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Ontario consultants concerned about E-Health aftershocks

Consulting Engineers of Ontario is not alarmed, but does have concerns following the provincial government's plans ...


Consulting Engineers of Ontario is not alarmed, but does have concerns following the provincial government’s plans to revise its rules for hiring consultants. After the E-Health scandal broke, Premier McGuinty’s has promised that from now on all consulting contracts will be open to competitive bids.

John Gamble, P.Eng., president of CEO, says that since most projects for the provincial government are already competitively tendered, he doesn’t foresee any major impacts on engineering companies. However, his concern is that the province may overreact to the scandal and introduce sweeping changes.

Premier McGuinty determined to tighten the rules for hiring consultants following a scandal that erupted around e-Health Ontario and the fact that it was awarding millions in contracts to consultants without a competitive process. There was also an uproar in the press over consultants being paid up to $3,000 a day yet still submitting expense chits for cookies and cups of tea. E-Health Ontario is an agency set up to convert the province’s medical records into digital format.

Gamble says that CEO will still advocate strongly for qualifications based selection processes (QBS) — a process where the fees the consultants will charge for a project aren’t negotiated until after the best qualified firm has been selected.

“Our discussions on procurement are as usual,” says Gamble. But, he adds, “Are we concerned that this issue could have some collateral effect on us? Yes, because the government in the past has often demonstrated that they are more than willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater and start solving problems where they don’t exist.”

He points out that a three-year study in the U.S. has shown that qualifications based selection results in huge savings on construction projects, with, for example, “Schedule slippage” up to 20% less, and construction cost growth 70% less.

“In fact, the whole premise for advocating for QBS is actually to provide the taxpayer with better value, better quality, with significant lifecycle savings [for the project.]