Letter to the Editor – Matthew Dubois – Glen Stor Lodge Pharmacy Contract – Cornwall Ontario – June 30, 2010

To the Guardians of Cornwall,

I was disappointed, as I know most of you were also, in the decision to award the Pharmacy contract to a firm outside of Cornwall. But I believe you made an error in not accepting to defer the vote as put forth by Councilor Grant. It seems that the point was missed that although the process for the Request for Proposal was followed to the letter and `Fairly’, there are flaws with the process and the proposal itself. Therefore the result is biased. As they say, “Garbage in, garbage out”.

The first problem is with who produced the proposal. Or should I say, who approved the RfP. After the public out cry and suspicions about how the original tender was handed out, the City turned around and let the management of  Glen Stor Dun Lodge develope the proposal. This is analogous to that old expression, `Let the foxes loose in the hen house.’ After complaining about how the foxes have been running loose without any rules, the City handed the job of making the rules to the foxes. At no time did I hear about how the rules and criteria that were being developed and used went before City Council. At no time, did I hear that independent experts in the field were brought in to challenge
the way the scoring or criteria was set up. As I mentioned before, in previous letters, City staff or most Councilors don’t have the expertise to make informed decisions on specialized industries. Therefore, anyone can come in and pull the wool over the eyes of those holding the purse strings.

As with the point that I believe Councilor Grant was trying to make, having a debriefing with the other competitors who submitted proposals, before the award, would have given an opportunity for City Council to learn what may be wrong with the scoring system and the mechanics of the proposal from the experts. On the other hand, this may be letting the sharks in the tank to brow beat the staff and councilors. But at least all of City Council (who are representing All the people in Cornwall) could have gained some insight before the award and made a more informed decision.

It is not unfair to have political decisions influence an award as long as the reasons are rational and clear and aren’t based on gaining an advantage for one group over another without reason. And as I mentioned before (in previous coorspondence) with all things being equal, giving the nod to a local company is not unrational or unfair. It can also be stated that it is your duty to look out for the interests of the citizens of Cornwall and it is your final choice and `duty’ to give Cornwall the nod, as long as the reason is rational and clear.

So, one question is, who made the cut and was able to do the job? Was the scoring set up to exclude or favour one company over the others. Having the other competitors in early to complain about or suggest changes may have given insight to the flaws of the scoring.

But here is one of the biggest and most frightening aspects of the proposal system that was used. There are clauses in the proposal that Penalize the companies for asking about the process or quizzing the details. And there were restrictions on the companies from contacting the Councilors or the city staff. On one hand I can see the reason for this: It stops the process from being dragged out and the companies have to give their best shot the first time round. It stops the companies from asking for favours or side deals or making excuses or coming up with rigged proposals. It also stops the possibility or perception that Councilors or staff are being interferred with. But as it might be pointed out, there could be a Constitutional challenge to these clauses since it restricts the right of access to one’s elected representative. As tax paying bodies, do we not all have the right to petition our duely elected members to act on our behalf?

Do we not all have the right to express our beliefs to those bodies? The fact that they make sending letters to our MP’s in Ottawa free of charge, is a sign of the importance of this tradition and right. Yet, this was denied to the bidders.

And please note that the Mayor himself expressed some reservations over these restrictions saying that it should be debated at a future time. If I was a lawyer, I would be challenging that the Council knew or suspected that the process was flawed, (see also Councilor Grant’s request for deferral and the other comment that if the bidders have a problem with staff, who do they go to? If not Council?) even before voting on the award and therefore that decision should be recinded or repeeled retroactively.

As you can see, the RfP and the systems used by the RfP should have gone before the Council before it was presented. And there should have been a mechanism for the bidders to contact and react with their elected representatives and staff, albeit, without nefarious intents. The process may have been followed fairly, but the process wasn’t fair.

So, there would be no shame or threats of complicity if the Council had voted against the staff recommendation. I would ask that the City and Council look into their obligations of duty and due diligence and see about recinding this decision.

Matthew Dubois – Cornwall Ontario

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)

Attica Eastern Ontario Training Board

Leave a Reply