ot-090408-mitel-phone

Mitel has offered to give the City of Ottawa 10,000 VoIP phones for free.

Lawyers with the City of Ottawa are assessing whether a donation a communications company has offered the city falls within its procurement rules.

Mitel Networks has offered to give the city 10,000 voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) desk phones that are worth a total of about $2 million.

But in the city's search for phones, it had already sent out a request for proposals. And in that process, it had said, Mitel came up short behind bidders Bell and Cisco Systems.

The city announced Mitel's offer Tuesday, saying that means its multimillion-dollar procurement process has been put on hold.

"The City of Ottawa has received a wonderful donation — or, an offer of a donation," said Mayor Larry O'Brien.

Don Smith, the CEO of Mitel, said the company hopes the donation will help the city in other areas.

"The $2-million donation will hopefully give council and the city a chance to use that $2 million for other economic development activities in other areas of what the city deals with," he said.

Marianne Wilkinson, the councillor for Kanata North, helped broker the deal. She said the city is aware that there's more to taking a donation than simply accepting the offer.

"If we have their equipment," she said, "they obviously have a contract to maintain it."

Wilkinson said that's often the deal that's struck when the city gets new electrical equipment — whether they've paid for it or not.

But before the city takes the offer, said city solicitor Rick O'Connor, it first has to ensure that accepting the donation wouldn't breaking the city's tendering and purchasing rules.

"I think anytime anyone comes forward with a gift, you want to make sure you look at are there any strings attached?" he said.

It's a concern Rainer Bloess, councillor for Innes Ward, said he shares.

"My philosophy is, you do look a gift horse in the mouth to make sure you're getting what you think you're getting," he said.

If the city accepts both the phones and the maintenance contract, Mitel's equipment could be on city desks later this year.