By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen
Industry representatives were stunned by a new decree from Public Services and Procurement Canada that would have prevented any communication to the public about the Canadian Surface Combatant program. No advertising. No press releases issued announcing that a firm was even interested in bidding on the program. No discussions about what a company could offer and the jobs it could provide to Canadians.
“Neither the bidders, nor any of their respective subcontractors, employees or representatives shall make any public comment, respond to questions in a public forum or carry out any activities to either criticize another bidder or any bid — or publicly advertise their qualifications,” noted the order to industry.
Why put a clause like that in the bidding package? Sources say the Canadian Surface Combatant process has major problems. There are concerns in some quarters the outcome of the program has already been determined. And the Canadian government doesn’t want industry talking about such concerns – or anything related to the procurement, sources say. It just wants to spend tens of billions of dollars without any pesky questions from opposition MPs, the media and taxpayers, some industry representatives worry.
After details about the order were made public, Procurement Canada issued this statement: “A clause in the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Canadian Surface Combatant has raised questions about restrictions on communications activities, such as advertising, of participating bidders. Public Services and Procurement Canada would like to clarify that industry is free to communicate as it sees fit. The intent of the clause is simply to encourage bidders to respect and preserve the integrity of the solicitation process and focus on the content of their proposals. Companies are free to promote their products and services, but the RFP asks that they not do so in a way that would discredit the procurement process or other bidders.”