Frequently asked questions on how to make a complaint

1. How can I make a complaint?

Prior to making a complaint, you are encouraged to try to resolve the issue with the relevant government organization. If dealing directly with the organization proves to be unproductive or you do not feel comfortable contacting the organization, contact us and it will be our pleasure to walk you through the complaint submission process.

If you do not need to speak to us and want to submit a complaint form, please visit the Submitting a complaint page. You will need to provide the following information:

  • Name and address of the complainant
  • Information identifying the contract to which the complaint relates (contract number, dollar value, description of the good or service and date the contract was awarded)
  • The name of the contracting organization and, if applicable, the organization for which the materiel or services are intended under the contract to which the complaint relates
  • A statement of the complaint, clearly setting out the facts and grounds on which the complaint is based
  • Consent to contact the organization
  • A declaration that:
    • The facts and grounds on which this complaint is based are not and have not been the subject of an inquiry before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal or a proceeding in a court of competent jurisdiction
    • The complainant has been awarded the contract to which this complaint relates
  • A declaration certifying the information provided herein is to the best of the complainant's knowledge true, accurate and complete.

Once you have filed a complaint, we will assess the complaint against the Procurement Ombudsman Regulations to determine, within 10 working days, whether or not we can review the complaint.

We are required by the Regulations to notify the complainant and department of our decision. We are also required to provide the department with a copy of the complaint and all document(s) you provide regardless of whether or not we review the complaint.

Should you need assistance to submit a complaint form, please contact us by calling our toll-free number (1-866-734-5169) or via email at opo-boa@opo-boa.gc.ca; we are here to help.

2. What types of complaints can the Ombudsman review?

The Procurement Ombudsman will assess all procurement issues brought to the Office's attention in accordance with the Procurement Ombudsman Regulations, and will review complaints that meet specific regulatory criteria, including:

  • Complainant is a Canadian supplier
  • Complaint is filed in writing, within prescribed timeframes
  • For a complaint regarding the award of a contract, the value is less than $26,400 for goods or less than $105,700 for services. For a complaint regarding the administration of a contract, there is no dollar threshold

In cases where the interpretation or application of the terms and conditions of the contract, or the scope of work of the contract, are in dispute between yourself and a federal organization, we can provide an alternative dispute resolution service if both parties are willing to participate.

3. I have a procurement issue but I am not sure I want to file a complaint, what should I do?

If you want to be sure you have a procurement issue that can be submitted as a complaint, answer the following:

  • I am a supplier with a place of business in Canada
  • My issue occurred after May 5, 2008
  • My issue is regarding the award of a federal contract below $26,400 for goods or below $105,700 for services

If you answered yes to all of these questions we may be able to launch a review. You are encouraged to contact us via our toll-free number (1-866-734-5169) to discuss the issue; we are here to help.

If you answered no to any of these questions you are still encouraged to inform us of your issue, as it could highlight a systemic issue that is of interest to the Ombudsman and could form part of our plans to conduct procurement practice reviews of federal organizations.

4. What can I expect when I call the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman?

The Office is based on a "service first" business model and is committed to offering prompt, personalized and seamless service to suppliers who contact us.

When suppliers contact us, they can expect to deal with one person throughout their communications with the Office. When calling OPO's toll-free number, suppliers can expect to either talk to someone directly or leave a message, which will be returned within 24 hours. The OPO team member who responds to you will be responsible to assist you for the duration of your case.

As one of our primary functions is to understand your concerns and find ways to de-escalate issues, the OPO team member will:

  • Listen and clarify your issue(s)
  • Provide you with general information on federal procurement
  • Provide you with options to consider
  • If you have not submitted a written complaint, with your written consent, contact the federal organization you have been dealing with to facilitate open and constructive dialogue

The Office's business model encourages suppliers and departments to discuss issues in an open and straightforward manner. We see our role as guiding suppliers and departments through issues based on an understanding of their respective requirements and concerns. The aim of this approach is to facilitate effective resolution of issues in a quick and cost-effective manner.

By contacting us, you are not committed to filing a complaint. You have the discretion to abandon the issue at any time until you submit a written complaint. Should you choose to proceed and file a complaint, we will determine within 10 working days whether or not we can review the complaint. We are required to notify the complainant and department of our decision. We are also required to provide the department with a copy of the complaint and any document(s) you provided whether or not we review the complaint.

5. Who may file a complaint?

A supplier that has a place of business in Canada.

6. Where should I send my complaint?

To access a complaint form, please visit the Submitting a complaint page. You can submit a complaint form online, by fax at 613-947-6211 or by mail or in person at the following address:

Office of the Procurement Ombudsman
400-410 Laurier Avenue W
Ottawa ON  K1R IB7

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call us at 1-866-734-5169.

7. Should I file my complaint with the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman or the Canadian International Trade Tribunal?

  • OPO can review complaints about certain contracts valued below $26,400 (for goods) and $105,700 (for services), and the CITT can review complaints about certain contracts valued at or above these dollar thresholds
  • There are strict timelines (deadlines) in place for filing complaints with both OPO and the CITT
  • To help ensure that suppliers don’t miss those deadlines, OPO’s online Complaint Form allows suppliers to authorize OPO to share some information from the complaint with the CITT, so the CITT can contact suppliers to determine if the complaint should be filed with the CITT
  • If you consent to OPO sharing information from your complaint with the CITT, only the following information will be shared:
  • The CITT’s complaint form also allows suppliers to authorize the CITT to share information from a complaint to the CITT with OPO, so OPO can contact suppliers to determine if the complaint should be filed with OPO
  • OPO and the CITT provide this service to help make sure your complaint is raised to the appropriate body in the timeliest manner possible
  • Should you need assistance or have any questions, please contact us by calling our toll-free number (1-866-734-5169) or via email at opo-boa@opo-boa.gc.ca

8. Are there time restrictions to filing a complaint?

In the case of contract award, you have 30 working days after public notice of the award of the contract to file a written complaint with OPO. If there was no public notice, you have 30 working days after the day on which you become aware, or should have become aware, of the award of the contract. In the case of contract administration, you have 30 working days after the day on which you become aware, or should have become aware, of the issues on which the complaint is based.

To access a complaint form, please visit the Submitting a complaint page. You can submit a complaint form online, by fax at 613-947-6211 or by mail or in person at the following address:

Office of the Procurement Ombudsman
400-410 Laurier Avenue W
Ottawa ON  K1R IB7

9. Are there costs associated with filing complaints?

There is no charge for filing or handling a written complaint.

10. What happens after I make a complaint?

Once we have received all of the necessary written information and documents from you, we are required to assess the information to determine if the complaint falls within the regulatory parameters that govern the activities of our Office.

If the assessment determines your complaint can be reviewed, we will advise you of the launch of the review and keep you informed of how the review is proceeding. Once the review is complete, you will receive a copy of the report with our finding(s) and recommendation(s). A summary of our reports are made available to the public on our website. Consistent with the requirements of the Procurement Ombudsman Regulations, a copy of the report is provided to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the responsible Minister. A courtesy copy is also provided to the Deputy Head of the implicated federal department or agency.

If your complaint cannot be reviewed, we will inform you in writing and explain why and we will try to provide you with options for consideration. For example, if the contract in question is valued at or above $26,400 for goods or $105,700 for services, we will do our best to provide you the appropriate contacts that may be in a better position to assist you.

Our Office will advise you and the implicated department of our decision on whether or not to review the complaint within ten working days of receiving all the required information. We are also required to provide the department with a copy of the complaint and all associated documents you provided whether or not we review the complaint.

If there is an issue related to the interpretation or application of the terms and conditions of your contract with a federal organization, we may be able to provide our alternative dispute resolution service.

Once the investigation is completed, OPO submits the review of the complaint report, including findings, to the supplier, the minister of the federal organization and the minister of Public Services and Procurement. To improve efficiency and timeliness and ensure environmentally responsible operations, OPO will no longer send paper copies of investigation reports by traditional mail. Complainants and federal organizations will receive written reports as PDF attachments via email only. If there are technological limitations that prevent the viewing of PDF documents, please contact OPO and alternate delivery options will be provided.

The report will then be posted on OPO’s website and will be referenced in the Procurement Ombudsman’s Annual Report. The name of the complainant will not be published, however the name of the federal organization will be identified in the report.

11. Can someone submit a complaint on my behalf?

A written complaint can be submitted on your behalf.  In instances where the online complaint form is being used, the individual will have to indicate, where prompted, that they are filing a complaint on your behalf. If the written complaint is being submitted by mail, fax or in person, the authorized official filing the complaint will have to provide their signature on the original complaint form.

12. Will the Ombudsman contact the department(s) I have issues with?

If you have raised federal contracting issues with us (either by telephone, in person or via our website), we will contact the organization in order to address the issues after receiving your written permission.

If you have filed, or once you have filed, a written complaint we will determine within 10 working days whether or not we can review the complaint. We are required to notify the complainant and department of our decision. We are also required by the Procurement Ombudsman Regulations to provide the department with a copy of the complaint and all associated document(s) regardless of whether or not we review the complaint.

13. Will my name or company name be disclosed to the department?

When you come to us with federal contracting issues, and have not yet filed a written complaint, we will not contact the department or disclose your name / company name without your written permission.

Once you have filed a written complaint, we will determine within 10 working days whether or not we can review the complaint. We are required to notify the complainant and department of our decision. We are also required to provide the department with a copy of the complaint document(s) whether or not we review the complaint.

14. Can the Ombudsman cancel or modify contracts?

No, the Procurement Ombudsman does not have the authority to cancel or change the terms and conditions of contracts.

15. Can the Ombudsman impose sanctions, penalties or remedies where departments are found to have not followed the rules?

No, but the Procurement Ombudsman can recommend a department compensate a supplier for complaints regarding the award of a contract. The Procurement Ombudsman considers several factors when deciding whether compensation is appropriate, including:

  • Whether the complainant submitted a bid or was prevented from doing so
  • The likelihood that the complainant would have been awarded the contract if it were not for the actions of the department
  • The degree to which the complainant was prejudiced during the bidding process