The consortium that built the Confederation Line scored well above its competitors — and came first in the technical evaluation — in the bid for the $2.1-billion LRT network, newly released documents show.
Rideau Transit Group (RTG) may be under fire these days for technical issues that have plagued the 12.5-kilometre light rail system since it fully launched in early October, but its proposal to build the system easily won the competitive bid.
Considering that RTG — led by SNC-Lavalin and ACS Infrastructure — won the contract, it's no surprise it scored the highest.
But as we've seen with the procurement process for LRT Stage 2, it's possible for a bidder to score poorly in one category and still come out on top. As CBC first reported, SNC-Lavalin achieved a final score of just 67 per cent in the technical round for Stage 2 of the Trillium Line, well below its two competitors, but finished so much further ahead of other bidders in the financial round that it came out on top.
RTG clear winner of financial round
According to documents released through an access to information request, RTG scored first in the technical evaluation, although it wasn't far ahead of its rivals, Ottawa Transit Partners and Rideau Transit Partners.
RTG's score was 399.15 out of a possible 500 points, or 79.8 per cent. The other two bidders scored a few points less.
But in the financial round, RTG slaughtered the competition, with a score of 492.5 out of 500, or 98.5 per cent — more than double the score of second-place Ottawa Transit Partners.
That means RTG's bid would have been significantly less than its competitors. (Rideau Transit Partners got a negative score of 95.42 points, indicating that it bid over the price set by the city.)
Overall, RTG scored a total 891.85 points out of 1,000, to Ottawa Transit Partners' 626.6 points.
City had discretionary power
The rules for the procurement, set out in the request for proposals (RFP), stated the bids had to score a minimum of 70 per cent in the technical round and 60 per cent in the financial round.
But the RFP also gave the city the "sole discretion" whether to disqualify a bid with a failing score.
This wasn't a power the city needed to use for the Confederation Line competition, but it was invoked during the Stage 2 procurement. When SNC-Lavalin failed twice to score 70 per cent in the technical round, the city allowed the company to continue in the bidding process, which it eventually won.
A recent city audit of the LRT Stage 2 procurement found the city followed the rules laid out in the RFP, but also concluded the process should have been more transparent. Few people at city hall knew the discretionary power existed — let alone had been exercised — including the councillors who approved the multi-billion-dollar contract.
Score not the key: Councillor
So how to square the fact that RTG scored so well, but its final product is currently struggling for stability?
The three final bidders were pre-qualified, so the city already knew they were capable of building an LRT system, said Kitchisippi Coun. Jeff Leiper. The issue was whether the city, through its engineering consultants, asked for all the right things in the RPF.
"If we don't describe that we want a non-slip tile, they're not going to put one in," said Leiper, referring to problematic slippery tiles at some stations.
"We've hired consultants, we have engineers who work on our side who would have developed those projects specifications, but what didn't they think of?" said the councillor. "Did we ask for hand straps on the trains? If we didn't specify that we want a train system delivered with hand straps, so that short people can hold on, the bidders are not going to deliver those.
"Those aren't issues that come out in the course of scoring something."
Leiper pointed to the current challenges with the Confederation Line as the reason he and some other councillors had wanted to hold off on signing the LRT Stage 2 contract.
The hope was that wouldn't happen until the city had dissected what could have been improved from the Confederation Line contract process, he said.