Liquor branch went rogue
The Canadian Press - Jul 11, 2019 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

VICTORIA — Staff at B.C.’s liquor distribution branch should receive contract management training, according to an audit that revealed contracts totalling millions of dollars were awarded without competition.

Auditor general Carol Bellringer said Wednesday several contracts awarded by the province’s liquor branch did not comply with procurement policies, including some that were awarded without an open bidding process.

The audit examined 74 directly awarded contracts valued at about $25 million and found more than half were directly awarded without the exceptional circumstances required to avoid the bidding process, she said.

“In 41, or 55 per cent, of the contract files we looked at, the reason for the direct award could not clearly demonstrate the existence of exceptional conditions,” Bellringer said at a telephone news conference.

There are five exceptions listed in the government’s Core Policy and Procedures Manual for contract procurement: a contract with other government organizations, proof only one contractor is qualified, an unforeseeable emergency that restricts time for an open bid process, a likelihood that competition would interfere with ministry security and a threat that public competition could compromise government confidentiality.

Bellringer said the audit included an award without competition of an eight-year software and support services agreement originally listed as worth $8.5 million and increased to $14.2 million without competition.

“The change to the contract wasn’t competed, meaning the LDB didn’t consult the market to see who else could meet their needs,” she said. “As a result the LDB couldn’t demonstrate that the higher cost represented good value for money or that the supplier was the only source for the product.”

The audit also cited a $57,000 contract to deliver and provide promotion products for annual Public Service Week events, including employee appreciation, she said.

The contract was awarded without competition on the grounds supplies for the annual celebration could not be procured on time if the contract was put out to tender, Bellringer said.

All BC Biz Stories