City of Ottawa staff detail procurement process in Ottawa’s Stage 2 light rail transit project amid questions of transparency

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On August 2, staff at the City of Ottawa admitted that it let SNC Lavalin through the procurement process for Stage 2 of the city’s LRT projects, despite the company’s scoring lower than procedural threshold.

TransitNEXT, an SNC subsidiary, won the contract to built the Trillium Line LRT expansion earlier this year, at a cost of $663 million. A long-term maintenance agreement puts the total contract to $1.6 billion.

City manager Steve Kanellakos sent a memo detailing the scoring of candidates after media and councillors had questions about the transparency of the procurement process.

Three finalists were in the running for the Trillium Line: TransitNEXT, Trillium Link, and Trillium Extension Alliance, and at the time, staff told council all three were compliant to technical requirements in the bid tender.

As Kanellakos’ memo reveals, TransitNEXT didn’t achieve the minimum 70 per cent technical scoring threshold to move through the process. TransitNEXT finished with technical scoring of 67.27 per cent, while Trillium Link received 85.78 per cent and Trillium Extension Alliance scored 84.91 per cent.

In explanation for letting TransitNEXT through the process, the memo to council explains that the steering committee received legal advice regarding the use of discretion in the RFP process that deemed the retention of TransitNEXT in the bidding process appropriate, because“the proponent’s technical submission had successfully completed the compliance review and it was advisable to mitigate the city’s exposure to legal challenges.”

When accounting for other factors, like financial scores TransitNEXT came out highest ranked overall.

Since March, when questions arose about the transparency of the procurement process on the Trillium Line, the city has been silent about the whole thing. In addition to questions about the scoring, questions arose as to whether staff even have the authority to allow a bidder who hasn’t met minimum thresholds through the process.

In response, Kanellakos’ memo said council often votes to delegate authority for decisions of that nature to staff, so they don’t have to get approval each time on large projects. Auditor general Ken Hughes is looking into the authority staff were given in this particular case, and the procurement process as a whole.

 

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