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Councillors Critical of RFP Process
(Thursday, June 1/2000)-- Three municipal Councillors today levelled stinging criticism against the final call for proposals to design, operate and build the new $315 million Harbour Solutions Project.
Councillors Peter Kelly, Bruce Hetherington and Russell Walker issued a joint news release condemning the official Request for Proposals (RFP) that went out yesterday to three private sector consortia interested in bidding on the multi-million project. Together, the consortia represent more than 45 local, national and international companies.
Councillor Kelly said the final RFP was issued without the concurrence of Halifax Regional Council and provided for a "Reference Bid" rather than a "Shadow Bid" as directed by Council.
The Shadow Bid would be undertaken by HRM and its consultants as an independent bid (costing) on the project -- as if HRM were to undertake the project itself. In this way, Council would have a public sector bid to compare to the private sector bids.
"This so-called Reference Bid is contrary to Council's wishes. Some staff feel that somebody is playing semantics or games on this one," he said.
Councillor Kelly said proponents bidding on the Harbour Solutions Project will be shown the "Reference Bid" prior to them responding to the RFP. In the case of the Shadow Bid requested by Council, both the private sector and the public bid would be opened at the same time.
"It's pretty simple. If you know what the public cost to undertake the project is, all that the private sector has to do is come in a little lower and they've got the deal. This would not happen with a Shadow Bid," he said
The Councillors were also critical of the time allotted for HRM and its consultants to prepare the so-called Reference Bid. Staff would have three weeks to prepare its bid, while the private sector proponents would have almost four months.
They were also critical of the senior consultant from PriceWaterhouse Coopers, J. Patrick O'Neill, who would act as overseer on the preparation of the HRM bid.
The Councillors believe that Mr. O'Neill is "predisposed" to having a private sector proponent undertake the Harbour Solutions Project. They have a letter sent to all Councillors by Mr. O'Neill in which he urges them to support the private sector partnership approach to the project.
Councillors Kelly, Hetherington and Walker are also concerned about reports that the three private sector proponents were prepared to " walk away from the project" if HRM proceeded with a Shadow Bid, rather than the Reference Bid.
"There is no place for such strong arm tactics in this process...and we should not have to put up with those attitudes," Councillor Kelly said.
Councillor Kelly said he and his colleagues were also disturbed that the RFP was sent out to the private sector before soil testing on the project route has been completed.
"That means if these tests require any deviations (in the proposed routing), HRM will have to be responsible, not the private proponents, " Mr. Kelly said.
Councillor Peter Kelly
Councillor Bruce Hetherington
Councillor Russell Walker