Regional Municipality employees are not consistently following standard procedures with purchasing processes. So say MNP, a chartered accountants consultancy, who also noted the city should be better tailoring requirements for each procurement, pre-qualifying contractors for competitive bidding processes and suggested project management improvements achieved through a focus on safety and quality.
In reviewing the deviations in standard operating procedures, the consultants noted the current employees hadn’t been trained on the proper procedures. Further, employees and departments were re-using judging criteria and scoring methods from one bidding process to the next. Best practices elsewhere include tailoring those for each purchasing decision.
Cllr. Mike Allen asked the consultants about best practices to give local businesses a better chance at winning business from the city. While recognizing that was not the focus or scope of their audit, Mariesa Carbone, CPA, CA speaking on behalf of MNP, agreed with Allen’s earlier suggestion that education for local businesses to better understand the purchasing processes might be beneficial.
“A couple of questions, when you talk about the inappropriate use of contingency and cash allowances, was that only in one case or several cases? And was there a paperwork trail for all the .. cash allowances?”
– Cllr. Jeff Peddle
Councillor Peddle then drew attention to the misuse or overuse of contingency funds and cash allowances. He wanted to know what exactly that misuse was. Darlene Holloway, CPA for MNP replied, “When we mentioned they were used inappropriately, they were used for miscellaneous expenses. The leading practice is that you’re including a cash allowance in a tender or RFP, it’s identified for something specific. By putting it in miscellaneous, it could lead to spending that is not needed.”
“I believe we have a long ways to go to fix our problems with procurement, I’ve been very vocal about that.”
– Cllr. Keith McGrath
Cllr. McGrath was vocal in expressing his intention to seek changes in the trade agreements. The deals which ensure fair purchasing standards feature the RMWB as a signatory, both provincially and interprovincially. And, McGrath expressed his plans to dig deeper on changes to to benefit local people and businesses.
“I know that wasn’t part of your scope, but if you did the full scope, we’d be here ’til the end of June talking about it. So, I don’t think we’re fixed yet, I don’t buy that one bit. I think you got the tip of the iceberg here.”
– Cllr. Keith McGrath
Following the questions of the audit team, Elsie Hutton, CFO and Matthew Howe, Director of Engineering, RMWB presented a plan to adopt and incorporate the audit findings. The procedures will include a process to ensure compliance, to deliver training for all city employees who must be educated on the standard procedures, including council members. And the intention is council will receive quarterly updates throughout the 18-month process to adopt and incorporate the four key findings and the 38 additional recommendations in the MNP report.