OIPMAC conference rises to challenge

Two-day event covers broad spectrum of topics

October 17, 2011
by By Michael Power

TORONTO: While strong commodity prices have helped bolster the economy in several Canadian regions, it’s not likely Ontario will see much of a boost from those prices, according to Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist with RBC Economics.
That’s because the province’s economy is tied so tightly to that south of the border, Ferley told a full conference hall of delegates during the Ontario Institute of PMAC’s 14th annual conference in Toronto, entitled Rising to the Challenge. Ferley was one of several keynote speakers during the two-day event, held October 14-15.
“Modest growth in the US will keep the growth modest here,” he said, noting Canada’s recovery from the recession was stronger than in the US.
Ferley predicted the Canadian dollar would rise in 2012 due to high commodity prices, but staying close to parity through the end of next year. “The days of the 70- or 80-cent dollar aren’t likely (to return), although it could happen,” he noted.

Benefits of e-bidding
Also presenting during the event was Dennis Lord, executive director of Toronto-based ISM Consulting, who addressed the do’s and don’ts of electronic bidding. Most e-documents, Lord said, have the same binding authority as paper ones. Each province has legislation regulating those documents.
Whether using paper or electronic bid processes, details count. For example, organizations should bear in mind bid submissions are time sensitive, Lord said. It’s therefore important to specify which time is intended, such as Greenwich mean time. If suppliers feel an organization has made a mistake in the bid process, they’re more likely to contest a decision. Having a strong audit trail will help protect organizations. “You really want to reduce your risk of those suppliers coming after you from a litigation perspective,” Lord said.
Organizations must also bear in mind security is important when using e-bidding, he said. For example, ensure proper storage of information, including knowing where that information is stored and who has access to it. “Policy, process, procedures—it’s all really important,” Lord said.
Still, the e-bidding process had benefits for suppliers and buyers alike, he said. For suppliers, e-forms mean fewer errors, shorter preparation time and lower expenses. Buyers benefit since the process is more efficient and less costly.
“It’s a clear trend and I don’t think it’s going to stop any time soon,” Lord said. “But make sure the process you have in place is the same as receiving the bids manually.”

Airships get lift
Meanwhile, Barry Prentice, professor of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba’s IH Asper School of Business, put the spotlight on the rise of airships as a transportation method, especially to and from Canada’s North and other remote regions. Airships made sense for the north, he said, and the transportation method boasted high margins, a low environmental impact, large potential markets and limited competition. How soon airships begin sailing the northern skies depends on how fast business confidence in the technology grows.

(For more of our recent coverage on airships, see Discovery Air Innovations to buy hybrid airships and Airship revival.)

Public sector accountability
Jim Hadjiyianni, senior program manager with the Ministry of Finance’s broader public sector supply chain secretariat, spoke about the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act—legislation establishing rules and standards for procurement in the public sector.
The rules cover organizations such as hospitals, school boards, children’s aid societies and Community Care Access Centres but excluding municipalities. The act also bans using public funds to hire lobbyists and adds accountability measures related to compliance and expenses.
In terms of non-competition procurement, the act says that anything a manager would have approved now requires a director’s approval. For procurement up to $1 million, an organization’s or department’s president and CEO must sign off. Purchases over $1 million also require the board of directors to sign off.
“We’re not saying no to non-competitive procurement, we’ve just built some parameters around it,” Hadjiyianni said.