Bidder’s qualifications to be top priority for city contracts: Mayoral candidate

Josh Morrissey Monday2:45

Winnipeg must make qualification, not price, the top priority for awarding engineering and architectural design contracts, according to a mayoral candidate.

A “qualifications based selection (QBS)” process would ensure proper planning can prevent cost hikes and project delays on city projects, said Jenny Motkaluk.

“I’ve heard examples from a lot of Winnipeg’s construction community where the jobs go off the rails because the planning wasn’t done well … This is one of the things that leads to change orders, that leads to construction delays. It leads to all kinds of bad outcomes that ultimately have city taxpayers on the hook for more money,” said Motkaluk.

Motkaluk said a QBS system would ensure the best-suited company can perform the design phase of many routine capital projects. She said the city’s current point system sets more general skills requirements and winds up prioritizing price above all else.

And even though the change could potentially cost more at the design phase, it should save costly headaches and fixes during construction, she said.

Motkaluk said that once the most qualified bidders are identified, they could begin price negotiations with the city that help control costs. She also noted a request for proposals process would still be needed for some projects, including standard purchasing ones.

A construction association leader said he agrees QBS is a proven best practice to ensure designs on routine projects, like sidewalk repairs and street overlays, are done efficiently.

What should the city give priority to in awarding contracts?

“Qualifications based selection, QBS, would essentially eliminate anywhere from 10 to 13 weeks of process, which doesn’t do anything but encumber,” said Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association. “We’ve been saying for many years that the city should return to qualifications-based assessment.”

Lorenc said city administrators have the expertise to work directly with pre-qualified firms on a rotating basis and move on to another company when a mutually acceptable price can’t be worked out for a project.

In an email, city spokesperson David Driedger said the city’s current weighted evaluation criteria for design awards allots about 10% to 40% of available points for price, leaving 60% to 90% of the points for qualifications.

While Driedger noted “the city continues to investigate QBS,” he said there’s no set timeline on when it might draw a conclusion on whether or not to use the process.

A campaign spokesperson for Mayor Brian Bowman, who is seeking re-election, said the city’s current process ensures both price and experience are considered.

“Price still matters. Mayor Bowman does not support the candidate’s desire to ignore price by giving construction companies undefined ‘flexibility’ to win public sector contracts at any cost to taxpayers,” wrote Kelly McCrae, in an email.

McCrae also noted the city accelerated this year’s construction efforts by starting engineering consultant work in Fall 2017 for Spring 2018 projects.

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