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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tribunal to rule on ISSP for CAF

An Alberta company is asking a federal tribunal to cancel a defence contract awarded by the Conservative government just before last summer’s election, alleging it was unfairly given to a Quebec-based firm.

Raytheon Canada of Calgary alleges that soldiers from Garrison Petawawa in the Ottawa Valley, along with officials from Public Works, now known as Public Services and Procurement, did not follow proper procedures in their evaluation of high-tech equipment for the battlefield.

The equipment from the Integrated Soldier System Project, or ISSP, will improve the way soldiers communicate in the field.

Raytheon Canada, with facilities in Ottawa and Calgary, filed its complaint with the Canadian International Trade Tribunal in September and is expecting a ruling next month.

“We expect to receive a result from this protest process in February,” Terry Manion, vice president of Raytheon Canada, stated in an email. “We look forward to a positive outcome that produces a fair, reliable and objective result. Because deliberations are currently ongoing we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Just days before the federal election was called in August, then-Defence minister Jason Kenney announced that Rheinmetall Canada, of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., had been awarded an initial $7 million contract for the Integrated Soldier System Project. The deal is potentially worth up to $250 million if all the proposed gear is eventually purchased and Rheinmetall is selected for the follow-on related projects.

Rheinmetall Canada was selected to provide the high-tech gear which would not only allow troops to track each other as they move throughout the battlefield, but feed communications and targeting information into their helmets or data devices they could carry.

Alain Tremblay, 
vice-president of business development for Rheinmetall Canada, said the firm could not comment because the issue is now before the tribunal.

Public Services and Procurement Canada declined to comment because of the ongoing tribunal proceedings but noted that it is committed to open and fair competitions. The Integrated Soldier System Project is continuing as scheduled and has not been delayed, a Public Services official added.

In its complaint to the tribunal, Raytheon alleges that the evaluation of the equipment was “arbitrary and imprecise.”

It noted that the soldiers at Garrison Petawawa who performed the evaluation “lacked the necessary expertise,” that they based their evaluation on undisclosed criteria, and that the government failed to follow the stated process.

“Aspects of the evaluation process raise a reasonable apprehension of bias,” the Raytheon complaint alleged.

It has asked the tribunal to terminate the contract to Rheinmetall and have the federal government re-evaluate the bids it received for the ISSP.

Raytheon Canada also wants to receive compensation for the costs it incurred as a result of the Public Services and Procurement department failing to tell the firm that it had not passed a key part of the evaluation. Relying on assurances from the federal department that it had passed the written portion of the competition, the company continued to pump in money preparing for a possible contract award.

Rheinmetall is continuing to work on the project and is expected to finish the first phase sometime this year, according to Department of National Defence sources. Once that is successfully done the government will proceed with the option of buying more than 4,000 of the systems for the troops.