The most recent issue of the IABC Ottawa chapter Headlines newsletter carried the following item:
Government of Canada?s New Procurement Policy
A joint delegation from IABC Ottawa and CPRS Ottawa met with the federal government’s new director general for small and medium business, Marshall Moffat, on Nov. 9 to discuss how changes to procurement policy will affect communications consultants.
The delegation, which included IABC President Gord McIntosh and Stephen Goban, IABC vice-president of government relations, expressed concern that recent policy changes requiring departments to rely exclusively on standing officers will adversely affect many IABC and CPRS members.
Mr. Moffat, who started his job in July, agreed with the delegation’s concerns and said he was looking for more flexibility in the procurement system. In addition, he said his office was working to ensure public servants understood there was a place for small contractors in the procurement system.
A detailed report will be made to the IABC board when it meets Dec. 6.
Mr. Moffat also said he was looking for ongoing dialogue with IABC and CPRS on professional issues, including workshops on how communicators can sell their services to government
While I understand the desire of sole practitioners to share in the Government of Canada’s communications work, I fear that the IABC Ottawa Chapter is advocating a position that will undermine the competitive contracting process. The IABC has lost sight of the fundamental issue: that some departments, having invited firms to make a considerable investment in qualifying for standing offers, subsequently choose to place the work that should be covered by these standing offers to other contractors. And the accepted wisdom is that these contractors are often former public servants who continue to harvest business from their erstwhile colleagues.
Strict enforcement of the standing offer policy is the only way to stamp out this practice. “Greater flexibility” is a sure route to abuse of the process. A government that is digesting the judgment of Justice Gomery on the Sponsorship scandal should be wary of following this path yet again.
The competitive standing offer system may not be perfect. But it is preferable to the alternatives in its pursuit of the objective of selecting contractors based on qualfications and merit.