Fatally flawed: The glaring weaknesses of SNC-Lavalin’s winning bid for Stage 2 of LRT
Published Friday, January 24, 2020 10:04AM EST Last Updated Friday, January 24, 2020 6:59PM EST
OTTAWA -- Newly released documents show just how flawed SNC-Lavalin’s ultimately successful bid to extend the Trillium Line in Stage 2 was before the City pushed ahead with it.
In August 2019, the City revealed the SNC-Lavalin-backed TransitNEXT bid did not meet the required 70% technical threshold to advance in the bidding process. It moved ahead because City Staff had the discretion to allow a bid to advance to the financial evaluation phase despite the lower technical score.
But in a release of documents, sent around 9:00 p.m. Thursday, the full extent of the many, glaring weaknesses in SNC-Lavalin’s bid became clear.
In a technical evaluation submitted Oct. 3, 2018, the Technical Evaluation Team unanimously rejected the TransitNEXT bid.
“The proposal failed all four technical categories,” the evaluation said.
It described a lack of a defined signaling and train control system solution, “which ultimately affects the vehicle integration, the project schedule, and the overall success of the project.”
The bid was described as “generic” and “poorly written.” In two of the four technical categories, not a single “strength” was listed.
“Poor technical submission throughout (civil, track, stations, systems and vehicles). Use of sweeping motherhood statement that demonstrated a limited understanding of the project, were often contradicted and/or not backed up,” the Team said in a summary of the bid, which it said had fatal flaws.
“Resolving all of the major issues identified in the submission would be a lengthy and likely impractical process,” the evaluation said. “The significant scope discrepancies should cast doubt on the validity of the overall proposal. The extent of rework would be significant.”
It also said resumes of several key individuals were poor. The Maintenance and Repair director had no previous experience working on a relevant maintenance site; the Design Manager appeared to lack relevant experience; the Systems Integration Manager had no experience in the proposed role, but significant industry experience otherwise; and the Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Director had no project experience and only seven years of experience overall.
The City asked for a second evaluation of the three bids, with several questions from the Bid Evaluation Steering Committee.
When it comes to TransitNEXT, the Technical Evaluation Committee explained some of its issues further.
“The submission does not comprehensively address nor explain the critical path to substantial completion,” the TEC said.
The TEC described a proposal that contains inaccurate information, “such as references to elements that do no form part of the project scope of work, e.g. a catenary system and Traction Power Substations.” The Trillium Line does not run on a catenary system like the Confederation Line does.
“This demonstrates that the Proponent lacks understanding of the scope of works.”
The bid ultimately moved ahead to the financial evaluation phase anyway, because City staff had the discretion to allow a failed technical bid to still be evaluated on its financial merits.
In a memo, Director of Rail Construction Michael Morgan reminded Council the aggregate technical and financial scores were ultimately used to rank submissions and the team with the lowest technical score (TransitNEXT) had the highest aggregate score.
In other words, the SNC-Lavalin bid won because it was the cheapest one.
Morgan claims the decision to move the failing technical bid forward “was appropriate and is in the best interests of the City and taxpayers.” Morgan added the identities of all three bidders were not disclosed before this decision was made.
The $4.66-billion Stage Two contracts were passed March 6, 2019, during a heated City Council meeting, by a vote of 19-3. Only Councillors Diane Deans, Rick Chiarelli, and Shawn Menard voted against it. The Trillium extension portion of Stage Two costs $1.6-billion.
Morgan says meetings were held with SNC-Lavalin to resolve issues before the winning bid was presented to Council.
“Following the ranking, a series of meetings were held with the First Negotiation Proponent (FNP) to resolve all technical concerns noted during the technical evaluation process,” Morgan said. “Following resolution of all concerns, the FNP was designated the Preferred Proponent and presented to Council for approval. As stated by the Auditor General, all technical requirements of the RFP were met.”
Michael Morgan was one of the five people on the Technical Evaluation Team in 2018. He was the City's director of rail operations at the time. The other team members include two egineering consultants: Lead Evaluator Peter Schwartzentruber and Jack D'Andrea; and two City officials: manager of rail systems Russ Hoas, and Colleen Connelly, OC Transpo's manager of service planning.
The Trillium Line extension, which moves the north-south line from Greenboro to the Airport and Riverside South, is currently under construction. It’s slated to be complete by 2022.