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No rules broken in Ottawa’s LRT Stage 2 procurement process

City of Ottawa staff members did nothing wrong when they pushed forward a winning bid for the second stage of its light rail transit project, despite it failing to meet a technical threshold.

This was the result of an audit of the procurement process for the $1.2-billion Trillium Line expansion.

Ottawa’s Auditor General Ken Hughes explained at Tuesday’s Audit Committee meeting, that staff were essentially doing what they were told to do, which was find the best bid.

Hughes said, in 2017 council delegated full authority to staff on this Request for Proppsals (RFP) process, limiting council’s role.

Tuesday’s report found that the winning bidder for Stage 2, SNC-Lavalin’s TransitNEXT, did not meet the technical threshold, but because of a discretion clause, were able to move forward as the builder.

The discretion clause is something that allows bidders on city projects to still be considered, even if they don’t meet all the requirements but are clearly the best choice. In this case, SNC-Lavalin was the lowest bidder and the best value for taxpayers.

Hughes said city staff were asked during his investigation if they had any concern that TransitNEXT would have trouble delivering on the project and they said ‘no.’ All staff members felt comfortable with the decision to choose the SNC-Lavalin company.

The Auditor General added, going forward, council may want to think about how much responsibility and decision-making on major projects are delegated to staff, and he recommended making RFP documents public whenever possible to keep these types of projects transparent to council and taxpayers.

City Manager Steve Kanellakos accepted Hughes’ recommendations.

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