Ottawa

Councillors have 'awful lot of questions' for city staff about SNC-Lavalin LRT bid

Some Ottawa city councillors say they're disappointed to officially learn SNC-Lavalin didn't meet the technical score in its ultimately successful bid for the $1.6-billion Trillium Line expansion. 

Memo made public Friday confirmed SNC-Lavalin didn’t meet technical threshold

Some city councillors have lingering questions about the process that led to SNC-Lavalin winning the contract for the second stage of LRT. (Mathieu Fleury/Twitter)

Some Ottawa city councillors say they're disappointed to officially learn SNC-Lavalin didn't meet the technical score in its ultimately successful bid for the $1.6-billion Trillium Line expansion. 

CBC Ottawa first reported in March that SNC-Lavalin failed to meet the technical score requirement.

At the time, city staff refused to say whether the company had hit the threshold. But a 37-page city memo made public on Aug. 2 confirmed the Montreal-based company had not met the threshold.

Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans had pushed to find out whether SNC-Lavalin met the 70 per cent score in their bid for Stage 2 of LRT. Her questions went unanswered and council approved the contract in March. 

"My greatest fear is that this is going to cost taxpayers more in the long run. When they didn't meet the technical score it means there are significant technical elements missing," said Deans.

Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan wanted to delay awarding the contract until council had more information, but that didn't happen.

'The public should be mad'

2 years ago
Duration 1:08
Diane Deans and Carol Anne Meehan say city councillors weren't given the information they needed before voting to approve the contract for Stage 2 of the LRT. 1:08

"Now to find out that SNC did not meet the technical score, it leaves the city open to an awful lot of questions, I think. And I think people are going to be questioning this contract for a number of years," Meehan said.

Bay Ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh said council should have had all the information before making a decision on the second stage of LRT. 

"I felt that it was like treating us like we were kids. Like maybe we wouldn't understand it or something. But they have to give us all the information they can," Kavanagh said. 

The memo included a description of how a bidder could continue in the process after failing the technical evaluation.

A subsection of the request for proposal gave the executive steering committee "sole discretion" to allow a bidder to continue to be considered, despite not meeting the technical threshold.

I felt that it was like treating us like we were kids. Like maybe we wouldn't understand it or something.Coun. Theresa Kavanagh

The executive steering committee — comprised of the city's five top bureaucrats, including the city manager, treasurer, solicitor, general manager of transit and head of rail operations — was not told that it was SNC-Lavalin that had failed to score the minimum, according to the memo.

Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan believes council did not have all the information it needed to make the decision on the contract. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)
 

"I think we should have staff come forward and give an explanation of why they still went ahead on something that didn't quite meet the qualifications," Kavanagh said. 

"I've seen on paper what their explanation is, but I think that they need to talk to us and answer our questions in public." 

SNC-Lavalin finished with the highest overall score after its financial submission.

An audit of the Stage 2 LRT procurement process by the city's auditor general is ongoing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

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