The city spent just over $2.3 million last year on management consultants in areas such as policy, strategic analysis and organizational design. That compares to $9.38 million a year earlier.
The number of contracts also dropped to 45 from 101 in the same time period.
A city spokesperson attributed the drop to "council direction," but did not respond to requests for further details.
The annual snapshot of the city's supply branch spending looked at $1.1 billion in contracts awarded by the city in 2010. Construction companies received most of the largest contracts (see sidebar).
In contrast to consulting services, professional engineering services increased 12 per cent to $135.8 million, but this was due to infrastructure stimulus spending as well as preliminary design work for Ottawa's light-rail line, the city noted.
These professional services are tendered for "defined services" or specific contracts in areas such as engineering, architecture, planning, IT or auditing.
Ninety-three per cent of the contracts were awarded through competitive bids. This does not take into account no-option contracts, such as those for patents, utilities or situations where there was no alternative to a supplier.
A spokesperson for one industry organization says it appears as though the city's supply branch is being pressured into procuring professional engineering services through a competitive process.
But John Krug, a managing principal at Stantec and the secretary of the Ottawa chapter of the Consulting Engineers of Ontario, told OBJ in an e-mail exchange that lowest price is not always synonymous with best value.
"Competition is in itself not an issue, however, more and more, price, rather than quality, is becoming the focus of the competitive process ... Engineering services represent a very small amount of the overall life-cycle cost of any project, and engineering design has a major impact on the capital and operating costs over the life of a project.
"In the long term," he continued, "it simply does not make sense to cut corners on the engineering phase - small improvements at the design stage can offer significant savings in the long term."
Separately, the city found 94.6 per cent of purchases were from local suppliers, representing $754 million in spending in 2010. Although the dollar amount was an increase from the $732 million purchased in 2009, spending fell one percentage point as a portion of total purchases.
The city's top vendors in 2010 by aggregate contract values:
- New Flyer Industries Ltd. $64,455,050.53
- ConCreate USL Ltd. $48,980,222.86
- Taggart Construction Ltd. $45,365,969.42
- Suncor/Petro Canada $44,963,064.37
- Karson Kartage and Konstruction $40,967,823.47
- R.W. Tomlinson Ltd. $40,805,426.34
- Ottawa Greenbelt Construction Co. $32,153,396.85
- URS. Canada Inc. $26,966,400.00
- Coco Paving Inc. $25,619,799.76
- Colautti Construction Ltd. $18,958,981.06
- Para Logistics $18,930,654.34
- The Canadian Salt Co. Ltd. $14,397,846.36
- Graydex Ottawa Inc. $11,746,016.61
- Delcan Corp. $11,531,217.17
- Stantec Consulting Ltd. $11,502,064.48
- Goldie Mohr Ltd. $11,396,684.30
- McDonald Brothers $9,740,018.95
- TOFCON Construction Inc. $9,343,824.00
- Dalcon Enterprises Inc. $8,649,278.76
- Black and McDonald Ltd. $8,063,132.93
Source: City of Ottawa