Montreal’s inspector general castigates the STM for bus garage contracts

The transit agency defended its actions, saying it saved more than $2 million in public funds.

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The Société de transport de Montréal has failed in some of the contracts it awarded for the construction of its new Bellechasse bus garage, the inspector general of Montreal said in a report tabled Monday with city council.

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The underground garage, which is scheduled to open next year in the Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie borough, will accommodate 300 hybrid buses promised by Mayor Valérie Plante during the 2017 election campaign.

Inspector General Brigitte Bishop said the breaches were serious enough that they could have resulted in the cancellation of the contracts, if the work had not already been done.

Instead of issuing calls for tenders for the entire $190 million project, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) divided the work into different contracts, on which companies were invited to bid, said Bishop in the 28-page report.

First, the Office of Inspector General examined a $27.5 million management contract awarded to Pomerleau, a construction company, for the development of plans and specifications for each of the contracts.

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It included a $4 million lump sum for unforeseen expenses not covered by any of the other contracts, such as setting up temporary facilities at the site.

The STM said the amount was included so that the construction schedule is not delayed by last-minute emergencies.

However, Bishop said that under regulations on work awarded by transit agencies, contractors should be able to submit their own bids, instead of having the amount set in advance.

By dictating the amount reserved for unforeseen expenses, the tender “allowed no competition between bidders on price, which defeats the very purpose of public tenders,” she wrote.

Bishop also criticized the STM for failing to show good faith with the construction companies that bid for a $1.7 million contract for the formwork for the stairwells in the underground garage.

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The STM issued a tender for the work while it was negotiating a price with Pomerleau for a subcontractor to do the work, she said. It wasn’t fair to bidders to let them spend time and money on bids when the agency knew it would likely cancel the tender, she said.

The STM defended its actions in a statement Monday, saying it acted as it did to save taxpayers’ money. Setting aside the $4 million for unforeseen expenses was only prudent and will avoid last-minute delays, he said.

“The STM acted in the interest of the project and with a view to ensuring the sound management of public funds,” said the president of the Société de transport, Éric Alan Caldwell, in a press release.

Awarding the formwork to Pomerleau saved more than $2 million, he added.

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