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Buildex Vancouver seminar seeks dialogue on public procurement issues

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by Peter Caulfield

The construction industry and public sector building owners are invited to attend a seminar at Buildex Vancouver on public procurement.
Keith Sashaw
Keith Sashaw

The construction industry and public sector building owners are invited to attend a seminar at Buildex Vancouver on public procurement.

The seminar, titled “Procurement: It’s Time for Dialogue,” will address the revision of the Capital Asset Management Framework (CAMF), recent procurement issues and proposed solutions to mitigate risk associated with the tender process on publicly funded projects.

The presenters are Manley McLachlan, president of the B.C. Construction Association, and Greg Baynton, president of the Vancouver Island Construction Association. The moderator is Keith Sashaw, president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association.

McLachlan said that the public procurement process should be open, fair and transparent.

The reality, however, is often different.

“Lately there has been a big increase in the number of onerous supplemental conditions, as many as 53 pages on one contract,” McLachlan said.

“Why are public owners doing this? What are they trying to achieve by transferring risk to industry?”

McLachlan said that some public sector owners have complained of sharp practices by some contractors.

“There are issues and we need conversation,” he said.

“It’s time for a discussion between public sector project owners and the industry.”

McLachlan said the industry wants to work with the public sector and fill in what’s missing from the original framework.

“Our goal is to take a weak document and add some specifics to it,” he said.

McLachlan said the construction industry needs concrete document templates that have clear definitions of, for example, RFP (request for proposals) and RFQ (request for qualifications) processes.

“We’ve been trying to work with government on CAMF ever since it came into being in late 2001, but it’s been a challenge,” he said.

“But, it’s hard to bring about change by leveraging a document that can be considered vague and incomplete.”

Before CAMF, McLachlan said, public procurement took place using a set of standard documents that created a good contract environment.

After the 2001 provincial election, the new government revamped the public procurement process.

“We believe it was the government’s intention to decrease red tape,” McLachlan said.

“CAMF reduced red tape on the government side, but, as an unintended consequence, it created new red tape for the construction industry.”

CAMF describes government’s objectives and policies for planning and managing publicly-funded capital assets.

Its key objectives are to establish best practices in capital asset management across the public sector and to encourage ministries, health authorities, school districts, Crown corporations and other public-sector agencies to think creatively and find the most efficient ways to meet B.C.’s infrastructure needs.

When it was conceived, CAMF was meant to have three components: A framework overview; a set of guidelines; and a range of practical tools, such as technical guidelines, sample documents, templates and manuals.

Greg Baynton said that VICA supports the guiding principles and objectives of the document, but said that the missing tools compromise the objectives of CAMF.

“The framework is sound, but the tools were never developed,” he said.

“We need document templates, in order to have consistency. Some owners have been making up their own procurement documents, which has led to a number of problematic outcomes. Adding the tools will create sound, principled practices that create value for money and help the provincial economy.”

Cris Munro, principle of Langley-based CM2 Ventures Inc., which provides training and consulting in supply chain management, called CAMF the embodiment of good supply chain management.

“The principles behind CAMF are sound, but it doesn’t have a road map to put them into action,” she said.

“I commend the construction associations for bringing forward the issues around public procurement. Dialogue is a good idea because everyone stands to gain from it. There are many sides to a problem and you need to learn how everybody else is affected by it, in addition to yourself. You need a full understanding of the issues before you can move forward.”

Munro said she believes the B.C. government wants to be seen as a leader in transparency in business practices in Canada.

“It has called for more transparency,” she said.

“That bodes well for the eventual success of the construction industry’s procurement process initiative.”

The seminar takes place Thursday, Feb. 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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