City of Nanaimo hires firm to help find cost savings

NANAIMO – Consultants found lack of training among staff on city of Nanaimo’s purchasing policies.

Consultants are helping the City of Nanaimo be a better shopper.

The City of Nanaimo has hired Lethbridge-based SGW Management Services to improve how it buys goods and services to find savings and efficiencies. The work is expected to cost more than $61,000 and comes as the city acts on recommendations from its $250,000 core services review.

SGW, hired as a result of recommendations in the city’s core review, have found room for improvement in the city’s purchasing and procurement practices. The consultants report that only a couple of staff are trained in purchasing, with staff lacking adequate guidance and support to ensure purchasing is done legally, ethically and fairly.

SGW Management Services, which began in September after the core review recommended changes to purchasing, presented its findings and offered a plan to move forward during a city finance meeting last week.

Changes span an updated procurement strategy to staff training and standard tools and processes.

For example, the company will look at giving the city tools to evaluate vendors and decide who the winners are, which could be consistent across the organization so results are also consistent, explainable, fair and accurate.

SGW principal Stuart Wright, whose company will work between now and April on drafting a new procurement strategy, training and implementation, also said his company will look at opportunities for aggregating purchases using the example that every department procures office supplies. His company will look to see if one contract can be put out that everybody can draw on.

“Those are the things we are looking for, ways to improve the value that you get for the money you spend, make sure that we’re buying the right things from the right people at the right time and the right cost,” Wright said.

Victor Mema, chief financial officer, said consultants gave a road map and it’s the start of a transformation project. Tracy Samra, chief administrative officer, called the work the most fundamental change the city can make.

“We can close centres, we can do other things, but this is the big one,” said Samra, who told councillors they need to carry out and lead the procurement strategy because it requires “fundamental corporate culture change.”

Coun. Bill Bestwick said it’s a case where investment can save money, which is what the core services review is all about, “not just drastic cuts.” Coun. Wendy Pratt said she’s looking forward to getting good results that are going to make a difference to the city.

SGW’s work to date has cost the city $11,000. The plan consultants are working on is estimated at more than $50,000.