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Updated procurement bylaw to provide clarity in ‘highly complex area,’ says town official

Recommendation to approve 2021 procurement bylaw passed unanimously at committee meeting; will go before council in December
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Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

Another step was taken toward implementing recommendations out of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry this week, with council voting in support of updating the town’s procurement bylaw.

During the strategic initiatives standing committee on Monday afternoon, councillors got a peek at staff’s proposed changes for the procurement bylaw, which was last updated in 2017.

Coun. Yvonne Hamlin asked staff to provide clarification on the role of council in procurement.

“Council approves the budget and the funding for specific operations, but then staff takes over and goes through the process to go out to market, receive bids, evaluate, present, and award based on the preset criteria,” said Michael Trueman, accountability, procurement and risk manager with the town.

While Trueman said council can request updates on specific procurement projects as they see fit, their main input is at the budget level. Clerk Sara Almas further clarified that under the procurement bylaw, council has no input over which bids are selected for specific procurement projects.

“Procurement is a highly complex area. The general public has no idea of the complexities, legislation and trade agreements that influence the requirements of bidding, and how highly litigious bidding can be as well,” said Almas.

“It’s why we need to make sure we have all these policies and processes in place,” she said.

The Collingwood Judicial Inquiry (CJI) Report, received by the town in November 2020, highlighted several areas of improvement for the town to consider. While some of the suggested changes were already in place under the 2017 version of the procurement bylaw, during the 2021 review, more changes were suggested to improve the bylaw further.

Updates to the bylaw include CJI recommendations that pertain to the goals and objectives of procurement, principles of fair and ethical procurement, separation of roles and role of council members, conflict of interest provisions and reporting requirements.

The new bylaw has several new or updated definitions including the fairness monitor, accountability, procurement and risk manager, purchasing staff, and more clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the finance department, treasurer, the clerk and department employees/project staff.

Coun. Mariane McLeod asked staff if the proposed changes to the procurement bylaw would have prevented the events that were subject of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry.

“I’m talking particularly about the sole-sourcing of the BLT bubbles and the money the [former] mayor’s brother got from that,” she said.

Almas said there are substantial changes being proposed.

“I think the changes in 2017 would have helped address the concerns with sole-sourcing back then, and then we have the further refinements around competitive, fair and transparent recommendations in this 2021 version,” said Almas.

The 2021 updated procurement bylaw can be found here.

The strategic initiatives standing committee voted unanimously in favour of implementing the new bylaw.

The decision will need to be ratified by council in December before going into effect.