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April 29, 2008

Minutes


Government Office Furniture Advisory Committee Meeting (GOFAC)
Minutes
April 29, 2008
11A1, Room 101
Gatineau, Québec

In Attendance

  • Bruce Parratt – The Global Group
  • Eli Gilbert – Canadian Atlas Furniture
  • Jean Barbeau – Artopex-Plus Inc.
  • Greg Rapier – Knoll Inc.
  • Gary Fawcett – Fawcett Files & Storage Systems
  • David Swire – Teknion Furniture Systems
  • André Clément – Asokan
  • Sean Macey –Basics Office Products
  • Cedric Pilon – Canadian Heritage
  • Pierre Tremblay – PWGSC
  • Raymond Paquette – PWGSC
  • Pauline Blanchard – PWGSC
  • Josianne Despres – PWGSC
  • William Dubroy – PWGSC
  • Jill Biesenthal – PWGSC

Absent

  • Ms. R. Ridler (Procurement Renewal Office)
  • Ms. R. Riviard (OSME)
  • Ms. C. Blotniuk (RPS)
  • Mr. H. Dudley (Industry Canada)
  • Ms. J. Sellers (CCPD) replaced by Ms. P. Blanchard

Items

Item 1 - Welcome and Introductions

Pierre Tremblay introduced himself as the new Director of Consumer and Commercial Products Directorate (CCPD) and subsequently the new Chairman of the GOFAC committee. He reiterated PWGSC's continued commitment to the activities undertaken by GOFAC in support of their role in advising PWGSC on procurement strategies for office furniture.

There was a round table introduction of the PWGSC members at which time, the new Director General, Jacques Greffe also presented himself to members of the committee.

Item 2 - Review of the Terms of Reference

Initially, the discussion on the Terms of Reference for the committee revolved around the monitoring function. PWGSC explained that although the term "monitor" utilized in the terms of reference implies an accountability activity; PWGSC cannot be accountable to this committee. PWGSC clarified their interpretation of "monitor" as a function of overlooking the process. The way to achieve this is for industry to provide comments and recommendations as well as an exchange of views and opinions.

Also discussed was the fact that industry members felt that any decision reached by the committee through consensus should remain firm. PWGSC agreed in principle to adhere to these decisions, but reminded members that they must keep in mind that there are other consultations and approvals, which must occur internally within the department, which could impact or alter decisions made by the committee. Therefore, any recommendations that flow from GOFAC are to be taken under advisement by PWGSC in making its final decision.

Action Item 1-2

PWGSC committed to:

  • Keeping industry abreast of the reasons for any changes to previous recommendations
  • Improving communications and
  • Clarifying the roles and responsibilities internally to ensure all activities are carried out in an efficient and effective manner
  • Forward all future documentation to members as well as their alternates
  • The industry representatives are to provide Mr. Paquette with a list of alternates

Item 3 - Acceptance of the Minutes of November 20, 2007

The minutes were accepted with the following changes. Item 5, the reference to the RFSO documentation should be deleted, as the committee was not informed that they would be in receipt of this document. In reference to item 7, the committee recommended a threshold of $150,000, not the $25,000 stated in the minutes.

Item 4 - Key findings of the Filing Cabinet Procurement

Discussion ensued around two of the four key findings: the fact that the median was adversely skewed by the offering of numerous series by one or more companies and the fact that it would not be prudent for the government to release detailed information such as the purchase description, the basket of goods and the solicitation document to the committee in advance of the issuance of and Request for Standing Offer.

After a lively discussion revolving around possible limits on the number of series PWGSC would accept under any Standing offer solicitation, Eli Gilbert offered to submit to the committee, for review at the next meeting, a statistical approach which would involve a random sampling of series as the basis for calculating the median.Industry members expressed the view that reviewing the proposed basket of goods and purchase descriptions are critical to being a part of this committee. The posting of final descriptions as soon as they are available will allow firms to test new products prior to the issuance of an RFSO, as there is limited time available in testing facilities. Suppliers felt that the issuance of this documentation was essential for the committee to provide advice and recommendations on a potential strategy. After discussing this issue here and at other periods during the meeting, it was proposed that PWGSC would forward to the committee all draft technical documentation for committee re view. The committee would be asked to provide comments to PWGSC along with any justifications for amendments and PWGSC would then produce a document indicating acceptance or rejection of the suggested changes and any accompanying reasons.

Committee members questioned how PWGSC clients were made aware of the new Standing Offers for Filing and Storage Cabinets. Industry was under the impression that it was their responsibility to inform federal government clients of the new process for ordering filing and storage cabinets. PWGSC informed the industry that all the Standing Offers are posted on the "Furniture Web site" Members were also informed that due to future issues which may impact GOCM – the Government of Canada Marketplace – that the Furniture Division will once again be posting all of the filing cabinet information on the furniture component of e-purchasing.

Action Item 3-4

Statistical approach to be forwarded to committee for review
E-purchasing site to be updated to incorporate cabinets

Item 5 - Free Standing Commodity – Technical Issues

PWGSC commenced by reminding members that PWGSC would prepare the document, provide it to the committee and request feedback. PWGSC will then make its decisions on the final document accordingly.

Purchase Description

The committee were made aware of several concerns relating to the final version of the purchase description. The discussion focussed on potential compliance issues, the issuance of both BIFMA and CGSB standards for freestanding furniture, omissions in the final committee version and statements, which were unclear. PWGSC will revise the purchase description in accordance with the discussions and will forward specific clauses as decided to the committee for their review. Industry members questioned how suppliers could obtain a copy of the latest version of the CGSB standard prior to its official publication and were informed that it is available from CGSB.

Action Item 5

Sit-only and Stand-only clause to be revised and forwarded to committee for review.PWGSC will submit a notice to BIFMA for posting on their web site, concerning the availability of the CGSB standard.

Basket of Goods

PWGSC explained that it is the intent of Standing Offers to accommodate general office functions and activities that do not require special security or features and do not have a high interface with the public. This type of office environment represents approximately 80% of federal government office workers. PWGSC's role is also to ensure that not only is there sufficient competitions but that SME's are not unduly restricted from doing business with the government. Lastly, PWGSC must ensure that the sizes of furniture items listed in the Fit-up standard issued by Real Property Branch are available to federal government users. As a result of these additional considerations, the committee was informed that several changes had been made to the final version of the basket of goods agreed to by the committee at previous meetings. Members were presented with some examples of the changes, including the re-introduction of a category for "metal legs", as the Basket of Goods previously approved by the committee did not allow any of the current metal leg product offerings to compete.

Environmental Requirements

During the discussion on the draft environmental requirements forwarded to the committee, several changes were suggested. For example, industry members were unable to comply with a suggested requirement to mark items with an expiry date of the warranty, due to various warranty limitations on the different components which make up an item. It was agreed that the product labels would include the name of the manufacturer, the product code and the date of manufacture. Suppliers will be required to certify that their product contains no PBDE's. Corrugated containers shall contain a minimum of 80% recycled content paper fibre.

The committee did not agree with the future proposal recommended at a meeting with CGSB to allow companies to self-declare their conformance to ISO14001.

Action

Members to submit recycled content for other types of containers
Environmental Requirements to be revised
Further discussion with CGSB

Item 6 - Procurement Strategy

Members expressed concerns on the duration of the Freestanding Office Furniture Standing Offer program, due to the fact they would not be permitted to introduce an updated price list at the option year. They would only be allowed to alter discounts. As well, members from industry questioned the use of the industrial price index for the allowable price increases for the option year. Industry members were invited to submit suggestions, keeping in mind that any price adjustment cannot affect the median results from the RFSO. It was suggested by some industry members that the solution might be to issue the Freestanding Program for a two (2) year period with no option years.

Committee members were advised that there would be no sunset to e-purchasing and, as a result, Freestanding furniture would be on e-purchasing, which will raise the call up limitation from the previously discussed $25,000 to $150,000. The members were also advised that e-purchasing would be based on pricing only as there would be no changes to the specification. Discounts above $25,000 can be changed monthly. Industry members questioned whether or not there would be true competition on e-purchasing as, at some point, firms would determine the maximum discount that would be offered resulting in only one firm being successful on every call up. Industry members were of the opinion that by stating that the Aboriginal RMSO\NMSO must match the manufacturer's NMSO, that PWGSC is in fact telling a manufacturer how to market their products. Furthermore, the fact that the aboriginal prices were not evaluated in a similar manner to the non-aboriginal solicitation raised some concerns. PWGSC explained that the Aboriginal strategy is unchanged from that accepted by the committee for filing cabinets. While PWGSC does compare the pricing offered by Aboriginals to the manufacturers, it does not want to introduce a different median as this could result in different series of items being accepted in the Aboriginal bids which were excluded because of price in the non-Aboriginal bid.

With the possibility to now incorporate additional items from a "series" in a resultant Standing Offer, members queried if they could offer separate discounts – one discount for the items in the basket of goods and one for the remainder of items in the series. There was also the issue of incorporating installation costs into the additional items.

Action Item 6

Further review of the procurement strategy required and final decisions to be made by PWGSC
Industry to provide any further suggestions on the strategy prior to the next meeting

Item 7 - Concerns Expressed in Letter from BIFMA

Discussions pertaining to the letter from BIFMA revealed that communication between PWGSC and GOFAC appeared to be the underlying root cause for the majority of the apprehension expressed by GOFAC industry members. Industry members stated that evidence of this apparent problem could be found in the fact that participation of government members is dwindling, decisions made at GOFAC are interpreted differently by industry and PWGSC, the resultant procurement strategy for the simplest product (cabinets) created several issues. This has led to the perception that communications could be seen in a less than positive perspective. It was agreed by industry members, including those representing BIFMA that the points brought out in the letter had been addressed by the committee.

Action Item 7

PWGSC to respond to BIFMA that their concerns have been satisfactorily addressed
PWGSC has undertaken a commitment to improve communications between the parties

Item 8 - Meeting Schedules

The next meeting will be held May13th, 2008 at Place du Portage, 11 Laurier Street, PDPIII, Gatineau, Quebec, Tower A, 11A1, Room 101 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

Members were provided with a proposed schedule of upcoming meetings.

Action Item 8

Over the next three (3) months, GOFAC will meet May 13th, June 17th and July 8th, 2008