Re: Toronto opens bidding for desktop replacement contract (July 20)
I refer to your article “”Toronto opens bidding for desktop replacement contract”” by Neil Sutton on July 20, 2004.
take particular exception to the statement, “”The City and Mississauga, Ont.-based MFP Financial Services came under scrutiny when it was determined that the City had paid almost twice the original budget of $43 million for the leased computers.””
Your readers should be aware of the following facts:
1. The only known budget determination made by the City at the time of its RFP was for $250 million for Y2K-related hardware and software;
2. The RFP in question called for at least $43 million worth of hardware which was identified in the RFP in addition to which ‘Lessor had to stand ready to lease substantial additional hardware and software’ (Clause 16 of RFP);
3. The City ordered the subject $83 million worth of hardware and software from third-party suppliers (therefore presumably necessary) and then went to MFP pursuant to the RFP asking to put it on Lease Schedules and signing valid Certificates of Acceptance therefor;
4. The auditing firm of KPMG did a study (costing $500,000) at the request of the City of Toronto, that found, among other things, all of the approximately $83 million worth of software and equipment put on lease was accounted for at the originally contracted price by the City of Toronto with third-party suppliers.
5. MFP obtained an opinion letter from the City’s solicitor of the City of Toronto that the lease transactions were among other things, ‘fully authorized and enforceable’;
6. In an open meeting of City Council called to discuss settlement with MFP, the City’s outside lawyer in its civil case with MFP, Alan Lenczner, stated that insofar as obtaining the contracts were concerned, “”MFP did nothing wrong.””
Fraser R. Berrill
President & CEO
MFP Financial Services
Neil Sutton responds:
In a staff report issued by the City of Toronto in November 2001, the leasing arrangement with MFP is described as follows:
“”Council approved the leasing of $43 million of computer equipment for three years at an effective interest rate of approximately 4.6%. However, the City is currently leasing $80.5 million in assets from MFP. Virtually all computer equipment acquired by the City in 2000 and 2001 was leased from MFP. The review found that there was a pervasive belief across finance, purchasing and I&T staff that the MFP lease was to be used exclusively for computer leasing, and that this was appropriately approved.
“”In the opinion of the City Solicitor, there is no Council authority to lease more than $43 million of computer equipment.””
For more information, please refer to the City of Toronto’s Web site http://www.city.toronto.on.ca and the inquiry’s official Web site http://www.torontoinquiry.ca.
The inquiry is scheduled to resume on Monday, Aug. 30.
Trying to blame the problem of welfare increase in Ontario on hardware is bogus. The problem is software.
I read with interest the article and was not surprised by the comments of OPSEU and the attitude of the government. First, let’s look at the difference between the Ontario and New Brunswick’s experience with Accenture. The first is the size and scope of the project and the requirements of the contract. It was much easier for Accenture to throw together a package for N.B. compared to what Ontario wanted to do.
It was a grand dream but, and here I agree with Howard Grant’s comment, that there were unrealistic time lines imposed in the contract. Especially for a program that was as complex as this.
Which brings me to the main problem that was not mentioned in the article, the fact that many of these types of private/public sector contracts are negotiated by people that have no clue as to what the real world requirements are with respect to the end user.
The IT firms that sign these contracts have the people with the necessary expertise, but they negotiate to the benefit of the company, not the taxpayers.
And lastly, the comments made by Paul Bilodeau from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union is also pie in the sky. There has always been a call from OPSEU to have the government do the work in-house. This is an unrealistic option that has never worked with respect to large projects like this. Simply put, governments do not have the financial resource to pay for top-notch IT workers (project managers, programmers, etc.).
Thanks for listening.
Ottawa Safe Communities Network
I used to work for the Ontario government for seven years as a senior systems analyst and I was involved in several projects. What I found was that:
1. There was not an experienced IT project manager on an IT project. We need to understand that the government will not trust any new hires and they like to assign the project to the ones that they know. Most frequently, those people are probably good at their areas but not in managing IT projects or solving any technical issues.
2. The vendors will usually assign the sales rep. to be the project manager (the counterpart of the government side). I don’t object to this at all but they should listen to the real techies and the front-line staff.
3. OPSEU wants to hire more IT workers for more membership dues. It does not help the situation at all because qualified people will never want to work for the government because of … we all know the reasons.
4. I joined the government wanting to better serve the public and do a better job to save public money. I was extremely naive. The longer I was with the government, the less I wanted to work because of the discouragement of any initiatives.
How can a practice be deemed “”best”” if there’s any doubt that it might be applicable for the province’s needs? In fact, the entire notion of “”best practices”” is absurd. There is no reasonable means–scientific or anecdotal–by which a practice could be judged legitimately as “”best””, since the value of a given practice must be considered within a context. A practice that is considered “”best”” in one context can easily be ruinous in another. Indeed, when someone uses the term “”best practice,”” the intent is to end any honest discussion or evaluation, and to cow the listener into accepting a particular (usually paperwork-heavy, usually expensive, and usually less than effective) methodology. Want evidence? Accenture and its consultants pepper their conversations and white papers with “”best practices””, yet even with a $500-million budget and an army to work on the project, the company is unable to deliver a database that can handle a 3 per cent rate increase.
There is a cure for this kind of thinking: replace the expression “”best practices”” with “”ideas””. Unlike “”best practices,”” in a given context there can be reasonable discussion over whether an idea might be good or bad.
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