Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, talks about a new City of Whitehorse proposed procurement policy during a council and senior management meeting at city hall in Whitehorse on Sept. 26. If the new policy is accepted as-is it could mean less transparency for the public when council is awarding contracts. City officials will consult with stakeholders and potentially make changes based on feedback before it comes back to council for a vote.(Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

City of Whitehorse ponders new procurement policy

City continues efforts to draft new policy

A new City of Whitehorse proposed procurement policy will soon go out to stakeholders before coming back to city council.

The proposed policy was the focus of a council and senior management meeting Sept. 26.

While officials would not provide the media with copies of the proposed policy that was discussed at the public meeting, discussion around the table focused largely on a change that would no longer see individual contracts come to council for a vote on the award.

Currently, administration brings forward recommendations for council to award contracts over a certain amount according to city policy (more than $50,000 on consulting work and more than $100,000 on all contracts);

Under the proposed new policy, council would set the overall budget at the beginning of the year but administration would have control over who is awarded contracts.

The policy would set out the regulations for administration to follow when awarding contracts.

The process would be “very clearly set out,” Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, said.

As Constable explained, having council be responsible for awarding contracts means they are put in a position of legal liability.

Constable noted research has looked at best practices and how other municipalities deal with contract awards in drafting the proposal.

Coun. Dan Boyd however, brought forward significant concerns around it, pointing out it would take away from what is now a fairly transparent process.

He pointed out it’s through the current method that issues have been brought to council’s attention. Had the contract to beautify Alexander Street simply gone to administration the concerns over public safety in the area would not have come forward, he pointed out, and the contract would not have been put on hold in light of the issues.

Both Constable and Lindsay Schneider, the city’s acting director of corporate services, said there could be other opportunities for input from the public.

Budget discussions, information reports ahead of the award and other methods could be used to inform the public on contracts that will be coming up for award, they said.

Coun. Laura Cabott pointed out that if the city were to go in that direction there would need to be a more robust process for council to consider the budget when it comes forward.

Meanwhile, Coun. Steve Roddick continued to highlight his hope for a policy that would go beyond looking at finances alone and also factor in the impact purchases have on the local economy and sustainability among other factors.

“There are multiplier effects,” he said of local purchases, noting that a local supplier may be purchasing their own goods locally which has a greater impact on the local economy and may also on the sustainability side reduce the emissions as fewer goods need to come up the highway.

Specifically, he suggested a sliding scale could be used to measure the impact locally.

While details are not being provided on the policy, Constable said the document does address local procurement.

“It is addressed in the draft,” she said.

Despite the concerns they brought forward with the policy, members agreed it is ready to be put out to stakeholders for input back.

Coun. Samson Hartland also voiced his concerns, as he’s done in the past, around sole-sourcing contracts, arguing that should only happen when there are no other options available. That should be clear in any new policy put to council, he said.

It’s anticipated the document will come back to council before the end of the year.

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

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