City Council Needs to Take Critique of Buying and Building Process to Heart

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A new report from the City’s Auditor paints a bleak picture of Edmonton’s current procurement process.

Why does it matter to you? Because the City of Edmonton spends, according to the City Auditor, approximately $1 billion annually on “a wide range of goods, services, construction, and intellectual property rights.”

That is a large sum of money that requires proper oversight.

Conducting an effective, open, and transparent procurement process would ensure that respect for taxpayer dollars is paramount when it comes to contracting construction and professional services.  Unfortunately, the city auditor’s review found that those key principles of a fair, open, transparent, accountable and value-driven procurement process aren’t consistently followed.

Edmonton Journal reporter Elise Stolte reported an example of city officials going to tender on a $142-million construction project, then changing drawings and specifications seven times during the bidding process.  This resulted in 600 questions coming back from potential contractors.

This is a clear indication that this project had not been thoroughly planned and designed.  A proper project plan starts with a clear understanding of the problem we are trying to solve, the service we are trying to provide, or the structure we would like to build.  A clear understanding of how the complete works will be operated in turn leads to a project program.  Without this fundamental planning process, we get a project that is ill-defined, and that leads to the barrage of questions from contractors that cannot quite comprehend what will be expected of them if they are successful in their bid.  

Further, the decision “to build or not to build” must also include an analysis of operating costs, maintenance costs, and reinvestment and renovation costs at regular intervals over the life of the asset to be constructed.  This life cycle approach is at the heart of capital asset management and planning.

Questions, unknown expectations, and unclear documents all increase the risk of a project.  And where contractors see risk, they inflate their prices to account for that risk.  Poorly planned projects cost more money from the outset, and accumulate extra costs as their design is corrected at the same time it is being constructed.  Poorly planned projects don’t quite fit their intended purpose, and become more expensive to operate as a result.  “There is never time to do it right, but always time to do it again” is the axiom at work here.  The rush to get to tender with incomplete designs will not ever result in a successful project.

This is only one example, but it’s a sobering one. Unfortunately in Edmonton we have heard of too many examples of projects delivered late, or over budget, or both.  City Council must find a way to ensure that city administration is focused on getting the right projects executed at the right time for the right value.  We must ensure that we set the accountability standards high, and that our administrators are prepared to meet those standards.

As a Professional Engineer and business owner, I’ve seen projects through from start to finish. I know that just as I’ve worked hard to build a personal brand founded on trustworthiness and responsibility, our city needs to do the same.

The recommendations laid out in the City Auditor’s report are comprehensive, and they are achievable. We must ensure that the key principles of procurement I’ve mentioned above are met.

If I am chosen as your councilor for Ward 9, I commit to ensuring that our procurement process is revised to work for you, the taxpayer.  

new report from the City’s Auditor paints a bleak picture of Edmonton’s current procurement process.

Why does it matter to you? Because the City of Edmonton spends, according to the City Auditor, approximately $1 billion annually on “a wide range of goods, services, construction, and intellectual property rights.”

That is a large sum of money that requires proper oversight.

Conducting an effective, open, and transparent procurement process would ensure that respect for taxpayer dollars is paramount when it comes to contracting construction and professional services.  Unfortunately, the city auditor’s review found that those key principles of a fair, open, transparent, accountable and value-driven procurement process aren’t consistently followed.

Edmonton Journal reporter Elise Stolte reported an example of city officials going to tender on a $142-million construction project, then changing drawings and specifications seven times during the bidding process.  This resulted in 600 questions coming back from potential contractors.

This is a clear indication that this project had not been thoroughly planned and designed.  A proper project plan starts with a clear understanding of the problem we are trying to solve, the service we are trying to provide, or the structure we would like to build.  A clear understanding of how the complete works will be operated in turn leads to a project program.  Without this fundamental planning process, we get a project that is ill-defined, and that leads to the barrage of questions from contractors that cannot quite comprehend what will be expected of them if they are successful in their bid.  

Further, the decision “to build or not to build” must also include an analysis of operating costs, maintenance costs, and reinvestment and renovation costs at regular intervals over the life of the asset to be constructed.  This life cycle approach is at the heart of capital asset management and planning.

Questions, unknown expectations, and unclear documents all increase the risk of a project.  And where contractors see risk, they inflate their prices to account for that risk.  Poorly planned projects cost more money from the outset, and accumulate extra costs as their design is corrected at the same time it is being constructed.  Poorly planned projects don’t quite fit their intended purpose, and become more expensive to operate as a result.  “There is never time to do it right, but always time to do it again” is the axiom at work here.  The rush to get to tender with incomplete designs will not ever result in a successful project.

This is only one example, but it’s a sobering one. Unfortunately in Edmonton we have heard of too many examples of projects delivered late, or over budget, or both.  City Council must find a way to ensure that city administration is focused on getting the right projects executed at the right time for the right value.  We must ensure that we set the accountability standards high, and that our administrators are prepared to meet those standards.

As a Professional Engineer and business owner, I’ve seen projects through from start to finish. I know that just as I’ve worked hard to build a personal brand founded on trustworthiness and responsibility, our city needs to do the same.

The recommendations laid out in the City Auditor’s report are comprehensive, and they are achievable. We must ensure that the key principles of procurement I’ve mentioned above are met.

If I am chosen as your councilor for Ward 9, I commit to ensuring that our procurement process is revised to work for you, the taxpayer.