LETTER: More furniture questions

Cowan’s bid lost minimal points on a few minor specification items, such as a subjective scoring for the ease of adjustability.

I requested, under the Freedom of Information Act, and received the original working papers and score sheets as prepared by the three Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) staff, the source of the total scores in the matrix provided by Brian Carruthers in defending the furniture purchasing decision in am April 24 Nelson Star article. The raw papers tell a different story.

The scoring was divided into four sections: price, specification, performance/service and value added. Price was the only aspect that, in my opinion, was treated fairly and without bias because it’s simple math. Beyond that there are obvious issues of bias and unfairness.

The specifications consist of 89 individual points and many are particular to the Steelcase product. For example the aforementioned 54” with 12” of glass panel height. Further, also as originally questioned by yours truly, there are literally no points allowed /scored/deducted in any way (other than a single point about PVC wiring in panels) related to sustainability, recycled content, end-of-life recyclability. None.

Cowan’s bid lost minimal points on a few minor specification items, such as a subjective scoring for the ease of adjustability. This from evaluators who did not actually touch or lay eyes on the other equipment being quoted. In spite of this,  Cowan’s came out ahead at this point. Yes folks, Cowan’s scored 18 points better than the Graphic bid at this considering specifications and price.

So how did Cowan’s come out less in the final tally you are asking? It was in the performance and service section. And here is where it gets real stinky.

The three evaluators deducted an average of 38 points from Cowan’s bid for performance and service. Why the points were deducted is mostly vague; there is mention of “not being dedicated to the furniture business” as if that matters. Stunningly, one opines that hiring local people for the install is somehow reason for deduction. But the most egregiously unfair deduction is for “time allocated” which is to say that Cowan’s would not perform the installation in the time allocated.

This is curious as Cowan’s bid stated that they would certainly do the installation as required. At no time did Cowan’s state otherwise. So RDCK staff evaluators deducted sufficient points (and two of three did this, actually dreaming up the same reason in supposed isolation, during independent evaluation).

They basically decided to ignore the bid conditions and to arbitrarily penalize Cowan’s.

Proponents who bid are required to post a bond of 10 per cent of the bid price if awarded. This is mandated as a condition of submitting a bid to deal with potential non-performance. If the company messes up on the job, the company doesn’t just forfeit payment, it actually pays out.

Unless the RDCK has evidence of actual failure by Cowan’s to complete furniture and install jobs then their penalty is totally offside and invalid. I certainly asked for clarification and further information, I was stonewalled and dismissed by both CAO Brian Carruthers and chair John Kettle.

Both stated that the matter was closed and they had no intention of discussing it further. I assume it is therefore just what it appears to be: a piece of contrived, negative nonsense to discredit a perfectly valid bid that would have saved the taxpayers of the RDCK tens of thousands of dollars.

The money they’ve used to pay for this boondoggle comes from a facilities reserve; most of the money in the reserve came from the sale of the old RDCK building. But they have pretty much exhausted the reserve to buy the gold-plated toys they so desperately need to be comfortable and happy.

The bigger problem is that they are going to have to raise taxes in the next years to rebuild that reserve, this on top of the $500,000 per annum hole in general admin, the NDCC repairs/renovations, the NDCC reserve requirements and who knows what else is coming? We are probably looking at a perfect storm of multiple needs converging and a resultant 20 per cent plus tax increase in the next few years.

The RDCK board has decided in spite of the record outcry to forgo any independent review despite promises, to proceed without further ado, to ignore you the taxpayers and citizens. They will just turtle, stonewall, deny, hope that it all goes away. And here is where you get to prove them right or wrong. If you do nothing then it continues. So prove them wrong: express your concern to your director, make sure they hear you. And above all, get out and vote. Vote for change.

Kevin LePape


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