Supplier Advisory Committee Meetings

Record of Discussion
Supplier Advisory Committee

March 7, 2017
10 am to 12 pm




Co-Chair opening session remarks

Arianne Reza, Assistant Deputy Minister, Procurement, welcomed and thanked everyone for their participation. She then introduced Steven MacKinnon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to the members of the Supplier Advisory Committee.

Welcome remarks and roundtable discussion with the Parliamentary Secretary

The meeting was opened by Steven MacKinnon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement expressing his pleasure with having the opportunity to meet with committee members and to hear first-hand their views on procurement modernization. In his remarks, Mr. MacKinnon emphasized the importance Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) places on its commitment to deliver significant progress on procurement modernization with a dedicated improvement focus on three areas. The first area of focus was the delivery of efficient processes that are responsive and less proscriptive. Leveraging procurement to achieve socio-economic benefits was the second area of focus with the third being modern comptrollership through updated policies including a succession plan to replace procurement expertise retiring over the coming years.

Drawing attention to the good work done to date, the Parliamentary Secretary provided a high level update on the progress made in a few areas. He shared that PSPC is breaking new ground with collaborative procurement allowing provinces and territories to access PSPC procurement tools. Real Property procurements are being leveraged to achieve socioeconomic benefits such as the greening of government operations with the department in the process of implementing Smart Building Services in fifteen buildings. There are concerted efforts to foster a diverse workforce including Indigenous people and women for the various shipbuilding projects in the Vancouver Shipyards.

Mr. Mackinnon’s remarks set the stage for an engaging discussion with members providing much valuable feedback for consideration. Members felt that the overall government direction was good and acknowledged an unprecedented level of collaboration between government and industry leadership to modernize procurement. Industry inquired as to what the metrics would be for measuring the success and results of procurement modernization and recommended that government has a solid procurement modernization change management strategy. Given that success in the procurement system is not necessarily obvious to taxpayers, it was recommended that metrics be apparent and clearly definable and explainable to the public.

A sizable portion of the discussion centered on government’s approach to risk management. Members pointed out the need to modernize attitudes not just the process citing the approach to risk balancing as an example. The prevailing observation was that the government’s approach to negotiated risk is different from the private sector; government is being overly prescriptive in setting the terms and conditions for suppliers instead of negotiating them as part of the contract. The supplier base, according to feedback provided from committee members, is then obliged to factor the cost of liability/risk into the price passing it back to government. Members believed that the current approach may result in less than optimal results as government may be overpaying, or paying for items it will not get, and even lose good suppliers over the process. Industry strongly advocated managing the pricing of risk by balancing public policy objectives of government, businesses, and socio-economic benefits citing the shipbuilding approach as a good example. Finally, specific to the Information Technology sector, there were calls for change on how risk is managed in a cloud technology environment.

Another discussion theme was the need to foster innovation and creativity in procurement. Members urged the government to consider best practices from the private sector or other levels of government referencing the City of Toronto’s model for incorporating socio-economic benefits in small procurements between $3 and $100 K as an example. Industry members also recommended that government find ways to encourage procurement officers to “innovate’ in their procurement approaches, observing that, at present, they are encouraged to be risk averse and are only trained for compliance to existing policies.

Remarking on the success government has experienced with pilot projects over the past few years, an insightful suggestion was made to utilize well-designed pilot projects as vehicles as a means for government to develop a tolerance for risk taking and to try new approaches; the Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP) was cited as an example of program that started from a successful pilot. An innovation roundtable was also recommended as a way to capture best practices and lessons learned facilitating the co-creation with industry and government of innovation policy in procurement.

A few more relevant points of feedback were raised by members. It was observed that because the federal government’s procurement processes are not aligned with industry practices or the practices of other jurisdictions, government may be losing opportunities to build relationships with suppliers. Businesses’ perception of government procurement does not match with the reality of what it is and, as a result, small and medium sized businesses may lack awareness that they can access government contracts. Lastly, there were concerns expressed as to the extent of education efforts for procurement communities of other government departments. A concerted education effort was seen as essential to ensure other government departments follow PSPC’s lead in government procurement policy changes and modernization efforts.

The open discussion closed with the Parliamentary Secretary thanking members for the feedback they provided and reiterating government’s commitment to making procurement simpler and working hard to realize greater socio-economic benefit. The Parliamentary Secretary wished the members a productive meeting, acknowledged the department’s continued reliance on the Supplier Advisory Committee for feedback, and looked forward to returning in the future to provide another update on initiatives and progress achieved.

Following the Parliamentary Secretary’s departure, and prior to moving on to the rest of the agenda items, Arianne noted that the record from the November 2016 meeting had been approved secretarially and was published on the committee’s web site.

Mandatory Electronic Fingerprinting

Sharon Morin, Senior Director, Operations Oversight and Transformation presented an update on the changes regarding Mandatory Electronic Fingerprinting for suppliers with the main change being a shift from name and date-of-birth based criminal record checks to electronic fingerprints prior to submitting a security screening request. Overall, the change seems to have been well understood by industry. The Information Technology sector member requested a specific presentation to their membership on the subject matter which the Senior Director confirmed to provide in the near future.

Arianne Reza, Assistant Deputy Minister, Procurement Branch tabled the idea of “sequencing” clearances getting them done before contract award to reduce dwell time and suggested this could be a pilot project. The pre-onboarding test pilot was warmly endorsed by industry members as a great idea. Finally, the portability of clearances across departments was discussed with members suggesting government consider a “passport” model with clearances valid for several departments recognizing that certain approvals would still be required for certain locations.

Procurement modernization—Integration

Sarah Paquet, Assistant Deputy Minister, Procurement Modernization Integration Team, delivered a high level update and overview of the procurement modernization integration plan over the next twelve months. The Procurement Modernization has seen successes both at the overarching level and in several of its component initiatives. Successes highlighted included plans for a streamlined approach for Low Dollar Value Procurement, plans for increasing the use of Acquisitions Cards across the Government of Canada, where applicable, in order to provide suppliers with faster payment for goods and services delivered and the provision of e-bidding for professional services to simplify the bidding process for suppliers. Sarah also updated the membership on the broad consultations that were recently conducted with industry associations and suppliers from various sectors of the Canadian economy, and with departments and agencies, throughout all regions of Canada.

Participants inquired as to the possible availability of aggregated government wide data to provide industry with a complete picture of federal government procurement opportunities and spend. The importance of metrics was again emphasized in defining what types of data were needed, for which activity, and from which department. Members also commented regarding the use of “spontaneous” or non-standard contracting clauses in addition to the application of standard clauses in contracts as it sometimes meant that suppliers have multiple clauses inserted in a contract that deal with the same issue. Members suggested the creation of a template clearly differentiating between standardized and exceptional clauses. Government is currently reviewing the standard and non-standard clauses and working towards simplifying the usage. Another suggestion put forth was to allow bid respondents to “opt out” of certain clauses providing a justification, without negating their ability to submit a bid.

Forward agenda and roundtable

Participants applauded the organization efforts and the change of venue for the Supplier Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting. They enjoyed the rich discussions, the Innovation Centre facility and expressed a wish for more meetings to be held at the Centre.

The frequency of SAC meetings was discussed with the general consensus being that more topic-specific meetings should be held to ensure timely feedback to issues as they arise. All meetings need not be face to face; members suggested that calls for feedback on specific topics and updates could be sent via email. Participants also expressed their preference for more progress reports so they can have a better appreciation as to how their advice is being utilized and to have concrete communications to take back to their memberships. Industry requested that a meeting be called the week of March 27 in regards to the budget focus.

As a general comment, participants also wanted to ensure that procurement modernization initiatives take into account change management, effective project management, and training to support all change initiatives.

Forward agenda items include Procurement Modernization (standing item).

Finally, Arianne invited members to a two-way, “open-door” exchange of information asking them to feel free to send questions directly to her as she looks forward to learning more from the membership and listening to their suggestions. The meeting closed with members expressing their appreciation for the openness and collaborative spirit of the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Procurement Co-chair and Industry Co-chair.

Next steps

The draft record of the meeting will be circulated for member review. The next formal SAC meeting will be in June 2017 and will be held in person.

Date modified: