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Supplier Advisory Committee Meetings

Record of Discussion
Supplier Advisory Committee
Shaping Procurement Together

June 9, 2015
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Place du Portage, Phase III, 11A1-101


  • Claire Caloren, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Acquisitions
  • Hicham Adra, President, Ardan Fitzroy Enterprises Inc.
  • Desmond Gray, Director General, Office of Small and Medium Enterprises and Strategic Engagement
  • Cassandra Dorrington, President, Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC)
  • Mary Anne Carter, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
  • Louis-Martin Parent, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)
  • Mary Anderson, Executive Director, WBE Canada
  • Jac Van Beek, CEO, Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CMC)
  • Dorothy Milburn-Smith, CEO of Perfortics Consulting Inc. (for CMC)
  • Iain Christie, Executive Vice President (VP), Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC)
  • Janet Thorsteinson, VP, Government Relations, Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI)
  • Kelly Hutchinson, VP, Government Relations and Policy, Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC)
Office of Small and Medium Enterprises and Strategic Engagement:
  • Quang Duong, A/Senior Director, Supplier Engagement and Regional Coordination
  • Lori Kibbee, Senior Advisor, Supplier Engagement
  • Jennifer Situ, Junior Policy Analyst, Supplier Engagement
  • Rachelle Dean (secretariat), Policy Advisor, Supplier Engagement

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Claire opened the meeting and welcomed a new member, Kelly Hutchinson of ITAC. She thanked members for agreeing to meet for a full day to respond to the Minister’s request regarding the fall 2014 consultation with suppliers.

Minister’s Supplier Consultation Initiative

The morning was devoted to discussing feedback from this group on the four areas identified by the Minister, and included presentations by the lead DG within Acquisitions Branch on the related activities planned or underway to provide context. When concerns were raised regarding timing, the Minister’s office representative clarified that although feedback had been requested in June, this was largely to allow the department to prioritize its efforts and investments over the summer, but that this group’s input was welcome any time. The goal of the request was to ensure the department is targeting the right areas in the right order. Regarding the action plan and cross walk, which were circulated prior to the meeting, the members raised concerns about the large number of actions and the need to consider interdependencies during implementation. Claire committed to creating a shorter plan that focused on the top ten actions to share with members of SAC for validation.

Simplifying and standardizing contract and solicitation templates

Gail Bradshaw, the Director General of the Policy, Risk, Integrity and Strategic Management Sector, outlined the five standard templates maintained by the policy group and the work which will be undertaken over the summer to identify improvements and prioritize the work. She asked the committee whether templates were the right approach and whether the right issues had been identified (plain language, consistency and complexity). She acknowledged that most procurement templates had been designed with procurement personnel in mind, not suppliers.

Members agreed that consistency and predictability of the solicitations would go a long way to make bidding easier. They also suggested that where customization of a template occurs, it should be identified, and that the government should look at the work of other similar jurisdictions and consider end user testing in the development process. They suggested a sub-committee could be created to assist. Members indicated that although it would be best to target simpler templates first, it would be important to feed any improvements into the Standard Acquisition Clauses and Conditions (SACC) Manual to improve all templates, as well as remove out-of-date items and not just layer the changes over existing text.

Improving the effectiveness of standing offers and supply arrangements

Gail Bradshawoutlined efforts underway to review the standing offer/supply arrangement (SO/SA) procurement tools, starting with mandatory commodities, to verify whether they meet the original objectives from when they were established ten years ago. She explained that it was felt by both buyers and sellers that they were not, and Claire stated her commitment to ensure a thorough review.

Members highlighted the need for the government to consider the total cost of administering and using SO/SAs when looking at making them more efficient, as that is a common practice in the private sector. In looking at them from an external, private sector perspective, there may be ways to reduce the cost of overhead simply by enhancing how the tools are set up. Members also mentioned that supply arrangements should not simply be eliminated, since they are a better mechanism for smaller businesses, and to engage associations in the review. They also suggested a sub-committee could be created to assist.

Flexible Bid Compliance

Although this topic was not included in the Minister’s request, Gail Bradshawprovided information about an initiative under development to add flexibility to the bid compliance process. As a first phase, the sector would look at instituting purely administrative requirements (such as ensuring bids are not rejected for not having the right number of copies) and then move to more complex compliance issues (unnecessarily mandatory requirements).

Members were generally supportive of the initiative. They discussed anecdotal examples of issues they had run into in the past (bid validity period, insurance, etc.) and stated that guidelines would be needed to provide this flexibility, and suggested a sub-committee of the SAC could be struck to assist. They also stated that the process would be as important as the list of requirements to ensure a fair evaluation process. Gail was tasked with creating a list of examples captured in three buckets (quick administrative fixes, examples requiring judgment by procurement personnel, and longer term issues such as rethinking specificity and rigidity of requirements), which would be shared with SAC to further flesh out the categories and validate content of each category. The Branch can then move quickly to implement the fixes for situations in the first category, and explore developing a sub-committee to address the longer term issues.


Desmond Gray, the Director General of the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises and Strategic Engagement, explained that although the intent was for the e-procurement solution to replace, efforts were being made in the short term to make the site a more useful tool. He mentioned the new List of Interested Suppliers feature, which would replace the popular Document Request List from MERX. Members stated that government should explore a reverse onus application (where you would have to choose not to be identified). He also mentioned a “news section” which is under development for general communication (i.e. not related to a specific procurement), as well as a new governance model for improvements to the site which is under development and which would include four supplier representatives.

Regarding the List of Interested Suppliers and other such features (e.g., open data), it was suggested that government may want to approach the private sector as it may have more capability and as accessibility of the data should be the government’s primary role. They suggested a strategy of deliberate, proactive approach of third parties. As well, in discussing the concern that suppliers are just not aware of procurement opportunities on, it was suggested that communications should be more regular, not just through large scale efforts when something is new. Members also suggested that their websites could be leveraged for this, given the material and text is provided. Desmond Gray committed to sharing the action plan for the site and offered to speak to their members as the occasion arose.

Ensuring that PWGSC’s new Electronic Procurement System includes the right tools and services for Canadian suppliers

Vicki Ghadban, the Director General of the Business Management Sector, presented an overall picture of the Acquisition Program Transformation and more specifically, the e-procurement solution which is being sought. She asked members to identify the biggest pain points from the supplier perspective, for advice on the potential business models, and explained that a main goal of the exercise is to align with industry practices to make things easier. The need to make it easier to bid was emphasized, with pre-population of data and automated ways to eliminate non-compliance, but it was acknowledged that it is important to check back to make sure what is being considered really addresses the issues. Feedback from the Ontario government’s move to e-procurement was also sought from members.

Members suggested that it would be important to engage the business community to understand both real and perceived impacts of the change. They also suggested the government should explore the experiences of other jurisdictions on e-procurement and leverage their networks (including Western Economic Development, Shared Services Canada and the Ontario Supplier Stakeholder Network). There was a discussion about pilot projects, with members cautioning that the profile would need to be high and have decision-makers at the table to avoid later reversals after time and good will had been invested in discussion at lower levels. They cautioned that the government should ensure projects are not fully developed prior to consultation and that the approach in seeking feedback is phased (allow digestion and processing after first introduction). Conversely, they warned that the government should guard against consultation fatigue. Vicki suggested that the sub-committees established for tools and templates could also feed into the e-procurement solution. Claire committed to a transparent process which would bring together all stakeholders and decision-makers to the table at critical junctures.

SAC Sub-Committees – Recommendations and next steps

Professional Services Sub-Committee

Normand Masse, the Director General of the Services and Technology Acquisition Management Sector, presented an update on the work of the sub-committee, including the six actions identified for the short term, including an Availability Confirmation form, a listing of PWGSC Major Projects, Smart Procurement, receiving bids by email, a median rate evaluation strategy, and a new tool for clients on certifications and equivalencies. Members asked questions of clarification and made suggestions about expanding some of the actions. On the certifications issue specifically, it was reported that a model to break down certification requirements for procurement officers developing evaluation criteria was under consideration and development by sub-committee members. Claire also raised the issue of requiring federal government experience, which had been brought up earlier in the meeting as a barrier to participate in procurement, and Normand will take it to the sub-committee for further study.

Risk Management Sub-Committee

Matthew Sreter, the Senior Director of the Risk, Quality and Integrity Management Directorate, presented an update on the work of the sub-committee. He explained that the group met on May 22nd and that his first step as new chair would be to establish the Terms of Reference by July 2015. He explained that the group has agreed that the main deliverable is a proposal to the larger SAC on re-balancing risk. To ensure a proper understanding of the issues with risk and explore best practices, and as advanced by the members of the sub-committee, he committed to convening a consultation forum in July 2015. A contract would then be put in place to develop the proposal paper (by December 2015) for presentation to SAC (by February 2016). Members agreed that this was a good plan that would address their concerns. Matthew also provided an update on the review of the government’s costing policy. It was requested that the Terms of Reference for that review be shared. It was expressed that for some SAC members, those two issues (risk and costing) are the two most important generic policy issues to their memberships. Matthew also shared that the Commodity Grouping review should be completed by December 2015.

Update on engagement - SME Study & List of Interested Suppliers

Desmond Gray and his team provided a brief demo of the new List of Interested Suppliers function on Members mentioned a few technical issues, including the fact that the format does not lend itself to a long list and agreed to assist in promoting the new feature.

Desmond and his team also provided an update on the SME Study, which had been discussed at previous meetings. He stated that the survey was now live, and that to date, 200 responses had been received, with 43% being from Ontario and 37% being from micro businesses. Top three issues were volume of paperwork, price vs. value and finding opportunities. He explained that the reasoning to proceed with this on the heels of the Minister’s consultation was that unlike the email from the Minister to registered suppliers, the survey would allow for demographic analysis, to ensure efforts to improve targeted the right issues for the right groups, and allowed non-suppliers to respond. Desmond specified that 43% of respondents to date had not done business with the government in the last three years. Members suggested that in light of other major events happening at the same time, OSME-SE may wish to extend the response period. Desmond agreed to extend for two weeks, to mid-July, and to come back to the committee with some preliminary analysis at the next meeting.

Build in Canada Innovation Program – Update

Christopher Baird, the Senior Director of the Build in Canada Innovation Program, gave an update of the review of the program which was undertaken recently to improve it. He explained that beyond increased awareness of the program, after extensive consultations, they found solutions to the three main program challenges to address, including facilitating additional sales, a streamlined proposal process, and improvements to the match-making process (between innovations and federal departments). Having now received the Minister’s approval, he outlined the actions they are implementing. The call for proposals, which is a competitive process, will now include a clause about additional sales for up to two years after contract award. The program is proceeding with a continuous intake Call for Proposal process to enable suppliers to submit their innovations when they are ready to test, and a variety of methods will be used to improve match-making, such as a DG level Steering Committee, master Memorandums of Understanding with testing departments to shorten departmental approvals, promotion of third party testing, and focused outreach activities. Members were positive about the improvements. They recommended caution on certain issues (potential for budgeting difficulties from a continuous intake and frustration with the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) as it is already perceived to be oversubscribed). They also suggested the government may want to consider upstream analysis of its investments (over various stages and government programs) to determine if they pay off over time.

PWGSC Integrity Framework – Update

Lynne Tomson, the acting Director General responsible for Integrity with the Departmental Oversight Branch, gave a brief update following the government’s commitment, as outlined in Budget 2015, to introduce a new integrity regime, and advised that options were being developed for consideration by the government. She committed to coming back to the SAC with another update as appropriate.

Forward agenda & roundtable

The forward agenda for upcoming meetings will include contract bundling, a further update from the Digital Transformation team, an update on the costing policy review, Federal/Provincial/Territorial negotiations on use of common tools (and integrity framework implications), DND’s increased delegation of contracting authority, a review of the results of the 2015 SME Study. Members were reminded to communicate with Hicham Adra should they have additional items to propose.

Members expressed their satisfaction with the evolution of the Supplier Advisory Committee into a central consultative forum for suppliers and associations. It was agreed that the committee has become a de facto Steering Committee whose role it is to identify issues and priorities to improve government procurement, as well as assist the government in managing engagement with industry on those areas.

Next steps

The secretariat will get in touch with members within the coming weeks about the actions resulting from the meeting. This includes the establishment of working groups to tackle specific issues from the Minister’s request and focus on and drive change in the agreed upon priority areas. As well, the revised action plan document will be shared for members’ review and validation. A teleconference will be scheduled should members feel a discussion about the plan is in order. The secretariat will also circulate a few tentative dates for the next meeting in late August or early September for consideration.