Summary of an investigation on a complaint regarding contract awarded by the CSPS

Subject: Contract awarded by Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) for the provision of specific subject matter training services.

Background:

The Office of the Procurement Ombudsman (OPO) received a complaint regarding the award of a contract by the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) for the provision of specific subject matter training services in May 2011. The value of the service contract was approximately $55,000.

The Complainant alleged the department intentionally issued the solicitation just before a long weekend to discourage participation in the bidding process, and that certain bid evaluation criteria favoured a particular supplier.

The solicitation at issue was conducted using a process whereby a total of three suppliers were asked to submit a proposal. During the solicitation period, the Complainant expressed concerns to the CSPS regarding some of the evaluation criteria. These concerns were considered by the CSPS, but the evaluation criteria were not changed.

The complaint:

The Complainant raised the following issues:

  • The CSPS intentionally issued the solicitation late in the day, just before a long weekend, to discourage the Complainant's participation.
  • The evaluation criterion requesting experience in the delivery of specific training courses to federal employees in the last three years favoured a particular supplier.
  • The evaluation criterion allocating points for the number of subject matter courses delivered in the last five years provided an advantage to consultants who had previously worked with the CSPS.

Mandate:

The complaint met the requirements of Section 9 of the Procurement Ombudsman Regulations (the Regulations), and as such an investigation was launched by OPO.

Conclusion:

OPO found no evidence to support the three issues brought forward by the Complainant:

  • The three suppliers all received the solicitation at the same time and were provided 15 calendar days to submit a proposal, consistent with federal guidance and directives.
  • There was no basis to conclude the evaluation criterion regarding experience in the delivery of specific training courses favoured a particular supplier. By using the term "federal employees" and accepting experience with other federal government departments in the last three years, OPO did not find the criteria to be overly restrictive.
  • There was no basis to conclude the evaluation criterion allocating points for the number of subject matter courses delivered in the last five year provided an advantage to consultants who had previously worked with the CSPS. The criterion did not limit the subject matter experience to training with the CSPS nor with the federal government.

While no evidence was found to support the issues raised by the Complainant, OPO did note concerns with regards to the CSPS's management of this procurement process:

  • The CSPS did not disclose the contract requirements in a manner that was fair to all potential bidders. The solicitation indicated 4 training courses were to be delivered, but the resulting contract included 12 additional courses (for a total of 16 courses to be delivered). Knowing the full extent of the contract requirement could have influenced the decision of the companies who decided not to bid.
  • The CSPS used a contracting process that asked three suppliers to submit bids. To be aligned with CSPS's internal contracting policy, three suppliers "who can submit proposals" should have been invited to submit bids. As soon the CSPS became aware that not all three companies would bid, the CSPS should have adjusted their approach. Not adjusting their approach limited the openness of this process.
  • In the spirit of transparency, and as required by government contracting policy, the OPO did not find supporting evidence on file indicated that the price charged by the only bidder was comparable to the market price or that it was in-line with the price the supplier charged to other clients.