Council to consider auditor general review of stage 2 LRT procurement

Councillors continue to rail against the procurement process for the second stage of Ottawa's LRT development
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A rendering of Gladstone Station in LRT's second phase, with all extensions and improvements slated for completion in 2025.

City Council will consider a motion at its next meeting to have the auditor general look into the procurement process surrounding the $4.7 billion in contracts for the second phase of Ottawa’s light-rail transit system awarded earlier this month.

Capital Coun. Shawn Menard filed notice of a motion at the end of city council’s meeting Wednesday to have the auditor general investigate the process that saw SNC-Lavalin’s subsidiary win the contract to extend LRT’s north-south line and a consortium of international companies awarded the east-west extension. Menard cited new “credible information” that called into question the “integrity” of the procurement process, alluding to a recent CBC report that alleged SNC-Lavalin’s bid did not meet the minimum technical requirements for the project.

Mayor Jim Watson told reporters last week that he remained confident in the city's pick of SNC-Lavalin during the Ontario government's announcement of funding for stage two LRT.

Menard’s notice was followed by one from Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans asking for city staff to provide more information on delegated authority in the procurement process for stage two, which was first established in March 2017.

Deans repeatedly attempted to solicit details about the stage two bids’ technical scores during the March 6 council meeting to approve the contracts, only to be stonewalled by the city’s staff and retained legal counsel citing the confidentiality of the procurement. Council approved the project – the largest infrastructure project in Ottawa’s history – by a vote of 19-3.

Anticipating further scrutiny on the phase two contracts, city manager Steve Kanellakos sent a memo to council ahead of Wednesday’s meeting reaffirming his confidence in the procurement process.

“Let me say without qualification that the process by which the recommended proponents were selected was impartially conducted in accordance with city standards and best practices,” Kanellakos wrote, adding that the procurement was overseen and approved by an independent fairness commissioner. He defended the confidentiality of both the evaluation teams and technical specifics of the bids as key to the integrity and fairness of the procurement process.

He also addressed critics who questioned why the city confirmed SNC-Lavalin’s bid came with the lowest budget but wouldn’t address the technical scores, saying staff members did not breach the confidentiality of the financial process because they did not disclose the particular financial score nor the total score given to that proposal.

Kanellakos ended the memo reiterating that he was “very confident” in staff’s procurement recommendations, which he believes will provide the city with the “best value for money over the life of the contract.”