Monday, June 25, 2012

#LiquorLeaks: Curious about George

During the Distribution of Liquor Project -- the fancy name given the process to privatize the warehousing and distribution of B.C.'s profitable Liquor Distribution Branch -- liquor minister Rich Coleman has defended the process by heralding the hiring of a "fairness monitor." Coleman has also called the job "fairness auditor" and "fairness commissioner." More fancy words from the cabinet minister who has bucked all of my requests for interviews since the privatization was announced in the Feb. 21 budget. If the privatization is such a good idea, why does Coleman refuse to sit down with me to answer my questions and defend it?

The fairness monitor is George Macauley, a Victoria lawyer and economist who has extensive experience working on contract with the provincial government. Macauley and Associates has been paid $1.3 million for contracts over the last decade. Macauley's resume indicates that his primary work and specialty is government contracts.

Records requested and obtained by me via Freedom of Information (below) indicate Macauley was among six people invited to bid on March 12 and he was awarded the contract on March 26. Doug Benson, Alistair Duncan, Owen Pawson, Jane Shackell and John Singleton were the unsuccessful bidders. The contract is worth $74,900, which is $100 shy of the $75,000 threshold that triggers a public advertisement, and runs March 27, 2012-March 31, 2013. The contract states Macauley must:

a) Review the procurement documentation so as to understand the negotiated request for proposal process that will be used on the distribution of liquor project;
b) Monitor the procurement process for adherence to the terms of the NRFP, including participating at the proponents meeting, site visits (if any), providing advice related to fairness in the NRFP, oversight during evaluation of submissions and subsequent proposal refinement process as well as final selection of the selected proponent; and
c) prepare a written fairness summary report based on observations made during delivery of the procurement process.
...provide a draft written fairness summary report to the Province on the NRFP process within two weeks of notification to proponents, by the Province, of the identification of the selected proponent. A final written fairness summary document will be provided to the Province at a date to be stipulated by the Province and to take place no later than two weeks prior to the end of the Term of this Agreement. This report will be made publicly available by the Province.
The contractor may be required to provide verbal reports as required by the Province to the executive procurement steering committee, vendors, cabinet, public or media. 
Macauley's bid to the government shows that he had a hand in the oversight of some of the biggest government contracts awarded to private companies during the post-2001 BC Liberal era, such as:

  • $572 million, 10-year revenue management contract with EDS Advanced Solutions;
  • $324 million, 10-year health benefits operations with Maximus BC;
  • $300 million, 10-year workstation services and IT contract with IBM Canada, and 
  • $1 billion, 10-year telecommunications services contract with Telus. 

That's almost $2.2 billion of taxpayer-funded contracts!

NDP liquor critic Shane Simpson wrote a complaint to Macauley on June 22, seeking him to intervene and recommend the government postpone the tendering while various issues of integrity are resolved. Here's my story on See Simpson's letter at the bottom of this post.

Macauley politely declined my request for an interview and would not comment on Simpson's letter or provide me his response.

"My previous engagements with the projects you identified were different from the current DLP engagement.  My role then was of an ongoing advisory nature to provide advice and course correction if I identified any fairness issues as the process proceeded. I was not asked to provide a written report or documentation, and such reports and documentation were accordingly not created. In the present project, as you know, I will be preparing and providing a written fairness summary report in addition to providing ongoing advice and course correction on fairness matters."

Macauley was one of many people involved in those processes listed above, which were ultimately decided by cabinet. But the contracts were targets of criticism. The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union drew attention to how a company related to Maximus was accused of fraud in the United States. The government battled to keep the Maximus contract secret. The government spent more than $125,000 to keep the whole IBM contract secret since 2004, but a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled in June 2012 that it should be published. The omnibus telecommunications contract for Telus raised the ire of competitors Rogers, Shaw and Bell, who accused the government of breaking interprovincial trade accords and running an unfair procurement process.

And now there is the Distribution of Liquor Project, which is happening without a business plan or formal industry consultation. Frontrunner Exel Logistics, I revealed, considered how it could use its BC Liberal-connected lobbyists and close relationship with Coleman to influence the writing of the RFP and get the 10-year contract -- which it estimated in October 2009 was worth at least $55 million a year.

All that and more in the #LiquorLeaks files.

More to come...

Macauley Fairnessmonitor Mackin

NDP critic complains about integrity of LDB privatization

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