An individual contacted OmbudsPEI to complain about the process for how government contracts are awarded to private service providers on PEI. The individual disputed the reasons for why their own bids had been unsuccessful and complained of a lack of transparency and availability of policy governing the procurement process. They believed that the lack of transparency could cause, or otherwise hide, arbitrary and inappropriate decisions involving the spending of public funds on service contracts.
Through our informal assessment process, we contacted Procurement Services and the Crown agencies involved in assessing the individual’s bids. We reviewed how these bids were assessed alongside competing bids and obtained a copy of the policy used to assess them. We did not identify any unfairness in how the winning bids were awarded.
We learned that information on some of the winning bids had, mistakenly, not been publicly posted as required. Procurement Services acknowledged this mistake and took steps to rectify it. Further, Procurement Services committed to inform all Crown agencies of their duty to report winning bid information, to enforce this requirement and to publicly post winning bids within 24 hours of receipt from the awarding agencies.
We also learned that while some information on how bids are assessed is included in contract advertisements, the policy manual guiding the process, which is controlled by Treasury Board, is not publicly available. We understood why some people may have concerns with transparency in the service procurement process. To address this, and to ensure that all bidders operate on an equal playing field in terms of understanding the process they are participating in, we proposed that the policy manual be made public. Procurement Services worked with the Treasury Board to commit to making this manual available to the public by no later than the end of 2023.
We would like to thank Procurement Services for their proactive involvement in our assessment process and for committing to taking steps that we believe will build trust and confidence in the spending of public funds on PEI. We would also like to recognize the significant assistance provided by Treasury Board to both OmbudsPEI and Procurement Services throughout our assessment.