Procurement practice review of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- I. Background
- II. Objective and scope
- III. Results
- Lines of Enquiry 1: Determine whether evaluation criteria and selection plans were established in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and policies
- Lines of Enquiry 2: Determine whether solicitation documents and organizational practices during the bid solicitation period were consistent with applicable laws, regulations and policies
- Lines of Enquiry 3: Determine whether evaluation of bids and contract award were conducted in accordance with the solicitation
- IV. Simplification
- V. Conclusion
- VI. Organizational response
- VII. Acknowledgment
- Annex I
1. The Office of the Procurement Ombudsman (OPO) conducted a review of procurement practices at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
2. In accordance with paragraph 22.1(3)(a) of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, the Procurement Ombudsman has the authority to review the procurement practices of departments to assess their fairness, openness and transparency.
3. OPO’s procurement practice reviews are based on issues and complaints brought to its attention by stakeholders, both in general and in regard to specific solicitations by various federal organizations. Based on this information, OPO has identified the 3 highest-risk procurement elements as: (1) the establishment of evaluation criteria and selection plans; (2) the bid solicitation process; and (3) the evaluation of bids and contract award. For the purposes of this review, these elements are defined as follows:
- Evaluation criteria and selection plans—the development of mandatory and point‑rated evaluation criteria, and the identification of the selection method to determine the successful bid
- Solicitation—the design and execution of the solicitation process, including the clarity and completeness of solicitation documents
- Evaluation of bids and contract award—the establishment of a process to ensure the consistent evaluation of bids in accordance with the planned approach, including an evaluation plan and instructions to evaluators, and the adequacy of documentation to support the selection of the successful bidder
4. The RCMP was selected for review as one of the top 20 federal departments/ agencies in terms of the value and volume of its annual procurement activity. OPO is conducting similar reviews of the other top 20 departments/ agencies over a five-year period ending in 2022-23.
5. The RCMP has policing mandates at the national, federal, provincial and municipal levels. As Canada’s national police service, the RCMP works to prevent crime; investigate crimes; enforce federal, provincial/ territorial and municipal law; and keep Canadians safe. The department’s operational priorities include serious and organized crime, national security, youth, Indigenous communities and economic integrity. The RCMP refers to its core values as its guiding principles, which include: honesty, integrity, professionalism, compassion, accountability and respect.
6. The RCMP’s Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management Branch is responsible for procurement requirements in the National Capital Region and National Division as well as national initiatives such as force-wide contracts and/or standing offers and major events. It is also responsible for policy, reporting and contract quality assurance functions. Most procurement and contracting activities are managed by procurement specialists. Outside the National Capital Region and National Division, regional procurement services are provided to RCMP divisions by 1 of 5 divisional procurement units with offices located across Canada.
7. According to procurement data provided by the RCMP, during the review period of April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2020 the department awarded 6384 contracts for goods and services worth about $783 million through open bidding or traditional competitive solicitation processes, including contracts issued under standing offers and supply arrangements.
II. Objective and scope
8.This review was undertaken to determine whether the RCMP’s procurement practices pertaining to evaluation criteria and selection plans, solicitation documents, and evaluation of bids and contract award supported the principles of fairness, openness and transparency. To make this determination OPO examined whether the RCMP’s procurement practices were consistent with Canada’s obligations under sections of applicable national and international trade agreements, the Financial Administration Act and regulations made under it, the Treasury Board Contracting Policy (TBCP), and when present, departmental guidelines.
9. The following 3 lines of enquiry (LOE) were used to assess the highest-risk procurement elements identified in paragraph 3 above:
- LOE 1: Determine whether evaluation criteria and selection plans were established in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and policies
- LOE 2: Determine whether solicitation documents and organizational practices during the bid solicitation period were consistent with applicable laws, regulations and policies
- LOE 3: Determine whether evaluation of bids and contract award were conducted in accordance with the solicitation
10. This review consisted of an assessment of procurement files for contracts awarded by the RCMP between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2020. This review did not include construction contracts, non-competitive contracts, acquisition card activity or procurement activity for which the RCMP was not the contracting authority.
11. Based on contracting data provided by the RCMP, OPO selected 40 competitive procurement files for assessment. The final sample size was reduced to 39 files after 2 files were merged because they pertained to the same underlying contract. The judgmental sample was developed with consideration to factors including materiality and risk. The risk of selection bias was minimized through random selection of individual files meeting these pre-established factors.
12. The 39 files selected for review included 23 requests for proposal (RFP), 7 RFPs issued under supply arrangements, 2 invitations to tender, 2 requests for quotation (RFQ), and 5 call‑ups issued under standing offers for which the RCMP was the contracting authority.
13. The RCMP’s procurement practices pertaining to evaluation criteria and selection plans, solicitation documents, and evaluation of bids and contract award were assessed against the 3 LOEs noted above. OPO made 4 recommendations to address the issues identified in the review. The recommendations are based on the analysis of information and documentation provided by the RCMP during the course of the review.
14. Note that the review resulted in instances where multiple observations were made regarding a single file. As such, the number of applicable files may not always correspond to the number of files noted in examples provided throughout this report.
Lines of Enquiry 1: Determine whether evaluation criteria and selection plans were established in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and policies
15. Section 10.7.27 of the TBCP states that “[c]ompeting firms should be told the measurement criteria and the weighting assigned to them. …The courts have ruled that the factors and their weighting must be established beforehand and adhered to strictly. …Fairness to all prospective contractors and transparency in the award process are imperative.” Clearly and precisely defined evaluation criteria and selection methodology help bidders to prepare a responsive bid and evaluators to apply the same criteria equally to all bidders.
16. OPO’s review of evaluation criteria applied to 19 files where evaluation criteria were developed and included in solicitation documents. It did not apply to 15 files for which the basis of selection was lowest price compliant bid without additional technical criteria, nor did it apply to 5 files for call-ups under standing offers. Of the 19 applicable files, 12 included only mandatory evaluation criteria and 7 included both mandatory and point-rated criteria. These 19 files were examined to determine if the evaluation criteria were clearly communicated in the solicitation, were not overly restrictive, and were aligned with the requirement. Under this LOE, OPO also reviewed selection plans. The review of selection plans applied to 34 of the 39 files, excluded were 5 files for call-ups under standing offers. These 34 files were examined to determine if the selection methodology was clearly communicated in the solicitation document and reflected the complexity of the requirement.
Mandatory evaluation criteria were clearly communicated, not unnecessarily restrictive and aligned with the requirement in most files reviewed.
17. Mandatory criteria identify the minimum requirements for bids to receive further consideration. They permit the evaluation team to screen out bidders that do not have the minimum necessary competence and capability to undertake the work. As a general rule, the number of mandatory criteria should be minimized to those components that are essential to meet the operational requirements in order to increase the probability of receiving responsive bids. The sample included 19 files with solicitations that included mandatory evaluation criteria. In all files, the criteria aligned with the requirement and the successful completion of the work and, in all but 1 file, were communicated in a clear, measurable and demonstrable manner. In that 1 file, mandatory criteria required a subjective assessment by evaluators to determine whether a bidder had sufficient experience with "policing models" or "community consultation." OPO also noted that neither term had been defined in the solicitation. With this one exception, overall, mandatory criteria were based on technical specifications of goods being acquired or qualifications of resources proposed for services contracts that could be assessed on a pass/ fail basis.
18. In 17 of 19 files, the mandatory criteria were not overly restrictive and did not unnecessarily favour or penalise any particular bidder. In 2 files, however, as described below, the mandatory criteria appeared to give preference to the incumbent supplier. By their nature mandatory criteria are restrictive, however, criteria that are overly restrictive can threaten the fairness of the procurement process by favouring or penalizing particular bidders.
- In 2 files, the RCMP issued solicitations for consultant services under the Task-based Informatics Professional Services (TBIPS) supply arrangement. In each case there was an incumbent supplier. Under both solicitations, to be deemed responsive a bidder had to meet 6 mandatory criteria and achieve a minimum score for a series of point-rated criteria. For example, in 1 of these solicitations, the mandatory criteria stated the proposed resource:
- Must have a minimum of 2 years of experience within the last 5 years leading collaborative working groups across multi-disciplinary units within a Canadian Federal government department
- Must have a minimum of 5 years of experience within the last 10 years fulfilling the role of a Project Manager or Strategic Advisor responsible for at least 2 Information Technology Community Generics (ITCG) implementations in a large Government of Canada department with greater than 50% employees outside the National Capital Region
- Must have at a minimum, demonstrated experience with 1 project in the past 3 years involving implementing a Government of Canada wide mandate from a central agency perspective
- Must have a minimum of 5 years of experience within the past 10 years preparing business cases and budgetary estimates for senior management
- Must have a minimum of 2 years of experience in the last 5 years working in conjunction with human resource staffing and classification departments within a large Government of Canada department with greater than 50% employees outside the National Capital Region
Individually, these mandatory criteria were not overly restrictive but when considered collectively it would have been highly unlikely that any bidder other than the incumbent could have met all mandatory criteria. In both cases, the incumbent bidder used their RCMP project experience to help meet the mandatory criteria. Ultimately, for each solicitation the only bid received was from the incumbent supplier and in each case the incumbent was awarded the contract.
When point-rated criteria were used in solicitations, they were communicated in a clear manner, aligned with the requirement and were not overly restrictive.
19. Section 10.7.25 of the TBCP states that “criteria should identify accurately all of the performance elements significant to the success of the project and should measure both the competence of the firm and the worth of its particular technical approach.” The findings presented below pertain to the 7 files that contained point-rated criteria.
20. In 6 files, the point-rated criteria were not overly restrictive. The remaining file was 1 of the 2 files that also contained overly restrictive mandatory criteria, as described in paragraph 18 above. For that 1 file, in response to the point-rated criteria a bidder was required to demonstrate their proposed resource had:
- Experience in the development of a certain business intelligence reporting system in the past 10 years for a multi-jurisdictional (municipal, provincial, federal) organization, and
- Experience in the development of a certain business intelligence reporting system for law enforcement users (points were based on number of years of experience)
Similar to the previous observation regarding overly restrictive mandatory criteria, on their own these point-rated criteria may not be overly restrictive, but when viewed collectively, and in addition to mandatory criteria, it would have been highly unlikely that anyone other than an incumbent bidder would have been deemed responsive. The incumbent bidder was able to achieve full points for the point-rated criteria based on project experience obtained at the RCMP over the previous 13 years.
21. In 6 files, the point-rated criteria and the methods for scoring those criteria were clearly communicated in the solicitation document. In the 1 remaining file, there were inconsistencies between the criteria and the descriptions of how points would be awarded.
- In the 1 file cited above, a solicitation process issued under the supply arrangement for Task and Solutions Professional Services (TSPS), was run twice because the first process did not result in the award of a contract. The first time the solicitation was issued it included 5 point-rated criteria. One criterion was for “Canadian Rural Policing experience;” however, the associated allocation of points table indicated that points would be awarded for knowledge of related topics rather than experience in Canadian rural policing. Another criterion was for “Demonstrated knowledge of Canadian Demographics and Trends.” For this criterion points were to be awarded for experience rather than knowledge in these areas. The second time the solicitation was issued the point-rated criteria were revised and the number of criteria was reduced from 5 to 3. Efforts were made to re-word and clarify the point-rated criteria in the second solicitation; however, inconsistencies between wording of these criteria and the allocation of points descriptions remained. For example, the 1st criterion titled “Canadian Rural Policing experience” was modified by indicating that points would be awarded for knowledge or experience. The title of the 2nd point-rated criterion was modified to “Demonstrated knowledge of Canadian Demographics;” however, the allocation of points continued to state that points would be awarded for experience rather than knowledge of Canadian demographics.
22. In 5 files, the weighting factors reflected the relative importance of the criteria and were aligned with the requirement. In the remaining 2 files, as described below, the method for allocating points combined with minimum score requirements identified in the solicitation resulted in point-rated criteria that did not reflect their relative importance or that were not aligned with the requirement. Both solicitations were issued under the TBIPS supply arrangement.
- In 1 file, a solicitation for business process consultant services included 3 point-rated criteria with a potential value of 10 points each, for a potential maximum score of 30 points. A minimum score was set at 21/30 (70%). Any bid receiving a score below the minimum would be deemed non-responsive. One of the criteria was for experience with a particular software. For this criterion, bids could score either 10 points or 0 points, depending on whether the bid did or did not demonstrate the proposed resource had the relevant experience. In effect, the scoring approach changed this point-rated criterion into a mandatory criterion as not having experience with the software would result in a bid being declared non-responsive.
- In 1 file, a solicitation for business consultant services that also included 6 mandatory criteria, bidders were required to achieve a minimum score of 64/80 (80%) for 4 point-rated criteria. One of those criteria, was for experience working within Canadian federal government departments. This point-rated criterion was, in effect, another mandatory criterion based on how the points were weighted. A bidder needed to demonstrate that its proposed resource had a minimum of 9 years of experience working with Canadian federal government departments. If not, it would have been impossible to achieve the minimum 80% threshold regardless of its scores on the other point-rated criteria. The successful supplier, which was also the incumbent supplier and the only bidder, was able to meet this 9-year experience requirement based on having 10 years of experience working within the RCMP and other federal government departments.
With exceptions described below, in the majority of files reviewed the selection methodology clearly communicated the manner in which the contract would be awarded and reflected the complexity of the requirement.
23. OPO’s review of selection methodologies applied to 34 files. It excluded 5 files that were for call-ups under standing offers. Solicitations were missing from 3 of the 34 files. For those 3 files, there was insufficient documentation to demonstrate that the selection methodology was clearly communicated and aligned with the requirement.
24. In the remaining 31 applicable files for which solicitations were present, the selection methodology published in the solicitation document aligned with the requirement. Additionally, in all of these cases the RCMP used common selection methodologies such as lowest priced responsive bid (with or without mandatory technical criteria) or highest combined rating of technical merit and price to select the successful supplier.
25. In 28 of the 31 files, the selection methodology (i.e. basis of selection) was clearly communicated in the solicitation document. In 2 files, the solicitation indicated the contract would be awarded to the responsive bidder with the lowest evaluated price, however, there was ambiguity as to what was required to be deemed a responsive bidder. In 1 file, the basis of selection stated in the solicitation document differed from the selection methodology used by evaluators. Examples of these exceptions included:
- In 1 file, for the acquisition of firing range ammunition, the solicitation stated that “[a] bid must comply with the requirements of the bid solicitation and meet all mandatory technical criteria to be declared responsive” and “[t]he responsive bid with the lowest evaluated price will be recommended for award of a contract (1 contract only).” It also stated that “[d]elivery must be made by March 31, 2019 following acceptance of all applicable documentation […]. Should it be impossible for the Bidder to deliver the entire firm quantity by March 31, 2019, the Bidder is to complete the table below […]”. The usage of the word “must” implied that the delivery date was a mandatory criterion, however, the following sentence indicated that bids that did not meet the delivery date would still be considered. There were no other mandatory technical criteria specified in the solicitation.
- In 1 file, for architectural and engineering services, the basis of selection stated the responsive bid with the highest combined rating of technical merit and price would be recommended for award of a contract. However, the bid evaluation guide provided to evaluators added an additional criterion that had not been disclosed to bidders. This undisclosed criterion stated that any bids with price proposals that were greater than 25% above the average would be deemed non-responsive and receive no further consideration. In this case, the additional criterion did not result in any bids being eliminated, however, solicitation documents must include all evaluation criteria that will be used to evaluate proposals and adhered to strictly. Use of this undisclosed criterion breached the transparency and threatened the fairness of this procurement process.
26. A contributing factor to the overall positive results observed under this LOE was the oversight provided by the RCMP’s Contract Quality Control (CQC) function. CQC reviews are conducted prior to issuing a solicitation for services valued over $100,000 and goods valued over $26,400, excluding those issued under a standing offer or supply arrangement.Footnote 1 The stated objective of the CQC function is “to ensure that the RCMP's procurement and contracting activities are carried out in accordance with the applicable legislation, policy and procedures.” As described through the examples provided in the paragraphs above, when issues were identified with technical evaluation criteria, these were often from solicitations that were issued under a supply arrangement and were not subjected to CQC review.
The RCMP should expand the scope of procurements that are subject to the Contract Quality Control review to include solicitations with technical evaluation criteria that are not currently reviewed because they are issued under supply arrangements.
Lines of Enquiry 2: Determine whether solicitation documents and organizational practices during the bid solicitation period were consistent with applicable laws, regulations and policies
27. The TBCP sets out detailed procedures to ensure that government contracting is carried out in a manner that enhances access, competition and fairness and results in best value. Section 10.7 of the TBCP includes the minimum requirements to be included in the solicitation document as well as mandatory elements related to the design and execution of the process.
28. Solicitation documents must contain work descriptions or specifications defined in terms of clear outputs or performance requirements. Solicitation documents must also contain the objectives to be attained and time frame for delivery and the assessment and award criteria. In January 2021, the RCMP produced writing guides to assist project authorities or technical authorities in the preparation of a statement of work (SOW) for services contracts or a statement of requirements (SOR) for goods contracts. As stated in the RCMP guidance, a well-written SOW or SOR provides potential bidders with the information they require to fully understand the requirement, determine if they will bid or not, accurately cost the work, and results in a more technically compliant bid.
29. This LOE applied to all 39 files reviewed. For these files, solicitation documents (excluding evaluation criteria and selection plans included under LOE 1 above) were assessed to determine whether they, among other things, contained a clear description of the requirement and instructions necessary to prepare a compliant bid. OPO’s review of organizational practices included an assessment of whether the RCMP has established a framework to ensure that procurement practices are consistent with laws, regulations and policies and support fair, open and transparent procurements; whether the solicitation was open to the appropriate number of suppliers and for the required duration; and whether communications with suppliers supported the preparation of responsive bids.
The RCMP has guidance in place to support fair, open and transparent procurements.
30. The RCMP’s Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management Branch is responsible for developing national policies and procedures for RCMP procurement and contracting, providing advice on contracting and procurement and, among other responsibilities, implementing quality assurance functions for procurement and contracting nationally. The Branch maintains a GCpedia Footnote 2 page where key guidance documents are updated regularly and made easily accessible to RCMP employees and other employees from across the public service. Within its Procurement and Contracting Officer Tool Kit, the RCMP posts procurement notices, general procurement information for clients and procurement officers, quality control checklists, solicitation templates, information about its contract quality control and assurance process, terms of reference for its Contract Review Committee, and other useful guidance to support the procurement process.
Most solicitations contained clear and complete information and instructions necessary to prepare a compliant bid.
31. In 33 of 39 files, solicitations were clear and contained complete information and instructions to bidders, supporting transparency in the procurement process. Of the remaining 6 files, 4 did not include sufficient documentation to demonstrate that the solicitation contained a clear description of the requirement. In 2 files, there were inconsistencies between the contract requirement and the description of the requirement in the solicitation. In 1 of those files, the requirement changed after the original solicitation had been issued, but not all prospective bidders were informed of the revised requirement. In the 2nd file, as described below, information in the solicitation may have misled prospective bidders about the scope of work and potential value of the resulting contract.
- In 1 file, a solicitation issued for refuse and recycling services, the estimated volume of work, i.e. the number of times per month refuse and recycling was to be picked up, did not provide an accurate depiction of the requirement. While the solicitation did clearly describe the locations where the services would be required and the types of containers to be provided by the supplier, the volumetric data that bidders were given and required to use to prepare their financial proposals considerably understated the actual volume of work under the contract. Using these low estimates, the evaluated bid price submitted by the successful supplier was just over $11,000; however, the actual contract value was set at $425,000, an amount reflective of the true requirement. Notwithstanding the fact that the basis of payment in the solicitation stated that the volumetric numbers were “estimated usage for cost evaluation purposes only and do not constitute a guarantee or commitment on behalf of Canada of the quantity or amount to be used under the Contract,” there was no information in the solicitation that would have signaled to bidders that this contract was potentially worth more than $400,000. Bidders would have benefitted by having a clearer description of the work they were bidding on and additional bidders might have submitted bids had they known the potential volume of work and value of this contract.
32. In 30 of 34 applicable files, excluding 5 files for call-ups under standing offers, there were clear instructions to bidders for submitting bids and for posing questions during the solicitation period. For files where these instructions were not present: in 1 case, the file included an email template with the appropriate instructions, but there was no indication the email had been sent to potential bidders; in 1 case, the solicitation included instructions for submitting bids, but not for posing questions during the solicitation period; and in 2 cases, the file did not contain the solicitation or any additional documentation with instructions to bidders. Failure to document solicitations or instructions to bidders increases risks to fair, open and transparent procurement and inhibits oversight by management, internal audit and external assurance providers.
33. Ensuring information is accurate and complete is important as it eliminates ambiguities, contradictions or other discrepancies in solicitation documents. This helps ensure suppliers have the information they need to prepare and submit responsive bids and helps reduce the number of questions from suppliers regarding such discrepancies. In turn, this reduces the effort required to respond to these questions during the solicitation period.
Overall, the design and execution of solicitation processes supported fair, open and transparent procurement.
Openness of solicitation processes
34. In 34 of the 39 files reviewed, OPO was able to confirm that the solicitation was open to an appropriate number of suppliers. In 2 files, there was insufficient documentation in the file to reach that determination. Of the remaining 3 files, in 2 files call-up procedures in a standing offer were not followed and in 1 file the solicitation process was manipulated to avoid having to openly compete the requirement. Details for these 3 files are provided below:
- In 2 files, it appeared a right-of-first-refusal call-up procedure required by a standing offer was not followed. In both instances, the RCMP was acquiring passenger bus rental services during the 2018 G7 summit under a standing offer established for that purpose. For the standing offer, pre-qualified suppliers were ranked by category of bus (i.e. passenger capacity) and service region. The call-up procedures required user departments to contact the highest-ranked supplier in the region where the service was needed to determine if the requirement could be satisfied by that supplier. If that supplier was unable to meet the requirement or no response was received within 24 hours, the department would contact the next ranked supplier. In other words, call-ups were to be made based on a right-of-first-refusal. Neither of the 2 files showed that these call-up procedures were followed. In both cases, the call-up was issued to a supplier that was not first-ranked and it was not clear whether the successful supplier in either case had been pre-qualified in the region or regions where the service was required.
In 1 file, the RCMP requested quotes on a goose-neck trailer. Though file documentation was limited, it appeared that the technical authority had solicited bids from 3 suppliers. A total of 3 bids were received. There was no indication in the file that an estimate had been established before the bids were solicited. All 3 bids came in over $25,300, which was the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) threshold amount for goods contracting that was in effect at the time. A contracting authority was then assigned to the file. The RCMP removed certain trailer features from their requirement and asked the lowest bidder to provide a new quote. After the lowest bidder withdrew, a new bid was requested from the second lowest priced bidder. The contracting authority told the supplier they wanted to see if they could get the price below $25,300.
Soliciting prospective suppliers before establishing and documenting the estimated cost of a contract, represents a threat to the fairness of the procurement process. The TBCP stipulates when estimates should be established. Section 10.5.1 of the TBCP reads in part, “[r]equirements should be defined and specifications and estimates established before bids are solicited and contracts let, so that all prospective contractors are treated equally.” In this situation, the department removed some components from the trailer being acquired to get the cost below the CFTA threshold amount. This action, characterized in file notes as negotiation with a prospective supplier, constituted a deliberate effort on the part of the RCMP to avoid an open competitive procurement process as required under the CFTA and was at odds with the Government of Canada’s commitment made in section 40.1 of the Financial Administration Act to take “appropriate measures to promote fairness, openness and transparency in the bidding process for contracts….”
35. In 31 of 36 applicable files, excluding 3 call-ups under standing offers, the duration of the bid solicitation period was appropriate given the solicitation method used and any applicable trade agreements. Of the remaining 5 files, 2 were the previously discussed call-ups for bus rentals that required a 24-hour right-of-first-refusal period, and 3 files did not have sufficient documentation to determine the duration of the solicitation period.
Communication with suppliers
36. Providing clear information to suppliers is critical to ensure responsive bids. Documenting all relevant communications on the procurement file helps demonstrate compliance with obligations laid out in the TBCP, supports oversight of procurement activities and mitigates the risk of not being able to defend against external challenges.
37. In 24 of the files reviewed, there were records of communication with suppliers during the solicitation periods, i.e. questions received from potential bidders and the RCMP’s responses to those questions. In 21 of those files, documentation showed communications with suppliers during the solicitation period supported the preparation of responsive bids. For the remaining 3 files: In 1 case, a question was received about the value of the previous contract in addition to other questions. The responses, which were provided verbally and only to the supplier that posed the questions, could have been relevant and useful to other potential bidders in the preparation of their bids, or in deciding whether or not to submit a bid. To support fairness of the process and avoid the perception of favoritism, all potential suppliers should be provided with access to the same information at the same time. In another case, questions from potential bidders were forwarded directly from the contracting authority to the technical authority without shielding the identity of the individual posing the question. To support fairness in the procurement process, care should be taken to protect the identity of a supplier posing a question from the technical authorities who are asked to respond. Finally, in 1 case, responses to questions were provided to all potential bidders through solicitation amendments posted to Buyandsell.gc.ca; however, the responses did not fully address the questions or support the preparation of responsive bids. For example, a one-word answer of “No” was published in response to the following questions:
- Bidder question: Please confirm that for [a mandatory criterion] the experience must pertain to Information Technology (IT) Community Generics. This will ensure that RCMP will receive the most appropriate expertise for this project. RCMP Response: No
- Bidder question: Please confirm that for [a mandatory criterion] the experience must pertain to IT-related business cases and budgets. RCMP Response: No
- Bidder question: Please confirm that in order to comply, the experience presented in [a mandatory criterion] must be for working with IT Management in conjunction with Human Resources (HR) Staffing and Classification. This will ensure that RCMP will receive expertise that is aligned with the Statement of Work. RCMP Response: No
Based on the one-word “no” responses, it is not clear whether the RCMP was refusing to provide a confirmation, or whether it was stating the potential bidder’s assertion about required experience was incorrect.
Lines of Enquiry 3: Determine whether evaluation of bids and contract award were conducted in accordance with the solicitation
38. In order to ensure the fairness and defensibility of evaluation processes, section 10.7.27 of the TBCP requires that evaluation criteria be adhered to strictly and applied equally to all bidders. Failure to ensure the consistent evaluation of proposals increases the risk that ambiguities in the selection process result in the contract being wrongly awarded. Inconsistent evaluations may also call into question the integrity of the procurement process.
39. The RCMP has produced Evaluation Guidelines that outline the methods, procedures and reporting structures designed to support evaluators “to prepare, in an objective, fair and defensible manner, a recommendation to the RCMP that a Contract be awarded to a supplier whose bid proposal provides the best value to the Crown, as determined in the evaluation procedures”. These procedures highlight the importance of the role evaluators play in ensuring bids are evaluated with integrity in an open, fair and honest manner and in accordance with the bid evaluation procedures.
40. Of the 39 files reviewed:
- 19 had a bid evaluation process that included a technical and financial evaluation of bids
- 15 had a bid evaluation process focussed on a financial evaluation of bids (i.e. no technical evaluation)
- 5 were call-ups under standing offers
These files were examined to determine whether a process had been established to ensure the consistent evaluation of bids, evaluations had been carried out in accordance with the planned approach and results of evaluations were adequately documented.
Bid evaluation process
While a majority of files included instructions to support the technical evaluation of bids, inconsistent methods were sometimes used to record the results from financial evaluations. Additionally, a number of files showed that the bid evaluation process deviated from what had been stated in the solicitation.
41. The requirements of the TBCP referenced above emphasize the importance of having a well-planned and documented process for bid evaluations. For a majority of the 19 files reviewed that included a technical evaluation, OPO observed that an evaluation plan or instructions to assess bids was provided to evaluators, evaluation grids were used with criteria that matched those found in the solicitation document and the number and identities of the evaluators had been documented in the file. A notable good practice observed in some files was the use of a declaration form signed by members of the bid evaluation team acknowledging their obligations and responsibilities to protect the confidentiality and integrity of the process.
42. In 5 of the 19 files that included a technical evaluation, an evaluation grid matching the criteria found in the solicitation was not included in the file. In 4 of those cases the number and identities of the evaluators was also not recorded in the file. For example:
- In 2 files, both for the acquisition of uniform components, as part of the bidding process bidders were required to submit pre-contract award (PCA) samples using detailed specifications included with the solicitation. There was no documented plan for evaluating PCA samples. Based on the evaluation results included in the files, it was not possible to determine if all PCA samples were assessed against all specifications. While the evaluation results were signed-off by a director-level technical authority, it was not clear if that one individual conducted evaluations alone or if others were involved. Completed evaluation grids including specifications that were evaluated and a record of individuals who conducted the evaluations could have demonstrated that bids were evaluated consistently and that all bidders were treated equally.
- In 1 file, for architectural and engineering services, the solicitation included 1 mandatory and 7 point-rated criteria. The bid evaluation document (i.e. grid) identified the members of the bid evaluation team and the 7 point-rated criteria. Instructions to evaluators focussed on scoring bids against the point-rated criteria. Neither the bid evaluation document nor the instructions to bidders mentioned the mandatory criterion and there was no record in the file demonstrating that bids had been evaluated against the mandatory criterion.
43. With respect to financial evaluations of bids, OPO observed that a variety of methods were used to record results. The best of these featured evaluation tables or grids signed by the contracting authority that recorded financial information from each bid, confirmed whether or not each bid was deemed responsive and ranked responsive bids. In some other cases, there was a table or grid with financial information from bids received; however, it was not always indicated whether each bid had been deemed responsive and the results were not signed off by the contracting authority. Finally, there were a number of files that did not include a table or grid to document financial evaluations. Some of these files included bid prices in a bid registry, while others did not include documentation of the financial evaluation.
44. In 26 of 34 files reviewed, excluding the 5 call-ups issued under standing offers, technical and financial bids were evaluated in accordance with the planned approach. In 4 files, the absence of key documents including the solicitation and bid evaluations meant the file did not demonstrate that evaluations followed the planned approach or that the successful supplier was selected per the methodology specified in the solicitation. In the remaining 4 files, documentation showed the bid evaluation procedures that were applied had deviated from the procedures described in the solicitation document. For example:
- In 1 file, a solicitation for business process consultant services, a mandatory criterion stated that proof of education demonstrating that the proposed resource possessed a degree in computer science or a related field must be included in the bid. The one bid received, which was from the incumbent supplier, did not include the required proof of education. The solicitation instructions were clear. “At the time of bid closing, the proposed resource must demonstrate compliance with the … mandatory criteria. If the proposed resource fails to demonstrate compliance with each of the … mandatory criteria, the bid will be deemed non-compliant and will not be given any further consideration.” After the period for submitting bids had closed and bid evaluation had begun, the contracting authority contacted the supplier to request the proof of education that had not been included with its bid. While contracting authorities are permitted to seek clarification of some existing aspect of a proposal that does not amount to a substantive revision or modification of the proposal, they are not permitted to facilitate or encourage the repair of a flawed proposal. This request to the bidder to provide the missing proof was an example of the latter, a practice commonly referred to as “bid repair.” Though a copy of the resource's proof of education was sent that day, the bid should have been deemed non-compliant because it did not meet the mandatory criterion at bid closing.
- In 1 file, a solicitation was issued under the TSPS supply arrangement for professional services under Stream 2—Needs Analysis and Research Consultant(s). When issuing solicitations under the TSPS there are certain rules that user departments must follow. For example, the TSPS requires that proposed resources be assessed against a “flexible grid” to determine if they possess the education, experience and relevant professional certification for the stream of service and level stated in the solicitation. In this case, the solicitation included the Needs Analysis and Research Consultant flexible grid; however, only 2 of the 5 resources proposed by the successful supplier were assessed against the flexible grid.
The RCMP should implement a standard approach to record results from the financial evaluation of bids.
11 of the 39 files reviewed were missing key documents such as the solicitation and bid evaluations.
45. Section 12.3.1 of the TBCP requires that procurement files facilitate management oversight with a complete audit trail containing details related to relevant communications and decisions, including the identification of the involved officials and contracting approval authorities. The requirement to ensure adequate file documentation extends to the actions undertaken during the solicitation period as well as the evaluation of bids.
46. File documentation was reviewed to determine whether a complete audit trail was on file to support consistent and transparent decision-making. As was highlighted throughout this report, there were many files in which key documents, including solicitations, correspondence with prospective bidders and bid evaluations, were missing. This issue appeared to be particularly acute when the contracting authority became involved later in a procurement process that had already been initiated by a technical authority (i.e. client), and when the requirement pertained to the 2018 G7 summit.
47. Incomplete procurement files resulted in inadequately supported procurement actions that risk undermining the fairness, openness and transparency of the procurement process. Keeping complete and detailed records is crucial to demonstrating that evaluation criteria have been applied equally to all competing bids, and demonstrating that the procurement has been carried out in a manner consistent with the RCMP’s obligations under applicable trade agreements, the Financial Administration Act and regulations made under it, and the TBCP. Failure to maintain complete records also places the RCMP at risk of not being able to defend challenges to the procurement process.
The RCMP should implement an effective mechanism to enforce the requirement to maintain up-to-date and complete procurement files.
48. OPO regularly hears from both Canadian businesses and federal officials who believe the federal contracting process is unnecessarily complex. In reviewing the RCMP’s procurement practices, OPO sought to identify opportunities to alleviate unnecessary administrative burdens placed on suppliers and federal procurement officials, and draw attention to good practices for simplifying the procurement process.
Standardized procurement documents
49. The RCMP consistently used standardized procurement documents that reference the Standard Acquisition Clauses and Conditions (SACC) manual, as applicable. This good practice contributes to greater simplification by ensuring consistency and uniformity across procurement processes. Using standardized documents and processes decreases the cost to bid for suppliers and potentially lowers bid prices for departments.
Use of contract options
50. In the files reviewed, the RCMP frequently included options in solicitations to extend the original contract period for services or to add additional quantities for goods contracts. Consideration of options occurred during procurement planning and was featured in RCMP procurement and contracting pre-contractual control checklists. Including options in contracts, when applicable, supports the simplification of government procurement by reducing the number of solicitation processes and, consequently, reduces the cost to both government and suppliers. This practice allows departments to continue working with well-performing suppliers, while being transparent about the amount and value of work associated with a contract during the initial solicitation process.
Technical evaluation criteria
51. The number and magnitude of technical evaluation criteria in a solicitation should be commensurate with the complexity of the requirement. While it is not always possible or desirable to eliminate technical evaluation criteria from a solicitation, they should be limited to what is necessary and omitted in cases where a financial evaluation alone will suffice. In the files reviewed, overall the RCMP effectively limited the volume of technical evaluation criteria. For many lower complexity requirements, technical evaluation criteria were avoided all together. In these cases, the procurement process was simplified as an evaluation solely based on price makes it easier for bidders to respond and for evaluators to assess bids.
Electronic acceptance of bids
52. In the majority of the solicitations reviewed, the RCMP would only accept bids submitted in hardcopy (i.e. by mail or courier). Frequently, the “nature of the bid solicitation” and the fact that the RCMP had not been approved for bid submission by epost Connect service were given as the reason for not accepting electronic bid submissions. Modernizing the procurement process would support simplification, decrease administrative burdens on suppliers and procurement officials, and potentially result in greater competition among suppliers. By accepting electronic bid submissions the RCMP could make it easier and faster for suppliers, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, to take part in the procurement process.
The RCMP should make greater use of technology in their procurements including, but not limited to, allowance for bids to be submitted electronically and alternatives to traditional paper-based methods for managing contract files.
53. The RCMP’s procurement practices pertaining to evaluation and selection plans, solicitation, and evaluation of bids and contract award were assessed for consistency with Canada’s obligations under sections of applicable national and international trade agreements, the Financial Administration Act and regulations made under it, the TBCP and departmental guidelines, and to determine if they supported the principles of fairness, openness and transparency.
54. For LOE 1, OPO found that evaluation criteria and selection plans were established in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and policies mentioned above in the majority of files reviewed. Mandatory evaluation criteria were clearly communicated, not unnecessarily restrictive, and aligned with the requirement in most cases. When point-rated criteria were used in solicitations, they were generally aligned with the requirement, not overly restrictive and were communicated in a clear manner. While exceptions were identified, overall, the selection methodology reflected the complexity of the requirement and was clearly communicated in solicitation documents.
55. A contributing factor to the overall positive results observed for LOE 1 was the oversight provided by the RCMP’s CQC function. CQC reviews are conducted prior to issuing a solicitation for services valued over $100,000 and goods valued over $26,400, excluding those issued under a standing offer or supply arrangement. When issues were identified with evaluation criteria, these were often from solicitations that were issued under a supply arrangement and were not subjected to CQC review.
56. For LOE 2, OPO found that solicitation documents and actions taken by the RCMP during the solicitation process were, overall, consistent with applicable rules. Most solicitations contained clear and complete information and instructions necessary for bidders to prepare a compliant bid and the design and execution of solicitation processes supported fair, open and transparent procurement. OPO noted some problematic exceptions where solicitation processes did not respect the principles of fair, open and transparent procurement. In 1 file the requirement was modified after quotes were received in an effort to get the price below a trade agreement threshold to avoid an open competitive procurement process. In 2 files, contracts were awarded under standing offers, however, the required call-up procedures were not followed.
57. There were also a large number of files that did not include sufficient documentation to demonstrate that the solicitation process was fully consistent with applicable rules. Incomplete procurement files resulted in inadequately supported procurement actions that risk undermining the fairness, openness and transparency of the procurement process. Keeping complete and detailed records is crucial to demonstrating that the procurement has been carried out in a manner consistent with the RCMP’s obligations under applicable trade agreements, the Financial Administration Act and regulations made under it, and the TBCP. Failure to maintain complete records also places the RCMP at risk of not being able to defend challenges to the procurement process.
58. The RCMP has guidance in place to support fair, open and transparent procurements. The Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management Branch maintains a GCpedia page where key guidance documents are updated regularly and made easily accessible to RCMP employees and other employees across the public service.
59. For LOE 3, OPO found that evaluation of bids and contract award were generally conducted in accordance with the solicitation. In 1 file, however, the contracting authority contacted a bidder after the bidding period had closed to request required documentation that had not been included with the bid. As this action was not specifically contemplated pursuant to the terms of the solicitation, it amounted to an improper practice, known as bid repair. The bidder, that was also the incumbent supplier and only bidder, had not provided proof of education required to meet a mandatory criterion. In this case, the contract was awarded to a non-compliant bidder that did not meet all mandatory criteria at the time of bid closing.
60. Greater consistency in the documentation of bid evaluation results is required to demonstrate the equal treatment of bidders. For example, in 2 files, documentation did not demonstrate that all requirements from the solicitation were evaluated and in 1 file, there was no record of the evaluation of mandatory criteria. The lack of consistency in the documentation of evaluation results was particularly evident with respect to financial evaluation of bids, for which OPO observed a variety of methods had been used.
61. Finally, in reviewing the RCMP’s procurement practices, OPO sought to identify opportunities to alleviate unnecessary administrative burdens placed on suppliers and federal procurement officials, and draw attention to good practices for simplifying the procurement process. OPO found the department had consistently used standardized procurement documents and its solicitation templates were easily accessible to employees. The RCMP frequently included options in solicitations to extend the original contract period for services or to add additional quantities for goods contracts. These contract options support the simplification of government procurement by reducing the number of solicitation processes and, consequently, reduces the cost to both government and suppliers. OPO also noted a strong reliance on paper-based solicitation processes for which the RCMP would only accept bids submitted by mail or courier. Modernizing the procurement process to take greater advantage of technology would decrease administrative burdens on suppliers and procurement officials, and potentially result in greater competition among suppliers. It could also contribute to more complete and efficient record keeping required to demonstrate fairness, openness and transparency of procurement practices.
62. In order to address issues identified in this report, OPO made 4 recommendations. These recommendations can be found in Annex I of this report.
VI. Organizational response
63. In accordance with section 5 of the Procurement Ombudsman Regulations, the Procurement Ombudsman provided the RCMP with the opportunity to comment on the proposed recommendations in this review and the reasons for them. The RCMP was further given the opportunity to comment on the review’s findings, and many of these comments were taken into consideration and integrated into the final version of the report.
64. RCMP is in agreement with the recommendations contained in this report and recognizes the importance of rigorous and well-documented procurement practices. RCMP will address these recommendations in accordance with the action plan provided below and is committed to ensuring its procurement practices are sound and support the principles of fairness, openness and transparency.
65. RCMP thanks OPO and the review team for its thoroughness and the professionalism over the course of the review.
66. OPO wishes to express its appreciation to the staff of the RCMP’s Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management Branch for the assistance and cooperation extended to the reviewers during this review.
Procurement practice review of evaluation and selection plans, solicitation, and evaluation of bids and contract award at the RCMP
|No.||Recommendation||Royal Canadian Mounted Police response/Action plan||Timeline for implementation|
|1||The RCMP should expand the scope of procurements that are subject to the Contract Quality Control review to include solicitations with technical evaluation criteria that are not currently reviewed because they are issued under supply arrangements.||RCMP agrees with this recommendation.
RCMP Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management has updated the Contract Review Committee Terms of Reference, which include the details on the parameters for Contract Quality Control review, to require review of Services requirements using Supply Arrangements or Standing Offers over $1M.
The $1M threshold has been established to ensure that the more complex, longer-term contracts are reviewed.
|New parameters are effective as of November 22, 2021|
|2||The RCMP should implement a standard approach to record results from the financial evaluation of bids.||RCMP agrees with the recommendation and will develop a standardized approach to record results from the financial evaluation of bids.
RCMP Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management will develop an Evaluator’s Guide to provide direction to the Evaluation Team and Procurement Officers.
|3||The RCMP should implement an effective mechanism to enforce the requirement to maintain up-to-date and complete procurement files.||RCMP agrees with this recommendation and recognizes the importance of maintaining up-to-date and complete procurement files.
RCMP Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management has reviewed its information management practices and developed a standardized guideline for Procurement Officers on how to create and manage their digital files.
RCMP Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management will also establish a Contract Management and Administration Guide, which will provide instructions on file documentation and organization.
|Electronic File Guidance released November 2021 Q3 2022-2023|
|4||The RCMP should make greater use of technology in their procurements including, but not limited to, allowance for bids to be submitted electronically and alternatives to traditional paper-based methods for managing contract files.||RCMP agrees with this recommendation.
RCMP Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management has integrated an electronic bid submission process into the RCMP Standard Contract Templates.
RCMP Procurement, Materiel and Assets Management has also developed a standardized guideline for Procurement Officer on the management of digital files.
|New Templates Implemented August 2021 Electronic File Guidance released November 2021|
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