May 26, 2010 - An article in yesterday’s TheRecord.com demonstrates how the competitive bidding process can go awry.
Cambridge, Ont. city council won’t cancel a $5-million paving contract it never put out for competitive bids, despite calls from other local paving companies for a “fair and transparent” way to spend taxpayer money, said the report.
A year ago, Lafarge (Coco) Paving was awarded a $7.1-million contract to pave 42 kilometres of two-lane city streets. The city had a $12-million fund — two-thirds in make-work grants from Ottawa and Queen’s Park — for a city-wide street repaving blitz.
In October, city staff asked the province for permission to extend the contract for another 26 km of street paving, at the same prices as the original contract. In April, Lafarge (Coco) was given the extension.
The way the city handled the $12-million project incensed the Conestoga Heavy Construction Association.
Calling for bids on projects is the best way to get the best price for taxpayers, said Emilio Cabral, president of Regional Sewer and Watermain and spokesperson for the local construction association. It’s the way business is done province wide and is city policy.
“Our tendering process has been tossed in the trash box, that’s how we feel,” Cabral said. “Put it back out for tenders. It’s the right thing to do.”
Council didn’t respond to Cabral’s calls for scrapping the contract and calling for tenders for the extra $5-million paving job. Cabral said the city would likely be sued by Lafarge (Coco) for upwards of $1 million if the contract were cancelled.
Cabral called it “a good penalty for the city to learn never to have this happen again.”
Taxpayers were “hoodwinked” by Mayor Doug Craig and chief administrative officer Jim King, who she blamed for approving the Lafarge (Coco) contracts without council review.
“Mr. Craig, do the honourable thing and resign,” Fatima Pereira said.
Craig didn’t respond directly to Pereira — who was eventually silenced when the podium microphone was turned off—but was ready to meet with contractors again on the issue.
Before the contentious contract, the city was already talking about reviewing its purchasing rules, Craig said.
“I think that has to be done — that’s obvious.”