The co-founders of a company formerly contracted by the Canada Border Services Agency, who raised concerns about the process for doling out government contracts and instigated probes into the ArriveCan app controversy, says the federal government’s contracting process is ‘absolutely not’ giving Canadian taxpayers value for their money.

  • jehreg
    5 months ago

    One of the biggest problems with Government procurement is that the bandwidth is limited. By this I mean that PSPC only has a few dozen procurement officers that track all contracts and bids, etc… it is impossible for them to track hundreds of thousands of small relationships (bidding, billing, and otherwise), so instead they have minimum income requirements for contract bidders. That means the only large companies can win real contracts. In that way, the system is rigged.

    But, large companies won’t bid on small projects; it’s not worth their time and the profit margins are typically not big enough. So, the projects have to be massive OR BE MADE TO APPEAR MASSIVE in order to attract bids from large firms.

    The limited bandwidth also explains why so many projects get enormous as there is not enough bandwidth to actually check the deliverables and the received value of these deliverables. Add the fact that most IT projects go absolutely NUTS with creeping featurism (which is asking for things that was never described in the contract) and those get billed at a massive premium. The longer the project timeline, the higher the risk of this creep, even for tiny projects.

    So, this ArriveCan is a very simple IT offering; that means a small project, with a tight timeline, for an agency that is famous for changing its IT requirements mid-project. They can’t take a chance that their be no bidders to the RFP, so they have to make it more complex on paper, and it has to be in the millions of dollars to attract big companies. So a big company probably won the contract and immediately sub-contracted it to a very small firm (that’s quite usual) for pennies on the dollar. The small company then is responsible for communicating with the CBSA and trying to figure out the real needs and requirements. That’s when the IT fun begins and most of it was probably out of the description of the contract and the app probably got redone completely 2 or 3 times. The first iterations were probably so complex and user threatening that additional expertise had to be brought in the simplify it. All of it out of contract.

    Meanwhile, the big company assigns one or two project managers, relationship managers, etc… that get billed at full days each even if they don’t have much to do. They take a huge cut in top of any experts that have to be brought from outside the contract, sometimes double the rate of the expert.

    And instead of a simple app that could have been coded and tested by one person in 4 months, you gets this monster project because it was so politically important and « we can’t afford it to fail ».