Big changes could be coming to how city hall awards contracts to avoid the perception of possible political influence.
City council’s finance committee considered a report on Monday that proposes removing city council’s power to approve purchases of goods and services. The new approach could be in place by June 1 under the timelines proposed in the report.
The thrust behind allowing the city administration to make all purchases is avoiding the perception that contracts are being awarded for political reasons.
“It’ll be a bit of a learning process, but I can see the argument for it,” Mayor Charlie Clark said.
The City of Saskatoon report considered by the committee said the current practice of having many contracts come to city council for approval leaves politicians “vulnerable” to accusations of political influence.
Under the proposed new rules, guidelines would be created and any contract would still need to be awarded within an approved budget. Any contract that did not conform to the new rules would need to be approved by city council.
Council would also provide strategic guidance for major projects with a value of more than $10 million, or other significant projects with a high public profile or great complexity.
The administration hopes to have the new policy drafted for council approval by April 1, says the report by Cindy Yelland, the city’s director of planning and development law.
The city will also test run including environmental sustainability and Indigenous employment as factors when awarding contracts. The city plans to report back on these initiatives in 2019.
Coun. Ann Iwanchuk asked about also including “local knowledge” in criteria for awarding contracts.
Yelland said often local knowledge is included in the requirements for awarding a contract on a given project. Saskatoon cannot, however, insist on “local preference” for contractors because it violates provincial and federal trade obligations, she noted.
Keith Moen, executive director of the North Saskatoon Business Association, said city hall should award contracts based on “best value” and not just lowest tender.