Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Timmins purchasing bylaw ready

City Hall is finally taking steps to refine its purchasing and tendering policies. City council will soon be voting on a new purchasing bylaw to clarify the bidding and tendering process outlinined in previous purchasing bylaws.
The city’s policies came under fire late last year when Chamber of Commerce president Marilyn Wood addressed council on Dec. 3. Wood told council that many local businesses felt left out of the city’s purchasing process and were often dismayed to find that tenders and purchases were being picked up by out-of-town companies.
“We have had an ongoing concern about the estimated ten million dollars of city purchasing from out of town,” Wood told council before Christmas.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Joe Torlone said Monday he was glad to finally be able to table the document after extensive consultations with the business community, especially since “Marilyn Wood and (chamber manager)Keitha Robson have been hounding me for months.”
“We’ve heard from the business community that they’re not looking for local preference. All they want is the opportunity to bid,” said Torlone.
He said extra measures are being taken to make sure more local businesses are aware of the city’s purchases. But Torlone said local businesses have to take steps as well to stay in touch with the city’s website to make sure they know when tenders and purchase proposals are sent out.
“We believe this document is a more effective document and clarifies some of the issues we’ve had in the past,” he added.
“It has been reviewed by staff. It has also been reviewed by our lawyers and no doubt we will have some growing pains.”
Under the new bylaw, the city treasurer will be allowed to make purchases at his discretion for goods and services under $1,000.
For purchases more than $1,000 but less than $10,000, the procedure changes. A formal purchase order must be approved and at least three quotations must be provided.
Also, city council’s approval will be need for purchases more than $25,000 where only a single supplier can be found.
Council’s approval is required for all purchases more than $50,000 regardless of the suppliers.
The bylaw does have some loopholes. It says the purchasing policies are not necessary for several items listed in Schedule “A”, provided those items have been previously approved by council and are in he budget.
Schedule “A” includes such things as Training and Education, meal and travel expensives for staff and council members, utilities such as heat and hydro, media advertising, freight and courier expenses.
Another loophole says that in the event of an “emergency” the treasurer may approve purchases of more than $25,000, without council’s approval, provided there is a written follow-up report presented to council and the CAO.
Another important part of the bylaw states that no contract shall be broken down into smaller parts in a such a way that the tendering process would be avoided.
The bylaw also states that no city employee shall be involved in the tendering process in any manner, if their spouse or companion has a financial interest in a company involved in the bids. This also applies to city employees whose spouse or partner is employed by a bidder.
Future bids for goods and services will have a lifespan of not more than five years. As an example, Fortier Beverages last summer signed an agreement that says only Coca Cola products may be sold in city owned buildings for a ten-year period. That deal expires in 2017.
Council is expect to vote on the bylaw at Feb. 11 regular meeting of council.

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