Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….

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.

http://www.ottawabusinessjournal.com/295258225714199.php

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