Monday, August 9, 2010

City Hall just doesn't get it $4.8 million contract awarded without going to tender

At a meeting Monday, members of the budget committee will be asked to approve just shy of a $5 million top-up to the $28 million construction contract for the revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square.
The good news is that taxpayers will not be on the hook — at least not yet — for any more than the $42 million in exorbitant costs already pegged to pretty up the square.
The bad news is that the extra $4.8 million in repairs and refurbishments will simply be handed to the same contractor — PCL Constructors Canada Inc. — that already won the $28 million bid without any investigation of competitive prices or a tender process.
This is the way business has come to be done at Socialist Silly Hall. It’s certainly not about to change in the dying days of a lame-duck regime, even as the leading contenders for mayor press for the need for competitive and open bids.
The $4.8 million in work includes $2.5 million in mechanical and structural improvements needed by the Toronto Parking Authority on the City Hall parking garage, $313,000 in repairs to a deteriorated concrete slab at the City Hall loading dock, and another $1.2 million — get this — to put in 385 bicycle parking spaces instead of the original 100 planned on the square.
Chief corporate officer Bruce Bowes said they’ve decided to “pony up” with the existing contractor to ensure the work is done more efficiently and avoid disruption.
Asked whether nearly $5 million in work is normally put out to tender, Bowes argued that the idea is to do things in the most “efficient way possible” and not have two contractors on the square disrupting it at the same time.
“As long as the pricing is right it makes more sense to get the work done with the same contractor,” he said. “We’re way ahead of the game doing it this way.”
Asked whether he knows for sure they’re getting the best price, he responded that what PCL is charging is “standard pricing in the industry” for the work.
He added that they’d already got a price for the 100 bike spaces and the “same pricing structure” was used for the expansion to 385.
Oh, my goodness.
Will this slipshod approach to pricing and awarding contracts ever end?
Besides, I find it particularly difficult to believe that City Hall has gotten the best deal for taxpayers considering Bowes and his department are the chief architects behind the $11.5-million Peter St. homeless shelter fiasco — the subject of a scathing report by the city’s auditor-general Jeff Griffiths.
According to his June report, the shelter has gone 110% over budget and is still not open 35 long months after the original building was purchased.
Speaking of which, Bowes said they’re “working diligently” to make sure the shelter opens on Aug. 16 but even that date is not guaranteed.
Audit chairman Doug Holyday said the city should have tendered the extra $5 million in work for the square to ensure city gets the best price.
“The city has to start doing what’s convenient for taxpayers,” he said.
Mayoralty candidate Rob Ford feels that sole source bidding is “completely out of control” at City Hall and there’s no reason why the extra work on the square should not go out for tender.
“Taxpayers will never know whether this guy (company) put any price on it if the city doesn’t get competitive bids,” he said, noting it definitely is “not the real world” at City Hall.
His opponent Rocco Rossi said he’s “shocked” that with all of the attention that has been put on the issue of ensuring open bids once again city officials are repeating the kinds of errors that led to the Peter St. disaster.

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