The Nova Scotia government's plan to get into the paving business is off to a bumpy start, with contracts to buy paving equipment being awarded to the highest bidder, documents show.
The move into the paving business has been underway for several months, though the government only made it official on Tuesday.
In January, a contract to supply a combination roller was awarded to the only company bidding, the documents show.
Last month, the highest bidder was chosen for an asphalt paver at $600,000. The difference between the high and low bids was more than $200,000.
The latest tender was awarded Thursday for a pneumatic roller purchased from the company with the highest bid — $12,000 more than the lowest bid, according to the documents.
Liberal MLA Andrew Younger said Friday it appears that when it comes to buying its own paving equipment, the province is paying top dollar.
"It shows that the government has not awarded the tenders to the lowest bidder," he said. "In fact, between two of them, they're actually paying 40 per cent more than the lowest bidders."
Younger said it appears the tenders are being directed to specific suppliers.
"These aren't real tenders. The government decided the piece of equipment and the supplier they wanted, and they wrote a tender that ensured that only one company was going to be able to meet those specifications," he said.
"That's not fair tendering practices, that's not fair to businesses that want to work in this province, and it's going to cost taxpayers more money when the government said the reason they got into this was to save money," he said.
The Transportation Department said the winning bids in all four cases were the only ones that met the department's specifications to get the job done properly.
It said even where only one company bid on a contract, it was at an acceptable price.
Transportation Minister Bill Estabrooks said Tuesday that the province expects to save $2 million a year by doing some paving work itself, rather than contracting it out to construction companies.
He said the government has been getting uncompetitive bidding on some jobs by road builders.
"We believe we're going to be able to save more money," Estabrooks said.