Saturday, July 21, 2012

#LiquorLeaks has more questions than answers

There is no longer a six-pack of companies seeking to privatize liquor warehousing and distribution in British Columbia.

Four bidders were shortlisted July 20: Exel, ContainerWorld, Kuehne+Nagel and Metro Supply Chain Group. It was supposed to be a list of three, but there apparently was a third-place tie in the merit points rankings. The rankings were not released. 

Schenker and Hillebrand Westlink didn't make the cut.

Read my story in Business in Vancouver here. I asked a Schenker executive if he felt the process was fair. He said it was "very straightforward," but refused to say whether it was fair.

Listen to Minister Margaret MacDiarmid's teleconference above. She was peddling the usual government line about the importance of the role of the fairness monitor, George Macauley. NDP critic Shane Simpson found in June that Macauley is really powerless. He is not a referee, but an observer. Big difference.

You'll hear me questioning MacDiarmid about whether Exel and ContainerWorld are really bidding independently and whether the government is doing anything to ensure that is so. I tried to get her "off-message," to get a real answer. Not political spin. It was obvious that she came better-prepared to handle an agitator after being embarrassed July 12 by Vaughn Palmer's grilling, which you can hear here.

I still have so many questions for Minister MacDiarmid, such as: 

Why is the government delaying my Freedom of Information request on the list of times and dates that the six bidders submitted their formal proposals? Your ministry is stewarding the Distribution of Liquor Project bid process, but the disclosure has been delayed until Sept. 27 so that Energy and Mines can be consulted. You're also the minister of open government. Is your ministry really in charge of this process, or are you part of an elaborate communications strategy to deflect attention from liquor minister Rich Coleman, who has never been made available for me to interview? In Exel's own words, it pondered using its relationship with Mr. Coleman to influence the writing of the request for proposals.

Why did Mr. Coleman tell CKNW's Simi Sara in a Tweet on July 19 that bids closed June 30? The request for proposals states very clearly that the deadline was June 29 at 4 p.m. Did Mr. Coleman mis-speak or were the rules bent for any applicants? Kindly provide me the list of date(s) and time(s) that the formal bids were received (see above). 

Your ministry has released the transcript of the May 10 bidders' meeting. It has not released a transcript of the May 9 industry information meeting. Why? Is it because several industry stakeholders asked questions and were of the opinion that LDB privatization would harm the industry and raise costs? I was there and I posted a recording of the question and answer session. Listen here.

Again, I ask, what assurances does your ministry have that no bidders are working in collusion? I have evidence in Exel's own words, in its Oct. 6, 2009 "Project Last Spike" internal memo that says an alliance with or an acquisition of ContainerWorld was among Exel's strategies to become the warehouser and distributor. Exel's sister company Giorgio Gori has a longstanding business relationship with ContainerWorld and an option to buy the Richmond warehouse. ContainerWorld owner Dennis Chrismas met with Mr. Coleman on March 2. Has anyone from ContainerWorld met with anyone involved with Exel, directly or indirectly, since the RFP was published? 

Mr. Chrismas has not responded to my phone calls or emails. 

1 comment:

Fugativio said...

Is there any doubt left in the minds of British Columbians that the BC Liberals are desperately trying to give their friends a deal before being thrown out?
They are unable to answer a Hello without being suspected of corruption. When these deals boil down to a betrayal of the taxpayers, there's only one reason; personal gain ... and there's another name for that too.

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