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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Procurement controversies -- Calgary, Canada

I had the pleasure of getting a very quick look at Calgary a couple of years ago. It's very pleasant and a "I could live here" sort of a place. It's a large and spread out but not sprawling place, situated a short ride from Banff, at the eastern foot of the Canadian Rockies.

But it doesn't appear to have a public procurement system in place:

Calgary audit delves into city’s purchasing decisions

Calgary’s auditor is undertaking a broad review of its procurement process, including goods, services and construction work, after city councilors revealed there isn’t a comprehensive policy to guide purchasing decisions.

“We asked some questions about purchasing to senior administrators. City lawyers showed up and said council had no right to ask these questions,” said Calgary alderman Ric McIver.

The whole issue of procurement was raised during an audit meeting in February, when councilors asked questions about a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Bow River.

“A single source [22 million Canadian Dollar] contract for an unneeded footbridge was given to a company from Spain and no local firms were given a chance to bid on the work,” said McIver.

“Purchasing has been going on successfully for some time, but there is a policy gap there that should not exist in an organization this large,” said McIver.

“There are not enough rules and policies in place for the public to know their tax dollars are being spent in an efficient, fair or transparent manner.”

“No one is accusing anyone with doing anything wrong,” said McIver.

“But, when there are not enough rules it opens up the doors for things to go wrong. So, lets close the door.”

City auditor Tracy McTaggart released the first phase of the report in November.

“We found the necessary procurement framework had not been established to ensure The city’s procurement activities are effectively managed, monitored and controlled,” said McTaggart in the report.

“Our review found that, while some elements of effective program governance existed, it was piecemeal, dated and informal. There was no comprehensive, complete, accurate and authoritative repository available to employees with responsibilities for procurement.”

Systems had not been established to effectively manage and control delegated signing authorities, while current administrative practices are not aligned with existing policies and procedures.

As a result, there is an increased risk of error and the violation of public trust and duty from spending that circumvents established business rules and processes. There is also an increased risk of litigation from unfair and non-transparent processes.

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