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Greater Sudbury’s procurement processes to be audited

With major projects anticipated to be tendered in the coming months, including a downtown events centre and library/art gallery, Ward 5 Coun. Mike Parent said now’s the time to look at the city’s procurement processes
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Ward 5 Coun. Mike Parent is seen at Tuesday’s city council meeting, at which he headed a motion with six elected officials’ names attached, for the city auditor to review their procurement policy.

Greater Sudbury auditor general Ron Foster is slated to review the city’s policies and processes governing procurement, capital project and vendor performance management.

“The reason for the motion is that we expect a lot of capital work in the next few years, and we know it’s been a challenging environment,” Ward 5 Coun. Mike Parent told Sudbury.com following Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The goal, he said, is, “to make sure we’re maximizing the taxpayer levy.”

Upcoming major projects include an undefined downtown arena/events centre project, and a library/art gallery project, potentially at Tom Davies Square.

The audit was proposed by Parent, who shared it with city council members prior to Tuesday’s meeting, adding the names of Mayor Paul Lefebvre, Ward 4 Coun. Pauline Fortin, Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre, Ward 7 Coun. Natalie Labbée and Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti as presenters.

After Tuesday’s meeting, at which the motion passed, Lefebvre pointed out that members of city council both new and re-elected attached their names to the motion and that it passed unanimously.

“As we look around, it’s incumbent on us to review those policies year by year,” he said. “It just lends more confidence in the Sudbury taxpayers to realize that we’re trying to do our best to make sure we’re not just getting to the lowest bidders, but getting value for our money.”

In addition to a couple of major projects looming on the horizon, Parent noted that one major project approved by city council, the Pioneer Manor bed redevelopment, is proceeding with only one contractor submitting a bid by its July 5 deadline.

M. Sullivan & Son Ltd. submitted a bid of $80.5 million for the construction, which joins various soft costs in bumping the project’s price tag to $93 million, an almost $29-million jump from the $63.9-million budget approved by city council in 2021.

During a meeting in July where city council approved the new budget, Signoretti flagged the lone bid as “cause for concern,” which Pioneer Manor director Aaron Archibald agreed with.

“Any time that there’s only one bid, I would say there’s cause for concern,” Archibald said, noting that multiple bidders pulled out at the last minute. Reasons provided included such things as project value, bidders being unable to fit it into their current workload, inability to meet timelines, and issues with the terms and conditions.

The project had 29 plan takers.

The lone bid is something the city is paying “close attention to,” city CAO Ed Archer said at the time, adding they’d look into whether terms and conditions they’re able to alter are too restrictive. 

Following Parent’s successful motion at last week’s city council meeting, Foster will include an audit of the city’s procurement processes, capital project management and vendor performance management into his 2024 work plan.

“Right now, it’s the lowest bidder who gets the job,” Lefebvre said. “Is that the best process around, and are we comfortable with that process?”

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.