Will civil servants EVER be held accountable? NO. Here's another example of mismanagement of our tax dollars. So what is Harper going to do about it, nothing. Oh notice the sentence I highlighted in purple, a Harper connection me thinks. It's not who you know it's who ya blow in politics. I need a bath.
Firm to sue Public Works over $1B real estate deal
'Gloves are coming off,' after auditor's report tabled today, CEO says
Kathryn MayThe Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Bruce Atyeo has waited four years for today's auditor general's report so he can take Public Works to court and get to the bottom of what he calls the "dark story" behind the bungling of a $1-billion contract to relocate more than 12,000 military and RCMP workers and bureaucrats the federal government moves to new jobs every year.
"Their actions cost me a lot of money and we're going to sue them for it because they didn't act appropriately," said Mr. Atyeo, president and CEO of Envoy Relocation Services.
"We bid on this contract and we weren't treated fairly. They didn't manage the procurement process fairly and transparently and wasted my time, money and effort in bidding for a contract that we never had a chance at getting."
Mr. Atyeo has been threatening legal action since his Oakville-based firm was disqualified as a contender for the contract won by Royal LePage Relocation Services in 2002.
The decision sparked a long battle with Public Works at the Canadian International Trade Tribunal and Federal Court over the department's handling and evaluation of the bids.
The dispute briefly caught the limelight when Public Works internal investigators confirmed that bureaucrats involved in selecting the winning bid took gifts from Royal LePage, but the most damaging revelation was that the bureaucrat who oversaw the contract went on a Caribbean cruise with a Royal LePage executive.
Graham Badun, president of Royal LePage Relocation Services, says the company found no wrongdoing in the cruise incident because everyone paid their own way.
"Our beef is with Public Works, not Royal LePage," said Mr. Atyeo. "We got sucked into something that we never had any chance of winning. We didn't have a snowball's chance in hell and I intend to prove that."
Mr. Atyeo said the auditor general's report is the last of the formal and "polite" channels he pursued in pressing his case and its release gives him the green light to go to court.
"We don't have to be polite anymore," he said. "We went to the trade tribunal, followed the rules, and professionally followed all the right channels ... But once the report is out, the gloves are off and we're going to dig into this until we get to the truth and I am convinced it is very ugly."
Ms. Fraser undertook her audit at the request of the Commons public accounts committee, which eventually passed a motion proposed by now deceased Bloc Quebecois MP Benoit Sauvageau after MPs were lobbied from all sides on whether to investigate. Royal LePage's lobbyist at the time was Sandra Buckler, who is now Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications.
Public Works is braced for a drubbing today from Auditor General Sheila Fraser, who sent a team to probe how the department awarded the contract and whether it followed federal contracting policies and regulations. The audit also examined whether departments using the program had mechanisms in place to determine how well it worked.
The audit is expected to be another embarrassment for Public Works, the government's procurement arm, which has been trying shed its reputation of mismanagement and corruption left by the glare of the sponsorship scandal.
The department's latest blow came last week when the government backed off on the promised savings it expected to achieve by overhauling the way it buys goods and services. Public Works' procurement reforms, begun under the Liberals, have been dogged by controversy, a near-revolt of suppliers and savings projections now said to be $1.4 billion too high.
Ms. Fraser's report today will include the findings of a dozen audits, half of which involved Public Works in some way, including the awarding and management of a contract that went to First Canadian Health Management Corp. to process claims for Health Canada.
She will also report her findings on Old Age Security, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, large information technology projects, Health Canada regulatory programs, protecting public assets at the Office of the Correctional Investigator, the role of federally appointed board members at Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the government's expenditure management system.
The government is the biggest mover of employees in the country. It launched a pilot project in 1999 that was supposed to reduce the soaring costs of relocating public servants by giving them incentives to save money on their moves. That contract went to Royal LePage Relocation Services, which was hired to manage the moves, overseeing everything from home sales and purchases, rentals, appraisals, mortgages and legal services.
It expired three years later and Public Works put the contract out to tender and the fireworks began.
At the centre of Mr. Atyeo's allegations is that Public Works, the government's procurement arm, steered that contract to Royal LePage in 2002 by setting up a bid and evaluation process that favoured the company.
He and another bidder, Prudential Relocation Canada, made the same allegation at the trade tribunal, which agreed and recommended Public Works re-evaluate the bids.
Public Works, however, decided to throw the contract open to competition again and Royal LePage won it a second time. Envoy, which submitted a cheaper bid that was also 92-per-cent compliant, then filed a second complaint with the trade tribunal. The tribunal upheld Envoy's complaint and ordered Public Works to re-evaluate the bids.
This time the department went to the Federal Court to oppose the tribunal's ruling. The court upheld the ruling, but not the remedy, so sent it back to the tribunal, which recommended Public Works compensate Envoy for half its bidding costs. Public Works is appealing that.
But Mr. Atyeo said his concerns are more than bidding irregularities. He also questions whether Public Works kept an eye on the contract to ensure that the $40 million in annual real estate fees and commissions generated by transfers were fairly distributed in the industry. He said Royal LePage's real estate agents' share of the market has increased since it had the contract, especially in towns and cities with military bases and federal workers
Mr. Badun said Royal LePage's realty services operate separately from its relocation arm. He said Royal LePage has been aggressively expanding its real estate operations "so to say it is because of the relocation business is a hard one to connect." He said the company never referred bureaucrats who were moving to real estate agents at Royal LePage or any other realtor.
"As someone who doesn't live in Ottawa, you hear stories about government and you assume, surely they must be exaggerated, but after this, I fear they are understated," said Mr. Atyeo.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2006