LETTER: RDCK furniture purchase desision was ill-considered

The response from Brian Carruthers and the matrix provided to support a very bad decision are both biased, inaccurate and vague.

Re: RDCK defends office furniture decision.

The response from chief administrator Brian Carruthers and the matrix provided to support a very bad furniture purchase decision are both biased, inaccurate and vague.

Mr. Carruthers states that the Regional District of Central Kootenay chose Graphic chiefly because of warranty and specification. In the matter of specification he states that the panels weren’t tall enough. The panels in question as quoted by Graphic have a 54” base height with a 12” clear glass topper. The panels quoted by Cowan’s have 50” base and a 16” clear glass topper.

I have some experience in office furniture, design and ergonomics. I am 6’3” and, when seated, cannot see over a 50” panel. The 54” spec is particular to a Steelcase product as quoted by Graphic, it is not common to other manufacturers. Regardless, I don’t think there would be any real or appreciable difference in privacy and sound transmission between the Graphic or Cowan panel as they are the same overall height.

The contention that the Global (Cowan’s) workstation was not “user-friendly” is unwarranted, subjective and vague. Global Contract is a world-class, highly-regarded design leader in office systems. The idea that their major upper-range product would be “not user-friendly” is absurd. If the product reviewed by the evaluators was found wanting then there should be specific, detailed notes about the short comings. To say that it’s “not user-friendly” is tantamount to a condescending smear. It has no place in a proper, professional evaluation.

On the matter of warranty: the 12 year warranty from Steelcase on the Graphic product is on the fabric used in the panel only, not the panel as a whole. The Global warranty on the panel fabric in the Cowan bid is indeed five years, but other than that they both have lifetime warranty on all components that make up the system. Further, the Cowan bid made no mention of move restriction as there is no such restriction (as is the norm in the industry). The Graphic bid specially mentioned no move restriction, so the evaluation team noted on the matrix the lack of a move restriction clause as a negative for Cowan. An effort should have been made to clarify normal procedure; to interpret and note something in this manner without verification seems unfair and implies bias.

More important than warranty, from a cost perspective, would be how the warranty is delivered/provided. And here Mr. Carruthers and the matrix are curiously silent. If warranty service is required, an obvious question is who is going to actually provide it in a reasonable time frame? Graphic by sending personnel from Victoria? Or Cowan’s from around the corner? From the information provided which states that Graphic is including shipping charges in their bid, I would assume that RDCK staff are going to have to de-install the offending component, package it up and ship it out as well as receive, unpack and reinstall the repair/replacement. As opposed to Cowan’s service people doing all this for free as they have done for decades.

The most seriously egregious issue with this decision and the evaluation now being presented to justify it is not so much what is in the statements and matrix but what is not — there is no consideration of benefit allowed for sustainability. This is unconscionable, especially given that Mr. Carruthers recently presented the board with a report regarding the continuation of the RDCK Sustainability service!I find it incredible that sustainability and environmental impact factors were omitted from this evaluation by oversight. This is the Kootenays, last time I checked sustainability and environmental considerations are becoming the driving force in decision making across the globe (as they need be and must be even more so into the future) and we pride ourselves here as being leaders, that sustainability is foremost in our day to day lives. Where is this hallowed principle in this decision?

In conclusion, I believe it is even more evident now that the decision for the furniture purchase was ill-considered and badly made. Mr. Carruthers’ weak and inaccurate defence has only served to shed more light on errors and omissions. I am unrelated to Cowan’s in any way other than shopping for pens and the such once or twice per year. I understand thoroughly and do not like the prescription against local preference in public tenders but do not take issue on this point: it’s a red herring. The real reasons this contract must be reconsidered have everything to do with improper evaluation that flies in the face of important Kootenay principles and the unjustified waste of very large amounts of taxpayer dollars.

Kevin LePape


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