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Vancouver city staff make multimillion-dollar decision without minutes

Bid committee awarded 41 contracts worth $61.07 million in 2011

No records were kept of a meeting that decided Vancouver's biggest civic contract of 2011.

City hall's so-called bid committee picked Chevron Canada's $17.4 million, three-year fuel-supply proposal the day before last fall's civic election over one other undisclosed bidder.

City manager Penny Ballem heads the three-member staff committee that can normally award contracts as high as $2 million. The committee met twice during the last quarter of 2011. Because there were no council meetings for three weeks, the committee used its authority to choose Chevron. "I have been advised by the supply management department that the bid committee met twice during the specified time period-Nov. 18 and Dec. 9-but a formal agenda and minutes were not prepared. Each meeting had only one item under discussion," wrote corporate information and privacy manager Barbara Van Fraassen in a May 4 Freedom of Information response.

The March 26, 2012 annual procurement report said the bid committee awarded 41 contracts worth $61.07 million in 2011.

Chevron submitted an appendix to its proposal on Nov. 28, the day before city council rubber-stamped the bid committee recommendation at the first, post-election council meeting.

The city negotiated for 37 million litres of gas, diesel, biodiesel and heating oil on behalf of the 66-member B.C. Petroleum Product Buying Group. Vancouver is the biggest customer among the consortium of municipalities and school boards, needing an estimated 6.6 million litres a year for the Manitoba Works Yard, parks board and fire department.

In 2011, city hall doubled the value of sole source contracts to $5.44 million and quintupled the number of no-bid contracts to 132. One of them was $10,000 for 400 copies of a 16-page, "flip booklet" by Flip Productions in Nanaimo.

The tri-fold booklets, with two panels of eight pages, each were ordered Jan. 13, 2012, by the Vancouver Services Review department with a Dec. 31, 2011 delivery date. They are described as a tool for managers and supervisors for the "enhanced attendance management program."

Van Fraassen said no contract award notice was posted because the vendor, Flip Productions, was the only manufacturer. "A purchase order was issued to the vendor, but the print cycle has not yet begun. The booklet is at the pre-print stage only and a sample is not available," said Van Fraassen in a May 4 letter.

The product required a "cellophane waterproof protective layer" to add strength and durability with a no-glare, matte finish. An interactive, web-based/CD-ROM version was sought for those employees with intranet access, according to records received via Freedom of Information.

The city's general policy is open, public competition for purchases over $75,000 ($200,000 for construction). If under the threshold, the policy says staff will "endeavor to obtain at least three bids" via internal price records or solicit prices by phone or in writing from known suppliers. Otherwise it will go direct if the need is deemed highly specialized or urgent.

The $5.36 million banking services deal with Moneris Solutions and $5.23 million traffic control contract with Ansan rounded out the top three tendered contracts.

Ballem is on holiday and unavailable for comment.

Twitter: @bobmackin