TPG Technology Consulting is crying foul against Public Works over a $400-million contract awarded to a larger rival.
The local engineering services company alleged Monday that Public Works deliberately altered its technical evaluation of a competitive bid from Montreal-based CGI Group to favour that company.
"We know there were irregularities in the evaluation and process, and in line with the government's new accountability act we would like to have some transparency and see the documents on the table," says TPG's president Don Powell.
"There's a lot of money involved here, and we know about several conflicts of interest which have been documented in public information."
The company is calling for an inquiry into the ethics and process of the government's selection of CGI Group, saying the close associations of several influential Public Works employees and CGI Group could have been at play in the selection process, and warning that 200 Ottawa workers could lose their jobs as a result of the award.
The contract allows the successful applicant to supply support services for the computers and networks which run large government programs, such as the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security.
TPG originally won the same contract in 1999, with no other bidders for the job, but Mr. Powell says the government changed the specifications of the competition when it was reopened for bidding in May 2006 to prevent TPG from qualifying.
"They changed the reference requirements in the request for proposals (RFP) process so that we had to have completed several large projects, which we didn't have as a mid-sized company," Mr. Powell explains.
He says the company approached Public Works minister Michael Fortier to try and change back the reference requirements in order that TPG could compete, but was unsuccessful in its attempt. The company was eventually allowed to use partner company references in its application.
However, Mr. Powell maintains the process still favoured larger companies, and says TPG should have won the contract based on its lower financial bid and original technical scores, which were very close to CGI's scores. Mr. Powell says TPG's proposal was lower financially than any other proposal in the competition by "tens of millions of dollars."
"It sure looks like they were making sure we couldn't win," he says.
A Public Works spokesperson said the department "did not feel it was appropriate " to comment on the matter due to a court action by TPG.
In addition to calling for an investigation into the award, TPG has also filed a grievance against Public Works in the federal courts.
Mr. Powell says he is hoping that a public inquiry will help to delay the awarding of the contract, slated for April 19.
He says he expects there may be some people who dismiss TPG's move as sour grapes, but the company is prepared to take its stand in the matter.
"We deal with RFPs all the time. If we win, we win, and if we lose, we lose, and it's fine if it's fair," he says. "However, there's still a question mark in this matter, and someone outside the Public Works department needs to look into it."
Mr. Powell says TPG is particularly concerned about the Public Works minister's relationship with CGI's president and previous business dealings with CGI while the minister was employed at Cr édit Suisse First Boston.
"TPG is also fully aware that the perception will be that the contract may have been awarded to CGI in order to compensate the company for its loss of revenues from the fallout resulting from the firearms registry issue," reads a release by TPG.
If the contract is awarded this week as planned, 200 TPG employees who work in fairly specialized jobs within the Public Works department could lose their jobs, which is why TPG hopes to throw a monkey wrench into the works with the public investigation.
"Some of the jobs could be redeployable, but a lot are not," Mr. Powell says.