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Merits of qualifications-based selection pitched to municipalities

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by Patricia Williams

Consulting Engineers of Ontario and the Ontario Association of Architects are teaming up to pitch the merits of qualifications-based selection to a key audience of municipal leaders.
John Gamble
John Gamble

Procurement

Consulting Engineers of Ontario (CEO) and the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) are teaming up to pitch the merits of qualifications-based selection (QBS) to a key audience of municipal leaders.

CEO president John Gamble and OAA president Gerrie Doyle are scheduled to make a joint presentation in Ottawa Wednesday at the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. Their topic is Procuring Professional Design Services: a best practice.

“This is a critical audience for us,” Gamble said. “We (CEO) have made presentations in the past to municipal engineers and the regional public works commissioners who are certainly very important.

“But at the end of the day, it is the politicians who we have to convince of the benefits of QBS, that what we are proposing will deliver better project outcomes, long-term lifecycle savings and sustainable solutions.”

To assist municipalities, the National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure (InfraGuide) created a best practice manual. The guide promotes the principles of QBS rather than price-based selection.

While the guide was developed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the National Research Council and Infrastructure Canada, that fact is “largely unrecognized” in the municipal sector, Gamble said.

The premise is that decisions made during project planning and design have ramifications over the entire life of a project. An appropriate investment in professional services at the onset of a project can potentially reduce capital, maintenance and operating costs.

Gamble said promoting QBS at the municipal level has proved challenging for his organization.

“Some municipalities have a little more latitude,” he said. “Some, on a project by project basis, have made some gestures towards recognizing the importance of consultants’ qualifications.

“But in the current political reality, it is still a bit of a tough sell. Governments must appear to be saving money, no matter what the ultimate project cost is.”

In Canada, QBS has been adopted in such jurisdictions as London and Calgary. Last fall, the province of Quebec introduced legislation mandating that its ministries and agencies use QBS in procurement of architectural and engineering services.

Earlier this year, a parliamentary committee recommended that Public Works and Government Services Canada consider legislating QBS selection.

OAA president Gerrie Doyle said her association is “excited” about the opportunity to speak to elected officials about “quality-based selection processes that expose our potential clients to the breadth and depth of skills that our members have to offer.”

Doyle, a principal in Toronto’s aipm architects inc., said decisions made by the design consultants have an impact on the entire life of the project “which is why selection of the right consultant is so critical.

“The QBS process allows the consultant to demonstrate to the client the value they bring throughout the entire project.”

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