Procurement
April 24, 2013

Minor paperwork problems may no longer cause bid rejection

Public Works has started a project that tries to fix an egregious difficulty in bid application for military equipment procurement.

The change in the procurement process is being applied to the Integrated Soldier System Project, or ISSP, a program that will purchase various sensors and communications devices for the troops. The $316-million project was set to announce the winning bidders in December, but all bids on that project were rejected by Public Works in January. Because all bids were rejected, the project is being restarted.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that the bids were rejected because of the extremely detailed nature of the application process. If any part of the paperwork is rejected – which in this case includes over 2500 requirements – the entire project must be resubmitted.

One submitter, Thales Canada, had provided the names of all 30 staff who would be working on the project as a part of their application. Overzealously, they even listed their health and safety officer, who was found to lack the correct security clearance. Because of this oversight their entire submission was deemed noncompliant.

The vice-president of external relations for Thales Canada, Conrad Bellehumeur, complains: “You put in thousands of hours, and in our case we spent millions of dollars in preparing for the bid submission and providing equipment for testing, and then to have it all thrown out for something that is a minor error doesn’t make sense.”

The Public Works update now underway will allow bidders to submit updates to their applications. This is designed to prevent rejection and reapplication because of small errors in paperwork.

Members of the defence industry have long complained that the procurement system doesn’t have the needed flexibility and is too draconian. Bellehumeur and other industry executives said they hope the change is applied to other military procurements. However, Public Works has specified that “This approach [the process update] is used with ISSP requirement on a pilot project basis only…the results will be closely monitored and taken into consideration in our efforts to continuously improve the way we procure.”

The change in the ISSP procurement process follows Thales Canada’s preparation to file a lawsuit against Public Works regarding bid rejection.

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