City promises more scrutiny of construction work

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City staff who supervise construction and repair work across Ottawa will have to start sharing information as part of an effort to avoid handing out contracts to companies that miss deadlines or do shoddy work.

Jeff Byrne, the city’s Chief Procurement Officer, will be directing city staff over the next few months to begin evaluating contractors under similar measures, such as on-time delivery or value for money, and to keep the results in a database.

The directive comes after Councillor Steve Blais raised the issue at council upon discovering that information about poor contractors was at times shared over unofficial channels or not at all.

“It was a little surprising that there wasn’t a tracking mechanism, or that the tracking mechanism was kind of loosey-goosey,” said Blais.

Blais asked for the city to look into the situation after making inquiries around work on a splash wave pool on Ogilvie Road, which reopened in May, five months later than scheduled.

Since the Ray Friel Centre was closed for part of that time, Blais said it left Ottawans in the east end with only one swimming pool.

“Because these were rec centres that were closed, there was significant lost revenue,” said Blais.

What he discovered was that different units that supervise construction work had different methods of tracking contractors, with some relying too much on the institutional knowledge of city staff, and that not all the units were keeping records of communications with or regarding contractors.

Blais said the changes will allow the Chief Procurement Officer to ban contractors that consistently underperform from receiving further contracts with the city, as was done last week in one instance.

“There’s always a bad apple in the bushel, and we need the ability to find those and ensure they don’t receive works going forward,” said Blais.

Byrne expects contractors will also appreciate the direct communication — so they know exactly what the city wants and when they want it done.