The B.C. Construction Association (BCCA) met with the leaders of the provincial Liberal and New Democratic parties to discuss public sector procurement and capital planning, in order to clearly outline their policy positions before the upcoming election.
“The position we developed is based on the experience we have had in the last couple of years in relation to the issue of public sector procurement,” said Manley McLachlan, BCCA president
“We are calling for a binding policy. For the CAMF (Capital Asset Management Framework) to be an effective tool, it must be implemented as a binding policy. These principles are something we clearly support. However, the fundamental issue is there is an approach out there by public agencies that allows for discretion in the use of guidelines.”
The B.C. government and the B.C. construction industry launched a unique partnership on Jan. 25 called the Infrastructure Forum.
The 14-member group will consult, discuss and share information and ideas related to improving government’s infrastructure procurement practices and use of construction-industry resources.
Political leaders in the province are backing the new group, which will consist of representatives from both government and industry.
“B.C.’s construction industry plays a key role in creating jobs and building and strengthening our economy,” said Premier Christy Clark in a press release.
“We are committed to working with the industry to ensure we’re delivering the best infrastructure at an affordable price for taxpayers.”
Leader of the opposition NDP Adrian Dix agreed that construction is important for the provincial economy. However, he said there is a difference between his approach and the Liberal’s approach.
“I am much more pragmatic. I think you have to build on what the current government has done well and fix some of the things they haven’t done well,” he said.
“So, we are not talking about a wholesale return to previous practices. We want to use government spending and capital expenditure to build the economy and help create a more skilled workforce.”
The BC Construction Associations approach to public sector procurement is outlined in a report entitled Fair and Transparent: Implementing the CAMF for Construction Procurement.
The CAMF was established in 2002 as a guide for planning, implementation, operation and disposal of capital assets in the B.C. public sector.
The BCCA supports CAMF because the framework is based on the principles of accountability, competition and transparency.
However, there are many cases where the principles are not being applied because CAMF is a guideline rather than a binding policy.
As a result, the BCCA has developed a clear policy position, which aims to improve public capital asset management, by applying the CAMF more rigorously.
For example, the BCCA argues that binding government policy is required to ensure procurement is open, fair and transparent.
When this principle is not applied consistently, there is the potential for increased construction costs because bidders are limited and competition is reduced. The BCCA would also like to see unbiased criteria included in binding government policy for choosing the procurement approach.
Currently, there is a bias toward certain approaches.
In addition, the BCCA argues that there must be independent performance audits of public capital assets management, including local governments and provincial agencies.
There is also a need for a long-term infrastructure plan and adequate funding provided for pre-planning operation by local agency asset owners.
Currently, there is a lack of long term capital asset planning, which prevents effective counter-cyclical spending, when stimulus is needed and costs are low.
Finally, the BCCA would like to see the creation of a strong group within the provincial government responsible for capital asset management.
The role of the Infrastructure Forum Committee members will be to provide recommendations to government about updating, implementing and communicating changes to the CAMF, including the oversight functions to ensure compliance with these guidelines.
The committee will be co-chaired by the deputy minister of finance and the BCCA board chair, Ross McLean.
McLachlan, Philip Hochstein, the president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association and Sarah Clark, the president and CEO of Partnerships B.C. have been named as special advisers.