Transparency questions in city’s contract awards

Re: Ship shape, Oct. 22.

To the Editor,

Re: Ship shape, Oct. 22.

With the newspapers full of congratulatory stories on Seaspan’s successful bid to bring $8 billion in naval and coast guard construction work to B.C. shipyards, including Nanaimo’s, it’s worth noting that the outcome was based strictly on merit within the publicly-stated terms of competition.

Individual bids were known only by code designation to the adjudicators and the entire process was supervised by two reputable private firms to ensure fairness.

Contrast that laudatory situation with the recent decision taken by city council to award a contract of $12 million for an annex office building without a call for tenders, as is normally required by the city’s purchasing policy guidelines.

Council made this decision in camera and it therefore remains shrouded in secrecy.

However, a senior member of staff was permitted to inform the press that “proposals” had been solicited for the project so that the “magic” of the private sector could be put to work to provide the best possible outcome.

That this was the best outcome for senior city staff, who will soon occupy a facility to their liking rather than be forced to live with the more chancy outcome of a tendering process – or, heaven forbid, be obliged to get by with a substantially less costly earthquake-proofing retrofit of their present facility – cannot be denied.

And it’s certainly a wonderful deal for the Windley corporate interests which, not for the first time, have been handed a city contract without benefit of competition.

But the taxpayer will never know whether this deal makes sense.

Indeed, that a senior member of staff would advance such a patently silly, self-serving explanation should caution councillors who supported the deal that things just aren’t as they should be at city hall, despite some much welcome improvements in a number of areas under the present mayor’s watch.

In this year’s election anyone who cares about our tax rates – which are among the highest of comparable communities in B.C. – should support candidates who will “walk the walk” on openness, transparency and accountability when it comes to spending our hard-earned money.

Eric Ricker