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Federal Ombudsman finds problems with how government departments run construction contracts

Public Works and Government Services Canada received a pat on the back from the Procurement Ombudsman, Shahid ...


Public Works and Government Services Canada received a pat on the back from the Procurement Ombudsman, Shahid Minto, in his 2009-2010 annual report that was tabled in Parliament on June 15.
However, the Ombudsman criticized some of the other federal departments that are undertaking construction projects, in particular raising concerns about the lack of documentation for contract amendments.
He noted that his office’s review had especially concerned construction contracts because of the amount of money that was being poured by the federal government into capital projects as part of the economic stimulus program.
Insofar as construction contracts are concerned, the report praises PWGSC for having established a sound management framework for administering its procurement contracts. The Ombudsman’s office had used PWGSC as the standard against which to measure the performance of other departments engaging in construction. He noted that until recently most construction for the federal government and its agencies had been undertaken by PWGSC, but that today several other government organizations have been given the responsibility for their own projects. The review therefore had involved Parks Canada Agency; Atlantic Service Centre;  Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Atlantic Region; and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Newfoundland and Labrador Region.
In the case of the RCMP, the Ombudsman’s office found that while the organization had developed some detailed policies and procedures for construction projects and property management, it had limited policies on how to handle construction contract amendments. The Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s policies and procedures for dealing with contract amendments were nothing short of “inadequate.” The Ombudsman therefore recommended that they adopt PWGSC’s management framework, as Parks Canada agency is doing.
The DFO and RCMP had told the Ombudsman that their challenge was finding the human resources necessary to manage construction contracts. Parks Canada has recognized that construction contracting required specialized skills and is recruiting staff with experience.
In a press release about his general indings on all federal procurement practices, the Ombudsman said that “Lack of essential documentation on files raises questions about the integrity of the procurement process. Many of these questions could be avoided or quickly answered with proper documentation.”
He noted that a lack of communication was also a continuing problem between the federal procurers and those who provide their goods or services. He said that “Often the government’s first response to a complaint has been denial of any responsibility for the underlying problem.” He also stressed the importance of ethical practices in procurement, saying that this went further than simply following a set of narrow rules.
To see the Office of the Procurement Ombundsman’s 2009-2010 report click here
For the Procurement Practices Review 2009-2010, Chapter 1: Construction Contract Amendments, click here