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Delta council 'abdicating' its responsibility, says Jackson

There are a number of controls in place to ensure the city's procurement process is properly governed and outcomes will continue to represent best value, according to staff
city of delta tax dollars
Delta staff said there was an opportunity to reduce the time to award a contract in Delta by aligning to processes that work well in other cities.

Delta council shouldn’t abdicate its responsibility to its taxpayers.

That’s what Coun. Lois Jackson said during a July 25 council debate on a staff procurement report on city contracts that had been awarded the past few months.

“It is always good to ensure that council has a great understanding of what’s happening to the taxpayers’ money. It’s not our money, it’s not staff money, it’s the people’s money, and I believe we should be looking at that, particularly when we are up around $300,000, and not abdicating our responsibility. If staff are finding that’s too hard to do, then let’s get some more staff because this has to do with the public purse and that is very important at this table,” said Jackson.

While Jackson was on an approved leave of absence earlier this year, council approved a staff recommendation to amend the city’s purchasing policy.

The temporary change, to be in place for the remainder of 2022, allows the city manager and director of finance to approve awarding contracts up to $300,000. Funds are already allocated in the financial plan and appropriate procurement processes must still be followed.

Regular procurement reports are to be provided to council detailing the contracts that were approved under the streamlined process.

Previously, contracts that were up to $50,000 would be approved by staff and anything over that amount had to be presented to council for approval.

A staff report recommended the change due to supply chain challenges and other issues.

The report noted that because of the time required for internal approvals and posting of agendas, the council approval process often resulted in a four-week delay between the close of the procurement process and award of a contract.

However, Jackson said council’s oversight power ensured due diligence when it came to the spending of taxpayer’ dollars.

“It now puts before the community the fact council are not viewing these reports as they are coming forward, but that staff have been given the power by this council to go forward with anything up to $300,000 in expenditures, so, I just have a problem with abdicating my responsibility…” she said.

Saying he wants to ensure what’s being said is accurate, Coun. Dylan Kruger noted every expenditure was proposed in the city’s annual financial plan that was approved by council.

“We had, and still have, one of the lowest thresholds of contracts in Metro Vancouver at $300,000. Many cities our size or larger have thresholds of $500,000 or a million dollars-plus. Council has already seen and approved these works, they are contracts that are done through request for proposals…” he said.

Coun. Bruce McDonald agreed, saying the city is finding itself having to make decisions on a contract, especially construction contracts, quickly or let them go.

He also noted there are no contracts that council won’t see after the fact.

Mayor George Harvie recommended to Jackson that she read the report from earlier this year. 

“We don’t need more staff. We need to do things more efficiently and this accomplishes that,” he said.