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Manitoba Ombudsman releases investigation report into flood-fighting equipment for an Interlake Emergency Operations Centre

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Jan 7, 2016

According to an investigative report released by Manitoba Ombudsman, Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation (MIT) lacked sufficient justification in its initial attempt for an untendered contract to purchase $5 million worth of flood-fighting equipment for First Nation communities in the Interlake.

The investigation also determined that MIT did not conduct sufficient research and analysis to support the type of flood-fighting equipment to be purchased.

Eventually MIT went to tender for the contract and issued an RFP. Overall the investigation found that legislation and policy related to tendering were followed.

Manitoba Ombudsman Charlene Paquin said there are well-defined practices and policies with respect to procurement and it is important they are followed.

“While we recognize the importance of initiatives like the Emergency Operations Centre concept in supporting communities, it is imperative that staff understand and adopt existing provincial policies to ensure that appropriate decisions are made, that the best value for tax dollars is achieved and the public interest is protected. This also supports openness and transparency in the delivery of services,” Paquin said.

Paquin noted that her office does not get involved in, nor does it have the legislative authority to, review political decisions but instead is tasked with investigating matters of an administrative nature. The report does reference the interaction of political and administrative decision making in this case, highlighting the role of the minister of MIT in committing to the initiative and directing the initial untendered contract proposal. Paquin also described the role of elected officials in providing direction and making commitments and noted that this commitment did complicate the administrative process that followed.

A whistleblower complaint to the ombudsman in November 2014 raised concerns about this equipment and the file was resolved under The Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act. Following a request from Premier Greg Selinger in the summer of 2015 to revisit the issue, the ombudsman decided to review the matter under The Ombudsman Act.

The ombudsman made seven recommendations to the province for administrative improvements related to following existing procurement policy, reinforcing the expectation to consult the Procurement Services Branch when tendering, and better communication with provincial staff regarding key principles of financial accountability. The province agreed with all seven recommendations.

The Report on Flood-Fighting Equipment for the Interlake Emergency Operations Centre: The Tiger Dams Proposal is on the ombudsman’s website at:

https://www.ombudsman.mb.ca/uploads/document/files/ombudsman-report-on-flood-fighting-equipment-en.pdf