City of Timmins moves to transparent, online procurement with bids&tenders

Article reposted from Northern Ontario Business written by Lindsay Kelly. The City of Timmins is adopting a new online procurement service, which will...

Wednesday October 19, 2016

Article reposted from Northern Ontario Business written by Lindsay Kelly.

The City of Timmins is adopting a new online procurement service, which will streamline the bidding process while enhancing transparency and accountability.

In May, the City launched the bids&tenders program, a subscription-based online service provided by eSolutionsGroup out of Waterloo that allows the City to complete the entire bidding process online.

Gord Deacon, the City of Timmins’ Manager of Purchasing, said now that the technology is available, it makes sense to move to a more modern, state-of-the-art service.

“The process we had previously was kind of antiquated,” Deacon said. “It was mailing out packages, receiving packages via paper copy, and it was traditional, but cumbersome at the same time.”

The city has been posting bids to its website since 2011, and so this is the logical next step, Deacon added.

During phase one of the program’s rollout, the bids are being posted to the eSolutions website, but submissions will still be done via paper bids.

In phase two, which Deacon estimates will roll out by the fall, the bidding process will take place fully online.

Online bidding will eliminate incomplete bids, because registered vendors will be prompted by the program if they’ve forgotten to include any required information. In the past, the city would have to sift through the bids — sometimes hundreds of pages and inches thick — to manually spot any errors or inconsistencies.

The program will also enforce a strict deadline, so vendors can’t submit late bids beyond the closing time.

There are other benefits, too. Vendors can prepare their bids over time, saving their file as a draft and returning to update it as many times as needed before their final submission.

And any time the city adds an addendum, the program automatically emails a notice to plan takers, who then must acknowledge the email, or they won’t be allowed to bid.

Deacon believes the new technology will enhance transparency and remove any suggestion of bias.

“With this technology, you submit your bid and we don’t even know you submitted a bid,” Deacon said. “We can see you registered as a plan taker and anybody else can as well, but we don’t know if you submitted a bid until after the closing, and then that information is released back to us.”

The program keeps a history showing registered vendors the bids they’ve submitted, won and lost, so there’s a log of their work with the City. They can also choose which bids they wish to be considered for by selecting criteria, such as types of commodities, so they can be notified when those types of bids come up.

With just over 64,000 registered vendors, the Bids and Tenders site opens the City of Timmins up to a wider range of vendors that could potentially bid on a job. And the reverse applies for vendors looking for jobs to bid on.

“They’re not just restricted to Timmins; they can bid on any of them,” Deacon said. “A Timmins vendor can bid on something in Waterloo if they want. There are no geographic restrictions. It’s wide open.”

Vendors interested in working with the City must sign up at the bids&tenders website as a registered plan taker to be eligible to submit bids. Currently, the City of Timmins is absorbing the cost of rolling out the program, but will eventually move to a vendor-pay system.

It will cost vendors $165 to register for one year, although vendors that consistently provide only one commodity or service to the city may be eligible to register for a lesser annual fee of $45.

Timmins is the first Northern Ontario municipality to fully move to an online procurement service, but Deacon said Temiskaming is also considering it, and other communities have expressed interest in learning more about the process.

In the days when we can even order a pizza online, Deacon said it benefits the City to use the technology to its advantage.

“The technology’s there now,” he said, “and we should probably move along with it.”

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