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Auditor deems City Hall's high-end office chairs bought with 'due regard' for value, procedures

In 2020, a delivery of pricey office furniture to City Hall raised eyebrows.
Vancouver City Hall stock
The audit only looked at how the furniture was procured, not why.

A recent report completed by the City of Vancouver Auditor General Mike Macdonell concluded that the city spent $5.96M purchasing, repairing, and installing office furniture over a 30-month period.

The report was commissioned back in 2020 by then-mayor Kennedy Stewart after a shipment of high-end Herman Miller office chairs, retailing for $1,000 each, were seen being delivered to city hall. As of September 2020, the city had spent $316,800 on furniture as part of a $2.6-million renovation of city hall's second floor, which was approved in the city's capital budget.

The full report, which was completed this month, can be found here but concluded that "the City used weighted criteria assessments to select office furniture, had a reasonably comprehensive procurement policy, generally followed its procurement and purchasing policies for purchasing office furniture, and used up-to-date supplier agreements."

The audit determined that the office furniture purchases were made with "due regard for best value within established City policies, guidelines and priorities" however it did take some exceptions and made five recommendations for better practices surrounding procurement policy and how the city qualifies furniture suppliers.

The report also established that the city has not defined how often assessments should be conducted or updated, for instance, it does not conduct assessments on newly introduced furniture items, nor did it have sufficient documentation for one assessment.

Limited scope of audit: Only looked at procurement

It is also worth noting that the audit only looked at the procurement of office furniture and did not include "consideration of the decisions driving these procurements," according to a letter from Macdonell at the beginning of the report.

An examination of the city's management of office space, including its "ergonomic requirements" and "space planning strategies" is reportedly part of Macdonell's audit plan for 2024.

This audit investigated if office furniture purchases were made based on achieving the best value for money for the city, taking into account ergonomics, space planning, and sustainability.

"Many of the comments and recommendations contained within the report will inform senior management to update policies with recent regulatory requirements, create procurement strategies, change templates and standard operating procedures and continue to build upon existing processes in preparation for the next procurement of office furniture and other future purchases," reads a joint statement from Armin Amrolia, Deputy City Manager and Acting General Manager of Real Estate and Facilities Management, and Patrice Impey, the City’s Chief Financial Officer and General Manager of Finance, Risk, and Supply Chain Management, in response to the report.

There will be a follow-up at the semi-annual OAG meeting.

With files from Sarah Grochowski.