Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….

Archive for August 25th, 2009

EI payouts rise 66 per cent locally year-over-year

Posted by sweens on August 25, 2009

By Ottawa Business Journal Staff

Tue, Aug 25, 2009 10:00 AM EST


The number of Ottawa residents living on employment insurance posted a sharp rise year-over-year, with 6,810 claimants in June – a 66-per-cent increase from a year ago, when there were 4,100 people using the benefits.

However, the Statistics Canada numbers released Tuesday showed Ottawa is better off than most other metropolitan centres in the province – particularly in the southwestern portion – which have shed more jobs during the recession.

Manufacturing-dependent Windsor showed a 217-per-cent increase, with Hamilton second-highest at 129 per cent. Toronto stood in the middle of the pack at 112 per cent.

The province showed a gain in EI benefits of 109 per cent overall, while Canada as a whole showed a benefits increase of 73 per cent.

Month over month, national numbers posted a 5.1-per-cent increase – to 39,500 people – between May and June. British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador had the largest percentage increases among the provinces.

However, the second quarter of 2009 showed a slowdown in the number of beneficiaries, which rose 18.8 per cent in the second quarter. That’s down about seven per cent from the 25.2-per-cent growth rate shown in the first quarter.

Nationally, young people had the highest demographic acceleration in searching for EI; the under-25 age group had a 109-per-cent increase year-over-year.

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TPG files complaint against Crown prosecutor for bid-rigging case

Posted by sweens on August 25, 2009

By Elizabeth Howell, Ottawa Business Journal Staff

Tue, Aug 25, 2009 11:00 AM EST

A firm involved in a bid-rigging case involving government contracts in 2005 has jointly launched a formal complaint with the Public Sector Integrity Office alleging the Crown prosecutor assigned to the matter is in a conflict of interest.

Charged firm TPG Technology Consulting Inc. and related firm The Powell Group, which was not charged, have raised concerns about prosecutor Denis Pilon’s Conservative candidacy for the Temiscamingue, Que. riding in 1997.

The joint statement asks for Mr. Pilon’s resignation, claiming he violated the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service.

“In addition to outlining an apparent conflict of interest, the … complaint also alleges that Mr. Pilon has mismanaged media relations according to the guidelines of the Federal Prosecution Service Deskbook,” read the statement.

“The alleged mismanagement includes: issuing a press release on the charges laid prior to informing the people charged, leaking information to the media prior to properly filing it in court, and being involved in a campaign designed to smear people’s reputations.”

TPG is one of seven firms accused of rigging bids for a number of government IT services contracts. The case, first brought forward by the Competition Bureau in February, is still in pre-trial negotiations.

The tech firm is also embroiled in an unrelated lawsuit with the federal government concerning the process for selecting Montreal’s CGI group for a separate contract, in which TPG alleges favouritism.

When TPG and the Powell Group – headed by Donald Powell, who was also accused in the case – first threatened to file the complaint in June, a representative of Mr. Pilon’s employer said the allegations were false.

“His political activity – which ended in 2000 – it’s a matter of public record and doesn’t give rise to a real or an apparent conflict of interest,” said Dan Brien, the director of communications with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, at that time.

“The PPSC is independent; the notions of political motivation or anything like that are completely off base.”

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Brainhunter files complaint about DFAIT solicitation

Posted by sweens on August 25, 2009

I was glad to see that I was not the only one who found the award from this contract to be a little “off” as my firm submitted a candidate who was ruled non-compliant for the same reason as Brainhunters.  Interesting article below…

By Elizabeth Howell, Ottawa Business Journal Staff

Mon, Aug 24, 2009 10:00 AM EST

Local tech services firm Brainhunter Inc. (TSX:BH) has filed a complaint against the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade alleging problems with a recent supply arrangement solicitation for IT services.

The Canadian International Trade Tribunal is proceeding with an investigation based on the Aug. 10 complaint, which concerned a solicitation for computer programmers and analysts to create and deliver .NET applications. A decision is expected in November.

Brainhunter’s notice of complaint filed by Borden Ladner Gervais LLP estimates the value of the contract at $100,000. excellTR and Ajilon Canada Inc. were the successful co-bidders for the May 15 solicitation awarded on June 12.

The tech firm had a tier-one federal government supply arrangement for task-based informatics professional services, or TBIPS. The supply arrangement list is a pre-screened set of companies that meet at least six of 17 technical requirements set by Public Works.

The sticking point with the DFAIT standing offer was the qualifications of contractor Tim Wang, according to the complaint. Brainhunter alleged DFAIT did not fairly assess his experience and rejected the bid because the department felt Mr. Wang did not meet its requirements.

The solicitation called for two years of experience in developing applications using the computer language Visual Basic (VB), the complaint added.

“When the government evaluators conducted their review, they failed to give one of Brainhunter’s proposed resources full credit for his experience,” read the statement, referring to Mr. Wang.

“Had the evaluators not ignored the information contained in the Brainhunter proposal, and had they fairly assessed it in accordance with the evaluation criteria, they would have come to the conclusion that (Mr. Wang) not only met the minimum experience requirements, (but) he clearly exceeded them.

“This clear error,” continued the statement, “warrants the intervention of the tribunal.”

Senior account manager Tony Sicoli sent DFAIT a notice of objection on July 22, which was rebuffed five days later.

According to Brainhunter, DFAIT explained the rejection by saying Mr. Wang’s experience using VB.NET – a successor to VB – was separate from experience using VB alone. On that basis, DFAIT is alleged to have said Mr. Wang did not meet the two-year minimum experience requirement.

Brainhunter countered with a statement saying Mr. Wang did have the required experience using VB alone, although the copy of the complaint OBJ obtained had the specifics of his experience blanked out.

“DFAIT’s failure to properly identify Mr. Wang’s qualifications deprived Brainhunter of the ability to meaningfully compete for this procurement and, in so doing, deprived Brainhunter of the opportunity to be awarded one of the contracts and the (resulting) profit,” continued the statement.

Officials from Brainhunter and Borden Ladner refused comment on this matter, while DFAIT said it was unable to provide a statement before the end of the working day.

Brainhunter’s latest financial results – released earlier this month – showed the company lost $7.1 million in its fiscal third quarter of 2009, in contrast with a $727,000 profit for the same period last year.

The tech firm recently shed more than 80 people from its overall workforce and cut back on its office space.

Newly minted CEO Raj Singh stated Brainhunter is restructuring itself, which could involve selling off divisions of the business, selling all of the business or refinancing its debt.

Although a supply arrangement like Brainhunter’s places the firm on a pre-screened list of preferred government clients, it does not guarantee any one firm success during the solicitation process.

“The way the request for a supply arrangement or standing offer works is that you have a number of criteria that your firm meets – everything from overall financial stability, insurance requirements and previous experience,” noted Keith Parker, managing director of The Proposal Centre and an experienced hand in government procurement.

“The previous experience is simply measured based on your experience in providing services in a particular category.”

Once the supply arrangement list is made, individual departments like DFAIT can make a call for proposals from the list as needed if the contract is below a certain threshold, which Mr. Parker pegged at $2 million.

This particular $100,000 contract would have fallen well below the point where Public Works would be mandated to step in and oversee the procurement, he added.

The investigation is taking place under procurement inquiry regulations laid out by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, which has until Nov. 10 to issue a decision, said CITT secretary Helene Nadeau in an interview.

Following the initial complaint, the tribunal had five working days to determine whether to further investigate the matter; they decided to do so on Aug. 17.

From that date, DFAIT has 25 working days to file its response, to which Brainhunter will have another seven days to respond.

“When potential bidders feel that they have a complaint with a government institution, they can file a complaint with the tribunal saying they feel that the trade agreement has not been respected by the government,” said Ms. Nadeau.

Separately, Brainhunter is one of seven tech firms who were named in a Competition Bureau lawsuit alleging bid-rigging in relation to IT contracts for government departments, including – in Brainhunter’s case specifically – Transport Canada.

Pre-trial proceedings are still ongoing in that case, which named Brainhunter and two employees who worked for the firm in 2005, Perry Henningsen and Wendie Loudon.

The chief executive also resigned in June to “avoid a proxy fight” between shareholders.

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