the government’s current athletes’ village contract registry lists more than 10 sole-sourced contracts — all well above $10,000.

“What door do I line up at to get on this special Yukon Party contracting list?” asked Cunning dryly.

By sole sourcing contracts outside the territory, the message to Yukon contractors was loud and clear: “‘We don’t trust you to get this job done,’” said Duncan.

“And when you sole source a contract, you don’t get value for money,” she added.

“There has to be a special reason to sole source, because competitive bidding is what gives you the best price.”

The hospital was under construction when the Yukon Party was elected, she said.

And right off the bat, the party brought in someone from outside to redesign it, cut costs and save money.

It was Graham.

Now, he’s back working on the athletes’ village.

And, once again, he owes his lucrative contracts to the Yukon Party.

“The last time the Yukon Party did this, there was real friction between this sole-sourced project manager and the contracting community,” said Duncan.

“And, lo and behold, they’re in a bind, so they go back to their old ways and back to the same situation that’s happened before.

“And the contracting community has responded, ‘Look you don’t trust us to get this job done — why should we show any confidence in you?’

“It’s a very fair claim and Mr. Fentie’s got to be aware of that when he goes to the polls.”

The Yukon Party got caught in a time crunch, said Duncan.

But it didn’t try to work out the problem with Yukon contractors, she added.

“I imagine that going to the contracting community and saying, ‘Look we need an athletes’ village and we’re under a tight timeframe,’ would have come up with better answers than what the government has done,” she said.

Certainly the next government is going to ask the auditor general to examine this, which is what happened with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, she added.

“The reason we have (prefabricated housing) modules up there — the reason we have one of the most expensive housing units ever in the history of the Yukon — is because of incompetence by the Yukon Party government in advancing this project,” said Official Opposition leader Todd Hardy.

Local contracting agencies, First Nations and local businesses brought forward numerous initiatives that would have made this a local product, he said.

“And, frankly, what happened is this is a file that sat on Mr. Fentie’s desk for far too long, until they felt they were in a crisis mode and they had to go with a modular construction.”

Once that type of structure was decided on, there were very few people in Canada who could build it, said Duncan.

“So, once you’ve made one decision, it leads to another, to another, to another and the issue becomes, ‘How did we leave the good advice, experience and expertise of the Yukon contracting community behind on this issue?’”

Local contractors know what they’re doing, said Duncan. “We’ve asked them and trusted them to build buildings before, and, guess what, they’re still standing — they don’t have leaky roofs.”

There’s this whole issue of accountability, she said.

“The question is, once you build these buildings, 10 years later, what’s the cost to fix them — what’s the shelf life?”

At $31 million, they should last for a while.

The cost of the project is exorbitant, said Hardy.

“These are the most expensive apartments, we’ve ever seen in the Yukon.

“Nothing compares to them — nothing.”

Fentie mismanaged the whole project, by shutting out contractors who brought forward proposals, he said.

“It was delay after delay for him to move forward and ultimately we end up with this.

“Now we are living with it and have the modules going up there.”

And Hardy, who has a contracting background, heard there are some problems with the modules.

“I’ve heard employees of Atco saying, ‘Yeah, there are problems with them’ — but there are problems with every construction project,” he said.

The difficulty with the modules is they arrive already closed in, Hardy explained.

So, to repair certain things they have to be torn apart, while with frame buildings it’s easier to make corrections along the way.

“There’s a huge amount of cost and waste, and lost opportunities for more local employment on that site,” he said.

“But now that we have it, we also want to recognize there are a lot of contractors, a lot of workers and a lot of apprentices working up there to deliver this project for the Games, and I have a great deal of faith in Yukon workers that they will do a damn good job for the Yukon.”