Nova Scotia

DFO rejects Halifax firm's bid for $20M contract for using Google Drive

Halifax-based consultants have filed an unfair trade complaint to stop the Canadian government from awarding an environmental services contract worth $20 million. The federal Fisheries Department refused to open a bid from Dillon Consulting in late January because the bid required Google Drive to retrieve attached financial and technical documents.

Dillon Consulting's bid was deemed non-compliant for using the file storage service

Dillon Consulting says it has successfully used Google Drive to submit bids to the government in the past. (SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock)

Halifax-based consultants have filed an unfair trade complaint to stop the Canadian government from awarding an environmental services contract worth $20 million.

The federal Fisheries Department refused to open a bid from Dillon Consulting in late January because the bid required Google Drive to retrieve attached financial and technical documents.

The firm, which has offices across Canada, was bidding on a standing offer to provide technical and project management services to support environmental incident response and recovery in Canadian waters.

DFO told Dillon Consulting its bid was "deemed non-compliant and will not be evaluated" because the government does not consider bids that contain additional information from websites.

"Bids were to have been submitted via email with PDF attachments. I am unable to access any of the information you submitted via email as the links do not open documents but require me to open an account to access them, which we do not do," DFO senior contracting officer Kim Walker wrote to Dillon Consulting on Feb. 1.

Complaint filed over 'inconsistent' decision

DFO cited its request for standing offer, which said "Canada will not evaluate information such as references to website addresses where additional information can be found, or technical manuals or brochures not submitted with the offer."

Dillon Consulting partner Andrew Thalheimer filed a complaint with the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. (www.dillon.ca)

Andrew Thalheimer, a partner with Dillon Consulting based in Halifax, filed a complaint Feb. 22 over the procurement with the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. 

The complaint aims to postpone the awarding of the contract and force DFO to open and evaluate Dillon Consulting's bid. 

At the request of CBC News, the tribunal released the detailed complaint, which includes correspondence between the company and the department.

In the complaint, Thalheimer says DFO's decision "is wrong, not supported by the facts, and is inconsistent, and conflicts with DFO's previous positions for identical bid proposal requirements."

Firm offered to troubleshoot

The company said there was nothing in bid documents that prevented the use of Google Drive, and the department accepted its PDFs using Google Drive as recently as September 2020. The file storage service allows users to share and synchronize files across devices.

"Dillon regularly uses Google Drive technology to attach large PDF documents where the recipient's system may be space limited or as means to provide confidence that the attachment will be received; Dillon has successfully used Google Drive technology for submitting proposals to federal departments, including DFO," the complaint states.

In a letter to DFO, Thalheimer offered to walk the department "through how to access the attached PDF files without having you open an account, which should not be required. At the very least, this would help us troubleshoot the problem."

'Canada considers this matter to be closed'

DFO official Kim Drisdelle provided the department's final position on Feb. 16, saying the department was unable to access any of the information provided by Dillon Consulting before the request for standing offer closed.

"The links provided in your email did not open documents. Therefore, this letter provides you with Canada's final position with respect to the non-compliance of your bid. Accordingly, Canada considers this matter to be closed."

Thalheimer declined to discuss the case further while it is before the trade tribunal.

The department also declined to discuss the case.

"Fisheries and Oceans Canada is committed to fair, open and transparent procurement processes that ensure that goods and services are procured at the best value for Canadians," DFO spokesperson Robin Jahn said in an email.

"As this matter is before the Tribunal, it would be inappropriate for the Department to comment."

MORE TOP STORIES

now