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In the News Archive
December 2001


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compiled by Summit staff

BMO helps feds move to e-purchasing

In late November, the federal government awarded the Bank of Montreal's (BMO) Card Services division a four-year contract encompassing 100 departments and agencies. In January 2002 BMO ePurchasing Solutions, will provide 28,000 government employees MasterCard acquisition cards. BMO ePurchasing Solutions will also implement its proprietary BMO details Online, a web-based reporting and data integration solution, which delivers enhanced card transaction data.

Aboriginal companies qualify for GOL

Following a competitive tendering process for a Supply Arrangement (SA), several Aboriginal companies were selected by Public Works and Government Services Canada to supply Government On-Line (GOL) services. GOL contracts will still be competed but competition is limited to pre-qualified companies. There are four categories of services falling under the SA: business process and content, informatics professional services, human resources management services and composite solutions. While several companies qualified, only three (each operating in a contractual joint venture) qualified in all categories: Jefferson Holdings/Montage eIntegration, Night Hawk Technologies/Computer Horizons (Canada) and t'ee naas 'tu Technical Services/Nant'sa mawt Resources Group and Xwave Solutions.

CDC gets a "little help from its friends"

The Beatles may have gotten by with a little help from their friends, but Computing Devices Canada (CDC) has done a lot more. In fact, this past July CDC Systems UK Limited, a subsidiary of Computing Devices Canada Ltd - in turn a subsidiary of General Dynamics - was selected by the UK Ministry of Defence as the prime contractor for its C$4 billion BOWMAN program, a next generation tactical communications system. They won the contract based largely on their experience with a similar Canadian military project coupled with the support of the Government of Canada.

"We acknowledge the importance "Team Canada" in supporting our BOWMAN marketing campaign and the substantial and effective support from Ministers of the Crown as well as from senior officials from several departments," said Bob Fischer, CDC's vice president for government relations. "This is the largest defence export contract in Canadian history."

BOWMAN, the largest UK defence communications program in over 50 years, is a secure, digital voice and data communication system based on Internet protocol, including a land-based command and control system and the infrastructure to support all digitization applications over the next 30 years. Deployment of approximately 50,000 radios, 25,000 terminals and more than 8,000 local area systems are involved. Initial operations capability will be within two years.

Like many large international defence contracts, the stakes were high and the competition was tough, but more than 50 years of experience with Canadian and UK military positioned CDC for this opportunity. "We competed against two giants in the industry (TRW from the US and Thales from France) and knew that support from the Canadian government would be critical. We would not even have had the opportunity to bid had we not won the Canadian Army's Iris contract in 1991," Fischer notes. "It helped us gain the experience and credibility to compete and demonstrated a high level of domestic success. Realistically, you can't approach a potential international customer if your own government has not chosen your products or services." 
-Dave Newman

Beefing up procurement practices internationally

Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) has announced funding to improve government procurement systems in both Uruguay and Nicaragua. The Bank will loan Uruguay US$153.6 million to support public sector modernization, including strengthening of its procurement system, and the Multilateral Investment Fund, an autonomous fund administered by the Bank, will grant Nicaragua US$1 million specifically for procurement.

The procurement component of the loan to Uruguay is to reduce the cost of public sector procurement and improve transparency; in Nicaragua, goals are to foster greater private sector participation in the procurement process as well as competitiveness and transparency. Setting up an electronic information system, updating standards, improving internal control, and training for the private sector are all part of the latter initiative.

IADB officer Francisco Mejia, involved in the Uruguay project, says consultants interested in working in these projects should consult the United Nations Development Business publication, which lists procurement notices and bid invitations from the IADB and other banks around the world. He says that procurement experiences in countries have to be looked at to determine the reforms that need implementing. "We will be looking at best practices in nations such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Canada," he said, adding that Canada's MERX system is of special interest as an example of an online procurement system.

IADB press officer Lyle Prescott noted that while procurement strengthening is not a bank priority "it is likely that there will continue to be projects proposed and approved in this area, especially in Central America." 
-Celeste Mackenzie

Public Security and Anti-terrorism (PSAT)

In early November 2001, before an audience of federal materiel managers, John Read and Michel Hébert from Supply Operations Services Branch (SOSB) at Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) explained the measures that PWGSC has taken to support the government's PSAT initiatives.

The PSAT, involving more than 13 departments and over 50 different programs, has the full commitment and support of senior management. An Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) interdepartmental committee meets bi-weekly, to identify issues and resolve potential problems before they occur. Account executives at two levels within SOSB have been designated as prime contact points to expedite procurements that fall under the umbrellas of national security and/or emergency. The audience was asked to get in touch with the designated Director Generals or Procurement Offices when urgent services are needed; SOSB is committed to provide services on a 24/7 basis and is structured to act quickly. "In one case, we contracted for more than $15 million dollars in urgent requirements in one day," says Hébert. He emphasized that this is not a licence to break the rules, but in order to fast track PSAT procurements, SOSB is taking a proactive approach to managing risks.

The government has specific measures to deal with procurements that are indispensable for national security or national defence purposes. Read noted that the contracting authorities required to deal with the PSAT were in place before the events of September 11. The spending authorities are: 

  • $1M - all departments have this emergency contracting authority for goods or services 
  • $4M - CIDA 
  • $5M - DND (special non-competitive procurement authority on an emergency basis for food, water, fuel and transport in support of operations abroad)
  • $15M - PWGSC (special non-competitive authority, in emergency situations, for any commodity)

Prior to invoking these exceptions from the trade agreements, it is important to distinguish between national security and emergency requirements. A national security requirement relates to the need for the procurement and requires solid substantiation. Defining the requirement, identifying the impediments, assessing the demand and working with the PSAT structure are essential. The use of emergency special authorities is established depending on the speed at which the goods or services are required, or on their availability from suppliers. Procurement under a national security exception may not require the use of the emergency authority. Further, there may be no requirement to sole source. An emergency procurement for goods that exceeds the $1 million authority must be done by a Minister-to-Minister request, but it can be run through PWGSC at the same time.

It was pointed out that the supplier community will accommodate procurements under the exceptions, but they will watch each one - and subsequent ones in the same program area - very closely. According to Read, "You can fix a short-term problem the way it should be fixed, but you may have to deal with the long-term aspects later." As well, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal can scrutinize the process and the Federal Court retains jurisdiction. Call John Read (613-956-2651) or Michel Hébert (613-956-0901) for detailed information.
Canadian Public Procurement Council goes west
The Canadian Public Procurement Council, an association of public procurement professionals from all levels of government as well as universities, hospitals, school boards and other para-public institutions, selected Winnipeg as the site for Forum 2002, its next annual meeting. The conference - the fourth since the council was founded in Quebec City in 1999 - is scheduled for October 1-3.

Fuel for thought

US fleet managers are now using SmartFuel, SCI International's wireless fuel management system. Based on Israeli Air Force technology, it employs tiny radio transmitters attached to the vehicle gas tank and company fuel pumps to ensure that only the correct fuel goes into the correct tank by the correct driver, giving customers a reduction in fleet fueling costs of 10 to 25 percent. The system is controlled by a radio frequency modem from the fleet manager's computer. It works on both electronic and mechanical fuel pumps.

The US Postal Service and the US army, along with over 100 major public sector fleets are using biodiesel fuel, cutting pollution without reducing engine power or mileage. It can be blended with petroleum and can be used in any diesel engine usually without engine modifications being needed. Depending on the region and the market price of vegetable oil, biodiesel can cost from five to twenty cents more per gallon (US).

P3 excellence and innovation awarded

The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (416-777-4891,  partners@pppcouncil.ca ) announces its national winners for 2001.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG)/Bruce Power
Project: Lease of OPG's Bruce facility

Capital Health Authority/Summit Care Corporation
Project: Devonshire Community Care Centre

Royal Ottawa Health Care Group (ROHCG)/Brookfield LePage Johnson Controls (BLJC) Project: ROHCG Facilities Management

Alberta Transportation/Maintenance Contractors for the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association
Project: Highway Maintenance

Corporation of the Town of Goderich/USF Canada Inc.
Project: Water and Sewer Services

Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Waste Management Division/Toromont Energy/Ontario Power Generation
Project: Waterloo Landfill Gas Power Project

Environmental law makes company bare all

Under the Environmental Protection Alternative Measures Agreement, the Attorney General of Canada has Sherritt International Corp. publishing its environmental offences in the publication, Hazardous Materials Management. For information, contact the editor at 416-442-2292.

Government online FINDS a solution

Xwave was recently contracted by the federal government to provide build and implement the Federated Infrastructure National Directory Service (FINDS), based on the X.500 directory standard. FINDS will contain information on government employees including: their place of work, phone number, email address and public key information, which enables secure transactions.

Feds expanding at the real estate line

The federal government is expanding; engineers are moving out and bureaucrats are moving in. During the past 18 months Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) has contracted for 140,000 square metres of space and are currently negotiating for an additional 70,000 square metres, most of that outside the downtown core. According to Tim McGrath, a director general at PWGSC speaking at the Ottawa real estate forum, upcoming lease expiries will create demand for an additional 143,000 square metres. And to meet long term needs they plan to submit at least one 30,000 square metre tender, possibly two, in the near future. In the national capital area, office space must be split in a 75/25 per cent ratio between Ontario and Quebec. PWGSC recently announced a tender for 28,000 square metres in Quebec to balance the ratio.

While it sometimes takes years to acquire new accommodations for government workers, the process can take as little as six months. McGrath advises prospective landlords leave as much furniture in place as possible, since the purchase and installation of furniture adds three to four months to the procurement process. Finding the space is a task that occupies a PWGSC team of architects, engineers, leasing officers, investment analysts and real estate experts who are spread among six regional offices, each authorized to approve projects up to $10 million. The Ottawa office is also the national headquarters.

"Years ago the Government of Canada didn't observe local zoning or building standards," says Alexander MacGregor, a director in the office accommodation and real estate sector at PWGSC. While municipal laws and taxes still don't apply to the federal government, today PWGSC voluntarily complies with municipal standards. And they consult with communities to put government workers in locations advantageous to that community. An example is the space sharing arrangement between the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College in Regina. The rent paid to the college by Indian Affairs helps the college remain financially viable.

According to MacGregor, the events of September 11 may cause us to "see some re-focusing of what the government's going to be spending money on." For example, increased security needs may result in less funding for new buildings. 
-Gina Gillespie

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