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Procurement Perspectives: Exploring the team approach in municipal procurement

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Exploring the team approach in municipal procurement

In my experience as a municipal procurement manager, I would suggest it is important to ensure all discussions on major projects are productive as well as collaborative in nature.

It is very important that the team is selected properly and that each member has a defined and appropriate role to play. There would be obvious problems if it was expected that the member seconded by the engineering department would take care of documentation and that the lawyer would work on the financial aspects of the deal.

The right mixture of skills and expertise must be present. To illustrate this point, consider the sort of team that would be required to work on a major construction project, such as the construction of a regional police station.

The team members from within the municipal administration might include:

  • A project engineer from the municipality’s design and build department to provide technical oversight;
  • a construction senior buyer from the purchasing department to administer the tender and contract award process;
  • a lawyer to handle the final documentation;
  • representatives of the user departments, such as police and possibly fire and paramedic as well; and
  • a representative from the IT department to ensure technology infrastructure needs were fully addressed.

External representatives might also be incorporated into the process, particularly the external consultants used by the municipality in connection with the project.

Over the past several decades, I have worked with over 100 different municipalities as a consultant to the municipality, region, and province on some of the biggest construction projects in Canada.

On the other hand, I have also worked with both large and small construction companies to help them put forward winning bids for government work.

Knowing the nuances of how to present a winning bid to a government agency is in some respects an art form and requires a team approach from several different aspects of the team responding to the RFP.

When writing an RFP for a government agency, you need to make sure you capture all the specifications of the project as well as look at all the risk factors to mitigate any issues during the project.

When responding to a RFP as an owner, you need to capture all the required points available for each section of the RFP to be successful. The winner of major projects is often not the most qualified bidder, it is the company that can present the answers to the RFP in a manner that gets the most points.

After the contract is awarded, the same team might also be expanded to include contractor and subcontractor representatives so that it can thereby play a co-ordinating role in overseeing the completion of the project.

This last possibility illustrates one often neglected aspect of the team purchasing approach. It can also feed into a partnering arrangement after the contract is awarded.

Achieving a proper balance and size of membership is critical. In my experience, the more knowledge and specific skill sets that the committee has in assessing the merit of each proposal, the more likely it will be that it will reach a proper decision on the contract.

If each person is seen to bring unique and necessary skills to the table, there is less risk that one person will dominate the decision-making process. The more people who are invited into the decision-making, the less likely the decision-making process will become corrupted or eccentric.

A team approach has an important advantage in the way that it averages out decision-making. Such, at least, is the theory. In practice, it can be more difficult to attain the maximum benefits that a team approach offers.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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