Procurement practice review of Public Services and Procurement Canada New

May 2023

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I. Background

1. The Office of the Procurement Ombudsman (OPO) conducted a procurement practice review of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).

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 OPO’s 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:

  1. 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
  2. Solicitation—the design and execution of the solicitation process, including the clarity and completeness of solicitation documents
  3. 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. PSPC 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 other top 20 departments/agencies over a five-year period ending in 2022-23.

5. PSPC supports the daily operations of the Government of Canada as a key provider of services for federal departments and agencies. It acts as a central purchasing agent, linguistic authority, real property manager, treasurer, accountant, integrity adviser, and pay and pension administrator. In its role as central purchasing agent, PSPC procures goods, services and construction services on behalf of its clients that exceed their respective delegated goods procurement authorities or Treasury Board contracting limits for services and construction services, and also oversees a number of policies related to procurement. In addition, PSPC’s Departmental Acquisitions Services (DAS) team procures goods and services on behalf of PSPC within its own departmental authorities.

6. According to information provided by PSPC, on average, these procurement activities are valued at $24B annually.

II. Objective and scope

7. This review was undertaken to determine whether PSPC’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 PSPC’s procurement practices were consistent with Canada’s obligations under applicable national and international trade agreements, the Financial Administration Act and regulations made under it, the Treasury Board’s Contracting Policy (TBCP), the Directive on the Management of Procurement (DMP), and, when present, departmental guidelines.

8. The following three lines of enquiry (LOE) were used to assess the highest-risk procurement elements identified in paragraph 3 above:

9. OPO’s review consisted of an assessment of procurement files for contracts awarded by PSPC between June 1, 2020, and May 31, 2022. This review did not include construction contracts, non-competitive contracts, low-dollar value contracts (below $25,000 including taxes), or acquisition card activity.

10. Based on contracting data provided by PSPC, OPO selected 40 competitive procurement files for assessment—25 of which were PSPC contracting authorities (CAs) contracting for PSPC-led requirements and 15 were PSPC CAs contracting on behalf of other government departments. 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.

11. The 40 files selected for review included:

  1. 10 files from PSPC’s DAS, who contract for PSPC-led requirementsFootnote 1
  2. 10 files from PSPC’s Headquarter-based Acquisition Program;
    • 5 for PSPC-led requirements
    • 5 on behalf of other Government departments
  3. 20 files from PSPC’s Regional-based Acquisition Program:
    • 4 each from the Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Western and Pacific regions
    • Within each grouping of 4, 2 were for PSPC-led requirements and 2 were for contracts awarded on behalf of other Government departments.

12. OPO selected for review:

  1. 24 open and traditional competitive requests for proposals (RFP);
  2. 13 RFPs issued under PSPC supply arrangements (SA); and
  3. 3 Invitations to Tender (ITT)

III. Results

13. PSPC’s procurement practices pertaining to evaluation criteria and selection plans, solicitation documents, and evaluation of bids and contract award were assessed against the three LOEs noted above. OPO made 3 recommendations to address the issues identified in the review, which are summarized in Annex I of this report. The recommendations are based on the analysis of information and documentation provided to OPO by PSPC during the course of the review.

14. In instances throughout the report, multiple observations have been made regarding a single file. As a result, the number of observations may not always correspond to the number of files cited.

Line of enquiry 1: To 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 “competing 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.”

16. On May 13, 2021, Treasury Board’s DMP took effect as a replacement for the TBCP and departments were given a year to transition from the TBCP to the DMP. Between May 13, 2021, and May 13, 2022, departments could use either TBCP or DMP-based processes. The DMP is less prescriptive than the TBCP and states the following regarding evaluation criteria during the solicitation and bid evaluation process:

4.5 Contracting authorities are responsible for the following:

17. For the 30 sample files contracted for by PSPC’s Acquisition Program, PSPC’s Supply Manual provides guidance to CAs for all aspects of their procurements. For assessing these 30 files, the Supply Manual was cited when assessing PSPC’s CAs activities.

18. For the 10 contracts awarded by PSPC’s DAS, the CAs used internal PSPC policies to govern their procurement activities as opposed to the Supply Manual. For assessing these 10 files, the TBCP/DMP requirements were cited as the Supply Manual is not applicable.

19. Using clear and precise language to define the evaluation criteria and selection methodology helps bidders prepare responsive bids, and enables evaluators to apply those same criteria equally to all bidders.

20. This LOE applied to all 40 files, including 37 files where evaluation criteria were present and 3 where the contract award was strictly based on price. Of the 37 files with evaluation criteria, 18 contained both mandatory and point-rated evaluation criteria, and 19 contained only mandatory criteria. All files were examined to determine if the evaluation criteria and selection methodologies were: clearly communicated in the solicitation; aligned with the requirement; and not overly restrictive. The method of allocating points to point-rated criteria was also assessed to determine whether instructions were clearly communicated, and whether the number of points reflected the relative importance of the criteria.

Mandatory criteria

In almost half of the files, mandatory criteria were not defined in a clear, precise, non-restrictive or measurable manner.

21. Regarding mandatory evaluation criteria, section 4.35.1 of the Supply Manual states in part:

Contracting officers must ensure that mandatory requirements represent truly essential requirements, since not even a single mandatory requirement can be later waived when faced with an otherwise good bid/offer/arrangement. Contracting officers should discuss this with client departments since the bulk of the mandatory requirements are typically defined by the client department. Mandatory evaluation criteria identify the minimum requirements that are essential to the successful completion of the work. Contracting officers must minimize the number of mandatory criteria in order to increase probability of receiving responsive bids/offers/ arrangements. Mandatory criteria must be clearly specified in the solicitation document…

22. Mandatory criteria are used to highlight to bidders what their bids must demonstrate to pass to the next phase of evaluation. Not meeting a mandatory requirement must result in the disqualification of the bid. CAs are responsible for making sure the mandatory criteria are properly described to ensure: (a) bidders clearly understand how to meet them; and (b) evaluators have an objective, measurable standard against which to assess them. The challenge facing departments is to establish evaluation criteria which are not overly restrictive, thereby allowing more suppliers to meet them, while continuing to capture the essential elements of the capabilities being sought.

23. In 18 of the 37 applicable files, the mandatory criteria requirements were clear as to what bidders had to provide and how evaluators were to assess the bids. However:

  1. In 13 files, some element of the mandatory criteria was either ill-defined or vague, which affects how bidders determine what they are required to submit and hampers evaluators’ efforts to assess those bids. Examples include requiring bidders to demonstrate "…a variety of…" or "…related work…" experience," or to be an "…experienced…" resource capable of using "professional" language in a presentation "…appropriate for adults."
  2. In 3 files, bidders were required to submit documentation without an indication of how or if it was going to be assessed. In 2 different files for consultant services, PSPC required a curriculum vitae (CV), and in another file for large decals, bidders were required to describe previous work. The mere act of submitting a CV, regardless of its actual content, or describing previous work in any subject area, would meet the requirement.
  3. In 2 files, 1 for an information technology (IT) consultant and 1 related to the conduct of a public opinion poll, the mandatory criteria stated the bidder “should” submit something. Use of “should” negates the impact of failing to meet the mandatory requirement as the bidder is no longer required to provide it. When defining mandatory evaluation criteria, the word “must” is required rather than “should.”
  4. In 1 file for decals for storefronts, the requirement description fluctuated. The specification included a picture of a storefront, with 3 visible windows, identified individually as (1), (2) and (3), each of which needed to be covered by the to-be-purchased decals. The associated description identified 7 decals as being needed, numbered (1) (2) (3) (2) (3) (4) (5), and the pricing schedule asked for prices for 5 decals (1) (2) (3) (2) (3). Bidders need this clearly explained so they can accurately price their proposals.

24. In 2 files, OPO found the evaluation criteria did not reflect the requirements outlined in the Statement of Work (SOW):

  1. In a ProServices method of supply file for a Business Continuity Consultant, the SOW included the following as a constraint:
    • 3.5.1 Language Requirement
      While the majority of the services and deliverables will be in English, there is a need for French language services and deliverables. The Contractor will clearly identify the language capabilities of their resources in their submissions.

    However, there was no evaluation of proposed resources’ language abilities. In addition, as it was not a task authorization contract, there would be no further submissions regarding the resource.

  2. A Task and Solutions Professional Services (TSPS) method of supply file was for a senior communications consultant to provide strategic communications and change management advice and guidance. Amendment 001 to the RFP shifted the mandatory requirement for a change management certification/designation to the rated criteria section, worth 10 of the 60 available rated points:
    • Deleted M2—The proposed resource must hold a change management certification and/or designation from Prosci or another well-recognized organization.
    • Bidders must include a valid copy of the certification/designation in their proposal.
    • Added R6—The proposed resource should hold a change management certification and/or designation from Prosci or another well-recognized organization.
    • Bidders should include a valid copy of the certification/ designation in their proposal.
    • 10 points will be awarded for the certification
      0 point will be awarded for none certification

    The pass mark for the rated section was 49 out of 70 available points, meaning a bidder could pass, without providing what had previously been a mandatory certification related to the core function of the overall requirement of “…strategic communications and change management advice and guidance.”

25. In 2 files, OPO found the mandatory evaluation criteria were unnecessarily restrictive and appeared to favour preferred suppliers:

  1. In 1 file for a level 3 Technical Architect competed under PSPC’s professional IT method of supply, Task Based Informatics Professional Services (TBIPS), suppliers had to propose resources who were required to have had non-IT experience:
    • “…developing, reviewing, and managing procurement documents and processes in accordance with the Government of Canada procurement policies and regulations.”
    • “…developing, preparing, and reviewing interdepartmental and international agreements. This includes memorandum of understanding (MOU)s and associated annexes.”

    Due to the value of the expected contract, all suppliers qualified in that particular IT workstream had to be invited. These two non-IT requirements of an IT contractor, however, would limit the available resources and therefore limit the potential suppliers. The only bid was from one of the two incumbent suppliers which proposed 4 resources, 3 of whom had multiple years’ experience working in the office for which the services were being procured.

  2. In a second file for an odor and chemical detector, the precise dimensions and weight specified as the RFP’s mandatory maximum size and weight of the proposed product exactly matched the size and weight of the winning proposed product:
    Criteria in Request for Proposal vs text in winning bed
    # RFP Criteria Text in winning bid
    2.16 The proposed system must be no larger than 20.3 cm tall, 18.3 cm wide, and 12.2 cm deep. Size and Weight: 4.8 x 7.2 x 8 in (12.2 x 18.3 x 20.3 cm), <lbs with batteries
    2.17 The proposed system must weigh no more than 8 pounds (including battery).

    The product is portable and is carried by an employee while being used, so there was no requirement for the unit to precisely fit, for example, in a defined workspace in a lab setting. Overly precise specifications such as these leave the department open to the perception of having tailored the requirement to suit a preferred supplier.

Point-rated criteria

In 6 of the 18 applicable files, the rated criteria were found to be restrictive, or did not reflect their relative importance vis-à-vis the technical requirement.

26. Section 4.35.5 of PSPC’s Supply Manual states:

… Rated criteria are used to assess various elements of the technical bid/offer/ arrangement so that the relative merits of each bid/offer/arrangement can be used to distinguish one bid/offer/arrangement from another. The maximum points that can be achieved for each rated criterion must be specified in the solicitation document.

… Solicitation documents must clearly identify any minimum thresholds and clearly indicate that such minimums are mandatory. When assigning weights to each criterion, the contracting officer and the client department should ensure that a high aggregate of points for minor criteria does not overcompensate for a low aggregate of points for major criteria.

When evaluating knowledge and experience is important, contracting officers must specify in the solicitation documents how knowledge and experience will be assessed[…].

27. Of the 18 files which contained rated evaluation criteria, 12 contained rated criteria which were clear, aligned with the SOW’s requirements and did not unnecessarily favour or penalize particular bidders.

28. In 6 files, however, the rated criteria used vague words or the scoring scheme was unclear; they did not reflect the relative importance of the criteria or appeared to favour certain suppliers:

  1. There were 3 files where the scoring was difficult to decipher or oddly weighted:
    1. In 1 file for the teaching of 6 courses, each course had the same set of rated criteria. Some rating scores were incomplete and oddly structured. In addition, one of the requirements also contained undefined terms:

      The scoring for the months of experience had gaps in the time periods:

      • 36 months = 5 pts
      • 48-60 months = 10 pts
      • 72-96 months = 20 pts
      • Over 108 months = 30 pts

      In this file the scoring for the number of courses taught was heavily weighted toward, and appeared to favour, people who have given 36 or more courses by awarding them 40 percent of the available points for that 1 extra course:

      • 20 to 25 sessions = 8 pts
      • 26 to 30 sessions = 13 pts
      • 31 to 35 sessions = 18 pts
      • Over 35 sessions = 30 pts

      In addition, each proposed resource was also required to have “successfully participated to at least 1 facilitation/animation program” without defining either what “successfully participated” meant or what a “facilitation/animation program” was.

    2. 1 file for boiler inspectors provided the overall score necessary to pass, 62.5/105 or 60 percent of the available points, which was broken down into 3 sub-criteria, with the maximum points per criteria being identified: R1—45 points; R2—30 points; R3—30 points. However, there was no minimum point requirement per sub-criteria, which meant a bidder could achieve full marks for R1 (45/45), completely fail R2 (0/30) and get less than 60 percent for R3 (17.5/30) and still be successful despite having achieved a 60 percent score in only 1 of 3 criteria. While this scoring grid meets the obligations outlined in paragraph 26, this example demonstrates the risks of not setting a minimum score per sub-criterion, i.e., a bidder strong in one area could be significantly substandard in another and still be eligible to be awarded the contract.
    3. In 1 file for IT services, rated criterion CR3 stated:

      The Bidder will be awarded points for demonstrated experience in excess to Mandatory Requirement CM2.
      Any referenced contract that does not meet the requirements established in criteria CM2 will not be considered.
      The Bidder must not submit additional contracts to demonstrate its compliance with Criterion CR3.

      CM2 required suppliers to submit information on up to a maximum of 2 contracts, with a combined minimum value of $10M (excluding taxes), to demonstrate the Bidder delivered professional SAP ERP functional expertise. The first line of CR3 states Canada will award points for experience in excess of CM2, but the third line states bidders “must not submit additional contracts to demonstrate its compliance with Criterion CR3”. If bidders are not allowed to provide additional information then they will not have experience in excess of what they submitted for CM2. In response to a question from OPO during the review, PSPC advised the highlighted wording was mistakenly included in CR3.

  2. 2 files used vague, undefined terms to subjectively rate proposals, for example:
    1. In 1 file for a financial advisor, bidders were informed evaluators would award 5 points when:
      • “The bid demonstrates that the Bidder exceeds the criteria requirements. The Bidder demonstrates an excellent understanding of the requirements and an approach that is highly relevant to the requirements of the criteria. There are no apparent weaknesses relative to the requirements of the criteria”

        Compared to only awarding 4 points when:

      • “The bid demonstrates that the Bidder meets all of the criteria. The Bidder demonstrates a very good understanding of the requirements and an approach that is relevant to the requirements of the criteria. There are no significant weaknesses relative to the requirements of the criteria”

        Unless the terms are defined, how is a bidder to construct, and the evaluator score, a bid response that is “excellent” compared to “very good”, or one that is “highly relevant” compared to “relevant”?

    2. In 1 file for social and support services for asylum seekers coming to Canada bidders were required to “…describe the project’s risks and propose a mitigation strategy for those risks. The risks described must be relevant to the SOW, and the mitigation strategy must be realistic.” In this case, the criterion identifies which risks are relevant, i.e., those that relate to the SOW. However, how can bidders and evaluators have a common understanding of whether the proposed mitigation strategy is “realistic”?
  3. In 1 file to engage a public opinion research firm to conduct a Pension Member Service Feedback Survey, OPO found:
    1. The allocation of points was disproportionately weighted towards corporate functions as opposed to the proposed resource managing the work. Of the 1096 possible points, only 120 were awarded for the proposed resource’s education and experience. With so few points being allocated for the actual person doing the work, PSPC is not incentivizing suppliers to propose more experienced senior resources.
    2. The rated evaluation criteria favoured a supplier or group of suppliers; bidders would earn 25 points per project (up to 3 allowed) if the “Target Population” was:
      • Canadian Federal Public Servants (25 per project);
      • Canadian provincial/territorial or municipal public servants (15 per project); or,
      • Other (0 points per project).

      This discriminates against suppliers who have not surveyed Federal government employees as it is unclear why conducting a survey with Federal employees should be valued differently than a survey of provincial employees or the general population at large.

29. For evaluators, it can be difficult to defend against external challenges to the evaluation process and demonstrate criteria have been strictly adhered to when the criteria are unclear or open to multiple interpretations. Clear, precise and measurable evaluation criteria and scoring grids support fair and transparent procurement. Unclear, vague criteria increase the risk of contracts being awarded to non-compliant bidders or the wrong bidder. It also creates an increased administrative burden on suppliers and CAs as more questions and answers are required to clarify unclear criteria.

Recommendation 1

PSPC should review its policies and training and update as required to ensure: (1) mandatory criteria are aligned with the requirement and not overly restrictive, and (2) mandatory criteria and scoring schemes for point-rated criteria are clearly communicated in solicitation documents.

Selection methodology

In all but 1 file, the selection methodology clearly communicated the manner in which the contract would be awarded.

30. Common selection methodologies such as “lowest price responsive bid meeting mandatory criteria” “highest responsive combined rating of technical merit and price” and “highest rated within budget” were used in 39 of 40 files. In 1 file, issued under the PSPC temporary help services (THS) supply arrangement, a less-common “right-fit” selection method was used. The right-fit methodology allows evaluators to use relevant additional information to bypass a lower-priced resource if: (a) a proposed resource price is 20 percent above or below the median rate; and (b) the resource has:

  1. specialized education which will improve the quality of services to be provided
  2. additional certifications which will improve the quality of services to be provided
  3. additional experience which will improve the quality of services to be provided
  4. knowledge of relevant government policies or procedures which will improve the quality of services to be provided, or
  5. better proficiency in 1 or both official languages which will improve the quality of the services to be provided

This methodology allows the government to obtain “value for money”, as per sections 3.2.1 and 4.3.1 of the DMP, and gives departments the ability to obtain superior, albeit more expensive, goods or services to those which just meet the minimum requirement. While unconventional, the THS construct allows this methodology and so PSPC properly applied it in this THS process. The results of the evaluation of those bids will be discussed under LOE 3.

31. There was only 1 file that had an unclear selection methodology. In a “highest responsive combined rating of technical merit and price” file for a financial advisor, the RFP was inconsistent as to what the minimum pass mark was.

Line of enquiry 2: To determine whether solicitation documents and organizational practices during the bid solicitation period were consistent with applicable laws, regulations and policies

32. The TBCP sets out detailed procedures to ensure government contracting is carried out in a manner which 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.

33. The DMP states CAs are responsible for conducting procurements on behalf of the department or agency, and establishing contracts and contractual arrangements based on sound procurement principles, including fairness, openness and transparency to obtain best value.

34. Chapter 4 of the Supply Manual sets out detailed procedures specifically regarding the solicitation process. The chapter provides information on pre-solicitation requests, methods of solicitation and various sourcing tools. It also contains information on how to prepare and issue a solicitation. Finally, contracting officers will also find information on closing procedures, bid receiving, modification and withdrawal of bids/offers/arrangements. It specifically reminds CAs that Canada seeks competitive solicitations whenever possible.

35. Within OPO’s 40-file sample, 13 RFPs were issued under the framework of existing SAs. SAs are issued after a competitive process; suppliers which pass this process become pre-qualified to bid on future contracting opportunities. Normally, SAs will outline the rules for future solicitation processes, which may differ from those which normally govern a solicitation process. PSPC created and manages SAs for use by most departments in common services like information technology services, professional services, auditing services and temporary help personnel services. Of these 13 SA files, 10 were for these common services and 3 were conducted under specialized SAs set up for PSPC-use only. The remaining 27 solicitations were “stand alone” and not associated with any other contracting vehicle, meaning those RFPs or ITTs contain the entire solicitation package—the requirement, the rules governing the bid solicitation process and how bids will be received, evaluated and how the winner is to be selected.

36. For LOE 2, solicitation documents (excluding evaluation criteria and selection plans that were assessed under LOE 1 above) were assessed to determine whether they contained a clear description of the requirement and instructions necessary to prepare a compliant bid. The assessment of organizational practices included factors such as whether the solicitation was open to the appropriate number of bidders and for the required duration, and whether communications with suppliers supported the preparation of responsive bids.

Solicitation documents and processes

With minimal exceptions, solicitation documents provided a clear description of the requirements and how bidders were to submit bids and ask questions during the solicitation period.

37. In 38 of 40 files, the solicitation documents included a clear description of the requirements. Of the 2 other files:

  1. 1 was missing the unit of measurement, for example, the size of an instrument to perform thermal shocks on various electronic, mechanical and material components was described as “…75W x 75D x 84H …”
  2. The file for decals for storefronts described in paragraph 23 required the bidder to “…perform quality benchmarking (for example colour testing, material behaviour and effect, adhesion, and transparency), prototyping prior to receiving the client’s approval to fabricate and install graphics” without indicating how the required benchmarking would “pass” any colour testing, adhesion, transparency, etc.

38. During the solicitation period, suppliers may ask questions to clarify some element of the technical requirement or an administrative aspect of the RFP. In all but 1 file for a consultant to assist with PSPC procurement activities, the RFP specified the date by which questions had to be asked to be guaranteed an answer prior to the closing date for the receipt of bids. In 31 of 40 files, questions were asked during the solicitation period but in 5 of those cases, OPO was not provided details of when or by whom the questions were asked. Without these records, even if PSPC properly answered all questions via a formal amendment to the RFP, it cannot demonstrate that all potential bidders received responses to questions at the same time.

39. There was also 1 file for a property manager where a copy of a final amendment was in the file provided by PSPC, but it was not showing in the Government’s tendering system (previously, now PSPC advised OPO the amendment had been e-mailed directly to suppliers, but the employee who did the amendment, and who would have this e-mail, had left PSPC.

Overall, solicitations were open to an appropriate number of suppliers and for an appropriate period of time.

40. For the 27 files which were not associated with an SA, 25 were “open”, meaning the solicitation was posted on Canada’s electronic tendering system and any supplier could submit a bid. There were 2 files for which PSPC invited specific bidders. 1 was regarding cash order services and was properly only sent to the 13 Banks/Credit Unions from Payment Canada’s list of Retail System Direct and Group Clearers. In the second file, for language training services, the file states 5 suppliers were invited but, as the employee who managed the file has moved on, PSPC could not identify which 5, nor if those were the “right” 5 to invite, i.e., was it based on some rotational list or were they the 5 with the lowest prices?

41. There was also 1 file for the management of fuel tank storage systems in British Columbia (BC) and the Yukon which was “open” but, because it was subject to a Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (CLCA), the Indigenous communities with inherent rights within that CLCA should have been specifically advised of the requirement and offered an opportunity to supply the services. PSPC confirmed the CA should have offered right of first refusal to the communities in BC and Yukon where this RFP was being tendered with this intention.

42. For the 13 files which were competed under an SA, 4 could be considered “open” as every pre-qualified supplier in the requested labour stream was invited to submit a proposal. In 1 of those 4 files for a senior procurement specialist, rather than only invite the minimum 2 bidders required by the SA, PSPC elected to invite almost 230 qualified suppliers. In the remaining 3 files, 2 for IT specialists and 1 for a financial advisor, the dollar value of the expected contract value was over $3.75M, triggering the SA requirement to invite all suppliers qualified in the labour stream being sought. However, for 1 of these 3 files, the PSPC CA had searched PSPC’s centralized supplier database in the categories of IT labour being sought, and only sent the RFP to the 11 suppliers the system identified. Ultimately, 15 additional companies, including the only bidder, asked to be added to the invitee list and were sent the RFP. The employee managing this file has since left PSPC, so it is unknown why the RFP was not made available to all qualified suppliers from the beginning or why the initial search only found 11 qualified companies, when at least 15 other ones were also found to have been eligible.

43. For the remaining 9 SA-related files, in all but 2 cases PSPC invited the required minimum number of suppliers to submit a bid. In 1 case for Professional Audit Support Services, 15 suppliers were supposed to have been invited, but only 10 were sent the RFP. The employee managing this file has since moved on, so it is unknown why the RFP was not made available to 15 suppliers. There was another file for snow removal at the pier at Blanc-Sablon, QC, for which only 1 supplier, from a list of 4 possible entities, was sent the ITT. The decision to not include other suppliers, however, was understandable, given the remoteness of the location, i.e., Blanc-Sablon has a population under 1,200 and is inaccessible directly via the rest of the Quebec road network, it is therefore unlikely other service providers existed.

44. The bidding period for the 40 files either met SA requirements or was reasonable in all but 2 cases:

  1. In the file for which the 5-invitee list is missing for language training services, the RFP had been issued on Tuesday, December 29, 2020, with a due date for the receipt of bids of Monday, January 11, 2021. On Thursday, January 7, 2021, an amendment was issued, answering 7 questions which clarified parts of the SOW and clarified/changed 3 evaluation criteria. Given there was only 1 full work day between the amendment being issued and the due date for bid receipt, an extension should have been considered. As noted above, the CA has moved on, and there was nothing on file to demonstrate whether an extension to the due date had been contemplated. Of note on this file was also that the amendment restated all evaluation criteria with the clarifications incorporated, even those not affected by the amendment. While this can make for a lengthier amendment, it does make it easier for suppliers because everything is in a single location.
  2. In 1 file for furniture, the solicitation was open for 20 days. The RFP was open to SA holders as well as non-SA holders, which is unusual. However, non-SA holders were only allowed to bid if they became SA-holders by bid closing. The RFP also stated “…Canada is not required to delay the award of a resulting contract pending the evaluation of an arrangement and issuance of a SA by the Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) Supply Arrangement Authority.” While these circumstances do not breach any applicable procurement policies, it would be extremely challenging for a non-SA holder to apply for an SA, have its products technically reviewed and accepted and become qualified as an SA-holder within 20 days.

Line of enquiry 3: To determine whether the evaluation of bids and contract award were conducted in accordance with the solicitation

45. OPO examined how the mandatory and rated criteria were evaluated as well as if other administrative requirements of a solicitation were met. Being unable to conduct and document proper evaluations calls into question the integrity of the procurement process.

46. In order to ensure the fairness of evaluation processes, section 10.7.27 of the TBCP requires that evaluation criteria be adhered to strictly and applied equally to all bidders.

10.7.27 Competing firms should be told the measurement criteria and the weighting assigned to them. Contracting authorities should be aware of successful legal challenges to the contractor selection process. The issue arises from the manner in which evaluation factors are to be used to determine the successful bid. The courts have ruled that the factors and their weighting must be established beforehand and adhered to strictly. They are to be recorded along with the requirements of the contract and included in the bid solicitation. The principle of applying bid criteria or requirements equally to all bidders is part of Canadian contract law and is applicable to both the public as well as the private sectors. Fairness to all prospective contractors and transparency in the award process are imperative.

47. Regarding evaluation, the DMP states CAs are responsible for:

48. Section 5.5 of the Supply Manual specifies "…the main purpose of bid evaluation is to determine the best responsive bid, in accordance with the evaluation and selection methodology specified in the solicitation document." It also states that the “…[e]valuation of bids must be in accordance with the procedures stipulated in the bid solicitation. They must be checked for responsiveness to the contractual, technical and financial requirements of the bid solicitation. Fair, accurate and transparent evaluation of bids is an important aspect of procurement process.” Section 5.35 of the Supply Manual continues:

5.35.d Bids must be evaluated in accordance with the evaluation criteria established in the bid solicitation. Even though the onus is on bidders to submit clear and well-organized bids, bids must be reviewed with diligence and thoroughness to ensure that no essential information is missed. The evaluators must not use criteria or factors not included in the bid solicitation or derive conclusions from information contained in bids that may prove wrong. Whenever possible, the same evaluators should evaluate all bids. When evaluating bids, evaluators must consider all vital information provided in the bid, and must not base their evaluation on undisclosed criteria.

49. The TBCP/DMP and Supply Manual also require evaluators to document the results of the bid evaluation:

  1. The TBCP requires:
    • 12.3.1 Procurement files shall be established and structured to facilitate management oversight with a complete audit trail that contains contracting details related to relevant communications and decisions including the identification of involved officials and contracting approval authorities.
    • 12.3.2 Under the North American Free Trade Organization, the World Trade Organization—Agreement on Government Procurement, and the Agreement on Internal Trade, Contracting authorities shall guarantee that complete documentation and records, including a signed and dated record of all communications with suppliers, are maintained to allow verification by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal that the procurement process was carried out in accordance with the agreements.
  2. The DMP states the CA is responsible for:
    • 4.10.1 Where applicable, ensuring that accurate and comprehensive procurement records are created and maintained on the contract file to facilitate management oversight and audit, including but not limited to:

    • A record of individual assessments, consensus evaluation, relevant decisions, approvals, communications and dates
  3. The Supply Manual requires:
    • 5.35.e Documents pertaining to the evaluation of bids must be retained. Evaluators must provide the original or a copy of all evaluation notes and communications to the contracting officer for filing on the procurement file…Following a relevant Canadian International Trade Tribunal decision, it was found that evaluators' worksheets are an integral part of the evaluation process and constitute part of the complete record regarding the procurement and part of the written record of all communications substantially affecting the procurement within the meaning of the international trade agreements. Destroying the evaluators' worksheets is a breach of the international trade agreements. Although no similar provision exists in the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), the maintenance of complete documentation is also essential under the CFTA to promote fair and open procurement procedures…
    • 5.40.c Complete documentation, including all notes, worksheets, etc. made during the processing or evaluation of the bids must be retained, for future reference, on the PWGSC procurement file.

50. Of the 40 files reviewed: 3 were awarded solely on the basis of price and had a limited evaluation process. Of the remaining 37 files; 19 had an evaluation process that included mandatory technical evaluation criteria and a financial evaluation and 18 had technical evaluations of both mandatory and rated criteria as well as a financial evaluation. 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.

Managing the evaluation and documenting the results

51. CAs are responsible for the management of the bid evaluation process. Prior to starting the technical and financial evaluations, the CA must first ensure the bids are complete, for example, certifications are present, and the bids are signed. The CA then sends the technical evaluators the technical portions of the proposal in which the bidder explains how it meets the solicitation’s requirements. Once the results of this evaluation are returned to the CA, the CA conducts an evaluation of the financial portion of only those proposals which passed the technical evaluation. Failure to ensure the consistent evaluation of bids increases the risk of the contract being wrongly awarded.

52. Once bids have been received and the CA has verified they are complete, the CA should provide evaluators with:

  1. A notice of the requirement to treat all information in a secure and confidential manner. Section 5.10 of the Supply Manual requires the following wording to be provided to the evaluators:

    "Bid information must be divulged only to individuals authorized to participate in this contracting process. Information must not be divulged to, or discussed with, the private industry."

  2. A description of the evaluation process and record keeping requirements, i.e., document the steps in, and results of, the evaluation process, for example, first, mandatory criteria are to be evaluated on a pass/fail basis; second, those that “pass” proceed to the rated criteria evaluation, if they exist; after which, for those that obtain the minimum number of rated points, the CA will evaluate the financial bids;
  3. The Supply Manual also requires third-party evaluators to declare they are not in a conflict of interest (COI) position

17 files did not have all 3 of these documents on file

53. OPO noted 6 files did not include a confidentiality warning, including 3 from the Acquisition Program and for which the Supply Manual specifically requires technical evaluators to be advised of the need for maintaining the confidentiality of bids.

54. There were 7 files which there were no records of the CA providing evaluators with instructions on how the evaluation process was to be conducted. The main points which should be explained are: (1) the order of the steps in the evaluation—typically the evaluators conduct an individual evaluation and then come together to determine a consensus decision on each evaluation criterion (2) a warning that: (a) the contents of the bids are not to be discussed with anyone outside of the evaluation team; (b) evaluators are to confine their evaluation to the bid itself and not take into account their own personal knowledge of the bidder or anything found on the internet; and (3) any clarifications regarding any aspect of any bid are to be managed by the CA and that technical evaluators are not to contact bidders directly.

55. COI forms were either not signed or not present on 13 files. Although the Values and Ethics code for the Public Sector requires public servants to take all possible steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest between their official responsibilities and private affairs, it does not specifically mention conducting bid evaluations. Therefore OPO believes that COI forms should be completed by all evaluators to further support the principles of fairness, openness and transparency.

56. In the file for an odor and chemical detector referenced in paragraph 25 where the specified maximum physical size exactly matched one supplier’s proposed product, the CA had not required the sole technical evaluator to confirm they were not in a conflict position. OPO notes this same evaluator specifically asked the CA during the solicitation period if a bid had been yet received from the eventual contract awardee.

57. The concern with files missing any of these three documents is that, unlike CAs, technical evaluators’ jobs are typically not focused on contracting. The contracting process may make up but a small fraction of their time and so they must be (re-)acquainted with rules of procurement/bid evaluation each time they participate in these roles. CAs should provide evaluators with a documentation package which encompasses the 3 above-noted elements—the evaluation process, COI and confidentiality. For more than half of the files, this was done; one example was for strategic communications support related to the Giant Mine Remediation Project in the Northwest Territories. Prior to sending the bids to the evaluation team, the CA required them to sign a confidentiality/COI declaration. Once those were received, the CA then forwarded the bids to the evaluators with a covering e-mail that contained:

  1. a link to the RFP, specifically noting the revision in the evaluation criteria in one of the amendments;
  2. a “Guide to the Evaluation Board” for evaluators on how to conduct the evaluation, with the statement the evaluators were “[t]o evaluate the content of each proposal and not based from what you know of the firm” and to “[p]lease ensure there are adequate comments to support the assigned points”;
  3. an explanation of how only the CA was to contact bidders if there were any questions and that, if the evaluators had concerns about bid-rigging or collusion, the CA should be notified;
  4. a scheduled consensus evaluation meeting;
  5. instructions to the evaluation board that all copies of the bids, evaluation sheets and comments were to be returned to the CA.
Recommendation 2

PSPC should update its procurement policies, training and template library and require CAs to: (1) provide all evaluators with evaluation instructions for solicitations prior to their obtaining bid documentation and/or participating in the evaluation process; and (2) obtain signed conflict of interest and confidentiality declarations from all evaluators.

In more than half of the applicable files, either (a) the bid evaluation procedures deviated from those described in the solicitation document; or (b) it could not be confirmed that the evaluators followed the proper evaluation procedures.

58. OPO found the lack of documentation limited its ability to confirm all 40 contracts were awarded properly. There were 21 files were: (a) PSPC could not demonstrate the evaluators followed the solicitation’s evaluation process; or (b) the documentation demonstrated the evaluators did not follow the proper evaluation process.

Evaluation documentation was missing, unsigned or incomplete in 17 files.

59. There were 8 files which were missing signed evaluations; in 3 of those files OPO was unable to determine who had conducted the evaluation because the names were not recorded on the file. In 2 of these 3 files, for building materials and janitorial services, the evaluation was either based solely on price, or the mandatory criterion/price list was evaluated by the CA. In such solicitations, or if the solicitation does not have complex technical evaluation criteria, it is not uncommon for a PSPC CA to be the sole evaluator. However, the file must be so documented if PSPC is to meet section 5.35.e, 5.40.c and 5.105 of its Supply Manual which requires the retention of complete evaluation documentation including the name(s) of the evaluator(s).

60. There were also 6 files where evaluators had indicated a bid met a mandatory criterion with just a word—“PASS”, “OK” , “O[ui]/Yes”, simply an “X” under a column entitled “Met” or, in the case of 1 file for a senior business consultant with rated criteria, they just listed the points obtained for each rated criterion without explaining where in the bid that information was found. By not providing an explanation of how the bid “passed” or where in the bid the information could be found, evaluators would have to reassess the bids if the results were challenged or being reviewed.

61. There were also 5 files for which the PSPC records do not include full documentation but it appears PSPC still met the RFP’s evaluation process. As an example, in a file for scientific equipment PSPC required technical evaluators to first conduct individual evaluations prior to coming to a consensus agreement on if a bid met a mandatory criterion or about how many points were to be awarded. While these individual scoresheets are supposed to be kept (TBCP section 12.3.2, Supply Manual 5.35.e), that they are not on file does not, by itself, indicate PSPC did not correctly determine the bids’ suitability for contract award. It does, however, mean PSPC cannot support these decisions if challenged.

62. There was also 1 file for which the evaluation results found in the file and the information shared with the bidders did not match. In the THS file where “right fit” was used to award the contract to a higher-priced bidder, the evaluators’ notes indicate the higher-priced resource had “additional certifications which will improve the quality of services to be provided.” However, a review of that resource’s CV indicated that they were working toward obtaining 2 such certifications, but at the time of bid submission had not yet been certified. In the “regret” letters to the other 2 compliant bidders, PSPC advised that the selected resource had “additional experience which will improve the quality of services to be provided.” The CA for the file has since left that section, so PSPC was not able to explain the discrepancy.

Recommendation 3

To support fair and transparent evaluation processes and effective file documentation practices, PSPC should:

  1. update its procurement guidance and training to ensure that a complete record and audit trail are kept on every procurement file, including the requirement that all evaluators be identified and provide signed evaluations demonstrating how bids met, or did not meet, each evaluation criteria;
  2. ensure bidders are provided with the details of how their bid met, or did not meet, each evaluation criteria if so requested, via a debriefing; and
  3. ensure monitoring processes are in place to identify and remediate documentation deficiencies.

Documentation demonstrated the evaluation process as set out in the solicitation was not followed in 9 files.

63. In 3 instances, the evaluation process or grid noted in the RFP, and which is used by suppliers when preparing their bids, was different from what was used in the evaluation:

  1. In 1 file for a senior business continuity consultant, the RFP specified a grid to be used to assess a proposed resource’s experience, academic qualifications and professional certifications. Depending on how many points are achieved using this grid, a proposed resource is either considered a senior, intermediate or a junior resource, with the corresponding differences in per diems, i.e., a senior resource typically will charge more than a junior one. The RFP grid required a resource to attain 95 points to be the “senior” level being sought, however the grid used to evaluate the bids required 100 points. Also, the evaluation grid awarded 30 points for graduating from a police academy, which had not been noted in the RFP grid;
  2. In another file for IT services, the RFP stated 5 points would be awarded if the bidder had any qualifying contracts but the evaluation guideline stated bidders would be awarded 1 point per qualifying contract; and
  3. In 1 file for rental portable toilet facilities, instead of providing the RFP’s evaluation grid reflecting the 12 mandatory criteria, the CA sent the relevant portions of the sole bid to the technical evaluator and said “[w]e received one bid […] Attached is the technical bid from [company name] […] Please review the bid to see that it meets the mandatory criteria from the solicitation.”

64. Of note in all these examples, there was only a single bidder, so there was no chance of the resulting contract being awarded to the “wrong” bidder. Thus Canada’s technical requirements were not compromised by having an incorrect evaluation grid, or lack thereof, used to evaluate the proposals.

65. In 2 files, the portable toilet file and another one for a drone, the evaluation results state the technical evaluator verified information from a bidder’s website, despite the RFP telling suppliers their bid must contain all necessary information or that Crown employees would not check websites.

66. In 1 file for a communications team, it appears the only bid which met the mandatory requirements may not have met the minimum points necessary to pass the rated evaluation criteria which were described as follows:

  1. To be declared responsive, a bid must:
    1. comply with all the requirements of the bid solicitation; and
    2. meet all mandatory criteria; and
    3. obtain the required minimum of 84 points overall for the technical evaluation criteria which are subject to point rating. The rating is performed on a scale of 140 points.
  2. Bids not meeting (a) or (b) or (c) will be declared non-responsive.

The following table was also included under that same section of the RFP:

Excerpt from a bid solicitation issued by PSPC
Item Criterion Weight Factor Rating Minimum Criterion Pass Mark Weighted Rating
R. Technical Bid Not Defined Not Defined 84 Not Defined
R1. Experience of the Firm/Company N/A N/A 18 N/A
R2. Qualifications and Experience of [proposed resource 1] N/A N/A 30 N/A
R3. Qualifications and Experience of [proposed resource 2] N/A N/A 18 N/A
R4. Qualifications and Experience of [proposed resource 3] N/A N/A 18 N/A

According to the consensus report, while the bidder did exceed the minimum pass mark of 84 points, it only scored 24 points for criterion R2. Therefore, it did not meet the listed “Minimum Criterion Pass Mark” for criterion R2 and should have been disqualified and not awarded the contract. There was another bidder which had been disqualified for not meeting the mandatory evaluation requirements. Had PSPC rerun this requirement, and had both bidders availed themselves of a debriefing, both could have possibly provided better proposals the second time around.

67. In the file for the 6 courses noted in paragraph 28, the bid closing date was February 5, 2019, with the RFP stating bids were valid for 120 days. The date of the contract was September 12, 2019, or 219 days later, meaning all bids had expired and the solicitation process should have been rerun. Due to the lack of documentation on file, OPO does not know if there were other bidders who could have benefitted from a debriefing regarding this solicitation to be better positioned for a second RFP.

68. In a file for a thermal shock chamber, 4 bids were received by the bid closing date, November 19, 2020, 1 of which was signed by an authorized representative of the company submitting the bid. That bid included a statement that the Canadian company at which the authorized signatory worked was the bidding US company’s exclusive sales representative in Canada. PSPC then had the Canadian company resubmit the front page of the bid with the Canadian company’s name on it, which it did on January 5, 2021. PSPC unnecessarily requested the front page be re-signed and replaced because the original bid had been properly signed and received by the due date for receipt of bids. The contract was ultimately awarded to the Canadian company identified in the original bid as the exclusive sales representative of the US bidder, which is a different entity from the original bidder, which means PSPC effectively awarded the contract to a bidder who submitted its bid document post-closing.

69. In 1 file for furniture, bidders were required to provide legible portable document format (PDF) and CAD shop drawings of the floor plan layout for the new furniture being procured. According to the 4 or 5 evaluatorsFootnote 2, the only bidder submitted a layout which wasn’t legible. The consensus scoring sheet stated “CAD files will be accepted and submitted after site visit by vendor to ensure accuracy of floorplan dimensions as site is still under construction.” PSPC advised OPO the site to be furnished was under construction and there were delays which would have made it difficult for bidders to provide accurate, clear drawings. PSPC advised the bidder did go to the site and, given the site conditions, that bidder gave PSPC the best that they could under the circumstances. During the consensus meeting, it was decided that the submitted drawing was sufficient. PSPC said they would have adopted this approach for all bidders. OPO’s concern is that no one knows how many suppliers did not submit a bid because they knew they would not be able to meet that specific mandatory drawing requirement. Had industry known the drawings could have been submitted after a site visit and after contract award, it might have attracted more interest.

70. In 1 file for online language training, a mandatory criterion required the offer to include access to the bidder’s learning management system so that the evaluation team could verify elements of the software and how it addressed the SOW requirements. All 3 evaluators passed the bid, including 1 who included the following note “I was unable to obtain the “My program” section to review, however, I am not familiar with the system and may have been looking in the wrong place.” That note does not indicate a “pass”; that evaluator should have asked the CA to get the bidder to explain how the system was to be accessed.

71. As noted in Recommendation 3 above, PSPC should strengthen its documentation retention practices. OPO considers the lack of documentation on file to support decisions to be a concern, particularly with respect to decisions regarding contract award. For files with incomplete records, PSPC cannot fully explain its business decisions or demonstrate that the procurements were conducted in a fair, open and transparent manner. Keeping complete and detailed evaluation records is crucial for demonstrating that: evaluation criteria have been applied consistently to all competing bids; the procurement has been carried out in a manner consistent with PSPC’s obligations under the TBCP/DMP and its Supply Manual, and the contract was awarded in accordance with the procedures set out in the solicitation documents.

72. As noted above, a significant number of files had been managed by CAs who had either left the section which had awarded the contract or were no longer at PSPC and are unavailable to respond to OPO’s observations. Without this corporate knowledge documented on file, PSPC is at a disadvantage in explaining and justifying the decisions made.

IV. Simplification

73. OPO regularly hears from both Canadian businesses and federal officials who believe the contracting process is unnecessarily complex. In reviewing PSPC’s procurement practices, OPO sought to identify opportunities to alleviate unnecessary administrative burdens placed on bidders and federal procurement officials and draw attention to good practices for simplifying the procurement process.

Reference checking

74. When used appropriately and verified consistently, references can provide valuable information to support the bid evaluation process. OPO noted that solicitations generally include a clause stating Canada may, but is not required to, check references. Except for 1 file where a technical evaluator did so, none of the service-related files contained documentation demonstrating PSPC verified any information with any references. The time and effort required by bidders to identify and vet reference information is significant and has the potential to result in bidders opting not to participate in competitive processes. When balanced against the fact that in the majority of cases reference information is never sought or utilized by the Department, OPO suggests that reference information only be sought in exceptional circumstances and not considered a requirement in most solicitations.

75. Of note, in one file, PSPC had included a clause which would have caused the supplier extra work and limited the resource pool:

Reference information must be provided where requested. References must be independent of the Bidder, be currently employed with the client company (including government Department), and have knowledge of the project. References may be checked to confirm information provided only; no clarifications or additional information will be allowed (i.e., no “bid repair”). The relevant criteria will not be considered if any of: Reference information is not complete; Reference cannot be contacted by PWGSC; or Reference does not corroborate the provided information.

Given the ebb-and-flow of resources in some labour streams, the emphasized passage essentially limits suppliers to proposing resources whose references still work at the company/Department for which the previous experience occurred. In this file, PSPC was seeking a number of resources and was considering experience up to 15 years in the past, which could have required references to still be working for that company 15 years later.

V. Conclusion

76. PSPC’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/DMP as well as PSPC’s Supply Manual and other departmental guidelines, and to determine if they supported the principles of fairness, openness and transparency.

77. Regarding LOE 1, overall OPO concluded that evaluation criteria and selection plans were established in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and policies. In just under half the files mandatory criteria were clear, not overly restrictive and aligned with requirements of the solicitation. However, the remaining files had vague or ill-defined requirements including 2 which were restrictive and appeared to favour certain suppliers. Similarly, point-rated criteria were generally not overly restrictive; however, issues were identified with scoring grids for point-rated criteria in 6 of 18 applicable files. Finally, the selection methodology clearly communicated the manner in which the contract would be awarded and was aligned with the requirements in all but 1 file.

78. Regarding LOE 2, OPO concluded that most solicitation documents and organizational practices during the bid solicitation period were consistent with applicable laws, regulations and policies. OPO found that, with minimal exceptions, solicitations were open to an appropriate number of suppliers and for an appropriate period of time. For all but 2 of the files, solicitation documents provided a clear description of the requirements. Further, solicitations included clear instructions for posing questions and submitting bids. Communications with suppliers during the solicitation period appeared to be appropriate and supportive of the preparation of responsive bids; however, documentation of communication was incomplete in 6 files.

79. Regarding LOE 3, OPO concluded that PSPC’s bid evaluation processes did not consistently ensure contracts were awarded in accordance with the solicitation. OPO found that a process had been established to support the consistent evaluation of bids and most files reviewed included guidance for bid evaluators. However, in more than half of the files, documentation on the file: (a) did not demonstrate PSPC followed the applicable processes; or (b) demonstrated PSPC deviated from the RFP’s bid evaluation procedures.

80. In order to address issues identified, OPO made 3 recommendations. These recommendations can be found in Annex I of this report.

VI. Organizational response

81. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) would like to thank the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman (OPO) review team for their thoroughness in undertaking this review, and for the detailed findings and recommendations that have been produced. PSPC accepts the OPO recommendations in their entirety, and has developed Action Plans to strengthen its procurement policies and processes, and provide training opportunities for its procurement workforce.

VII. Acknowledgment

82. OPO wishes to express its appreciation to the staff of PSPC’s Acquisition Program, especially the Business Integration and Liaison Directorate, as well as all the contracting authorities who provided information and extended assistance and cooperation to OPO during this assessment.

Alexander Jeglic
Procurement Ombudsman

Annex I: Organizational response and action plan

Procurement Practice Review of Evaluation and Selection Plans, Solicitation, and Evaluation of Bids and Contract Award at Public Services and Procurement Canada.

Summary of recommendations and responses
Number Recommendation PSPC Response / Action Plan Timeline for Implementation
1 PSPC should review its policies and training and update as required to ensure: (1) mandatory criteria are aligned with the requirement and not overly restrictive, and (2) mandatory criteria and scoring schemes for point rated criteria are clearly communicated in solicitation documents.

PSPC accepts this recommendation, and will undertake the following actions:

PSPC launched a new mandatory training curriculum for Bid Evaluation and Selection Methodologies in early 2022, which comprises online self-paced courses and as well as interactive workshops. Optional study labs have also been introduced to complement the existing training curriculum, to provide procurement officers further opportunities to explore key topics with trainers and their peers. In January 2023, the department also began offering labs on Developing Evaluation Criteria to procurement officers. The Canada School of Public Service course Developing a Statement of Work and Evaluation Criteria (COR407) will remain mandatory training as part of PSPC’s comprehensive learning roadmap for its procurement officers.

PSPC will review its Supply Manual with a view to strengthening its existing guidance for procurement officers on mandatory criteria and scoring schemes for point rated criteria, as appropriate. June 2024
2 PSPC should update its procurement policies, training and template library and require CAs to: (1) provide all evaluators with evaluation instructions for solicitations prior to their obtaining bid documentation and/or participating in the evaluation process; and (2) obtain signed conflict of interest and confidentiality declarations from all evaluators.

PSPC accepts this recommendation, and will undertake the following actions:

PSPC will review its Supply Manual with a view to strengthening its existing guidance for procurement officers on evaluation instructions and conflict of interest declarations, as appropriate.

June 2024
Subsequent to any Supply Manual updates, PSPC will review the guides and survey questions for its post-procurement review process to determine if new areas of review should be incorporated. December 2024
3 To support fair and transparent evaluation processes and effective file documentation practices, PSPC should: (1) update its procurement guidance and training to ensure that a complete record and audit trail are kept on every procurement file, including the requirement that all evaluators be identified and provide signed evaluations demonstrating how bids met, or did not meet, each evaluation criteria; (2) ensure bidders are provided with the details of how their bid met, or did not meet, each evaluation criteria if so requested, via a debriefing; and, (3) ensure monitoring processes are in place to identify and remediate documentation deficiencies.

PSPC accepts this recommendation, and will undertake the following actions:

In May 2022, the Acquisitions Program incorporated requirements with respect to electronic file documentation for procurements into PSPC’s Supply Manual. It provides, in part, a comprehensive list of proposed documents to be included in the procurement files, including technical and financial evaluation reports signed by the evaluators. This was followed by a procurement file checklist in September 2022. These activities were undertaken as a response to the Government of Canada’s transition to the Electronic Procurement Solution, and were undertaken after the majority contracts reviewed by the OPO were established.

Develop training session for procurement officers to ensure awareness and understanding of information management requirements for procurement files. June 2023
Deliver training to procurement officers and incorporate into learning road maps and training curriculum. June 2024
Update the Acquisition Program’s post-procurement review process to foster quality management at various stages of the procurement process. It will become a decentralized process, which will include pre-solicitation reviews as well as post-contract reviews, supported by peer-to-peer review guides as well as a tool to capture the results of these reviews. June 2024
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