Public tendering reform coming soon: Crummell

James McLeod
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Amendments to legislation have seen years of delays

Broad changes will be coming “in short order” to the way the government buys things, according to Dan Crummell, minister responsible for the government purchasing agency.

Dan Crummell wouldn’t put a date on it, but after false starts and years of delays, the government is going to revamp the Public Tendering Act soon, he said.

It had looked like broad changes were coming in short order to the province’s Public Tendering Act back in the spring of 2012, when the provincial government gave notice in the House of Assembly that it would reform the law.

But that bill died on the order paper, and for the past two years, the government has been saying it’s still in the works and coming soon.

The Public Tendering Act regulates the way the government spends massive amounts of money — buying everything from ferries to office supplies — and for years the PC party has recognized it has problems.

In the 2011 election campaign, then-premier Kathy Dunderdale included public tendering reform as one of her party’s Blue Book platform promises.

One of those problems was raised Wednesday by Liberal MHA Cathy Bennett, who wanted to know about millions of dollars’ worth of government consulting work which doesn’t need to go through the Public Tendering Act.

“Government spent $84 million on consultants,” Bennett said during question period. “All of this money was excluded from the Public Tender Act and just four months ago the auditor general questioned government’s use of external consultants, saying it is a more costly option.”

Finance Minister Charlene Johnson challenged Bennett to point to even a single consultant contract that the government shouldn’t have taken on.

Crummell said the government has looked at the issue of external consultants when it comes to the Public Tendering Act, although he was coy about whether or not the proposed legislation will include consultants in the tendering process.

More broadly, since it almost got debated in the House of Assembly in 2012, it sounds like the government has gone right back to the drawing board when it comes to tendering.

“A considerable amount of work (was) done over the last little while, and certainly in 2012 when we put it on the order paper, we had a second look at a couple things,” Crummell said. “We’ve got to get this right. There’s been a significant amount of work gone into this. This is going to impact the lives of many people in this province. We’re taking care of taxpayers’ dollars for now and into the future.”

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