On May 20, the Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ) included “temporary” price reductions in its usual procurement process, to allow its regional managers to approve them even when the asking price is up to 50% higher than the estimated one Price is cost of labor.
Posted at 7:00 am
The relief described in the memos obtained by The press The goal is to allow “the continuation of the contracted activities” of the ministry despite the general strike of the 1,800 state engineers, two-thirds of whom work for the MTQ.
The analyzes and second opinions normally required before approving a job that significantly exceeds the expected cost are suspended or “simplified” until the engineers normally responsible for creating them resume their work.
In addition, unless the cost of a contract exceeds the estimated price of the work by more than 50%, the approval of these contracts by a Deputy or Associate Deputy Minister is no longer required while engineers are on strike.
Finally, for the duration of the strike and for a period of 20 days after the end of the dispute, upon receipt of the usual invoices and documents, the MTQ pays private engineering firms up to 90% of the fees provided for in the contracts, without verifying or approving these invoices.
An amount equal to 10% of the contract value will be withheld “to preserve a margin of maneuver if credit is claimed when the technical review is done by the engineers” after they resume work.
The government money cow
The MTQ is one of the largest contract aircraft operated by the Quebec government. According to the 2020-2021 Annual Management Report, this department awards an average of about 2,600 contracts of all types each year and has nearly $2 billion in studies and various works on Quebec’s road network.
Spring is one of the peak times for this annual distribution. This period not only maximizes the length of the road construction season, but also allows companies to plan the manpower, machinery and equipment they will need throughout the year to complete the orders they receive.
All of these orders are awarded based on General guideline on the awarding and processing of construction contracts, services, supplies and technologies and informationa 43-page document that prescribes the rules to be followed at each stage of the procurement, from the submission of a first official file to the final accounting.
However, since the start of the indefinite general strike launched on April 22 by the Professional Association of Government Engineers of Quebec (APIGQ), the well-oiled contract award mechanism has been deadlocked.
Unionized engineers play an approval, verification, design, or oversight role at several stages of the contract development process. As a result of the strike, many road construction projects are blocked before bidding or during the analysis of bids.
Contracts that have already been awarded cannot be started as there is no engineer to authorize their mobilization.
The construction industry is getting impatient.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Bitume Quebec President Tytus Zurawski said dozens of bitumen suppliers and bitumen compound manufacturers in the province are now considering “an unprecedented wave of massive layoffs” if the conflict between the state and its engineers continues.
The May 20 memo indefinitely suspends only two articles of the General Policy that concern “abnormally low” bids and those that exceed the price estimated by the MTQ by more than 15%.
The central measure of relief is the withdrawal of the systematic obligation to carry out a second opinion. »
Louis-André Bertrand, spokesman for the Quebec Department of Transportation
“Analysis on the price difference, they remain mandatory, albeit simplified, and must always be justified, documented and kept for later use or verification,” explains the latter.
In each territorial direction, the spokesman continues, the directors-general must also approve these analyses. “They can also get a second opinion if they want to” before placing a contract whose cost is much higher than expected, even if they are not obliged to do so.
The MTQ has no data on the number or value of contracts that have benefited from these “simplified” procurement procedures since May 20th.