When is an “independent fairness advisor” …not?

 Putting public projects of any kind out to bid is a somewhat sensitive process, one that the government allegedly strives to ensure is conducted in a transparent and fair manner, for all parties involved – or so they would have you believe.  ( …think Charles River Associates and BC Rail ) When a private partner enters the equation, as with P3 projects- ( public-private partnerships) – it becomes even more important for the public in particular, to be assured of this transparency and fair conduct.

 In fact, to avoid any perceptions or allegations of unfair bidding, favouritism or conflicts of interest, as well as ensure the process follows the standards set by the government, an independent fairness advisor is appointed to thoroughly review and monitor the process.

This is supposed to provide the public with an assurance that the entire deal was handled in a fair and appropriate manner, as well as providing the government, Partnerships BC and the private partner with the same said assurances with regards to the decisions made during the procurement ( bidding) process.

At the completion of the deal, the fairness advisor then issues a report detailing everything he or she did in reviewing the bidding process, and what conclusions they have arrived at.

Because of the nature of the role and duties of a fairness reviewer, or auditor as they are occasionally referred to, one would think that it would be prudent to ensure the person appointed has no prior or current connections to any of the parties involved in the process, in particular, the government. This would eliminate any appearance or perception of bias or other conflict completely, at least for those putting forward proposals, as well as the interested public.

But what if, let’s say, the attorney retained to act as the ” independent fairness advisor” worked for has worked for not one, but two law firms that regularly donated to the BC liberal party ?

Or has previously defended or represented the province of British Columbia in a number of actions, prior to being appointed a fairness advisor/auditor in several public procurements?

Joan M. Young, currently a lawyer with Lang Michener LLP, since March of 2009, has acted as  an independent fairness advisor on a number of public projects in British Columbia over the years, most recently for the Surrey Memorial Hospital expansion, but also the William R. Bennett Bridge, the Vernon- Kelowna Hospital project, and the Fort St. John Hospital Project. Prior to joining Lang MichenerLLP, she worked with Heenan Blaikie, from December 2006 to March 2009. (Both firms have donated substantially to the BC Liberal party between 2005 and 2009.)

This is an overview of Ms. Young’s work history:  http://www.bcemploymentlaw.com/young.htm  and here: http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/joan-young/8/836/745

Let me be clear- Ms. Young’s professionalism is not in question here – her reputation is steller- however the method of appointing an “independent fairness advisor” is definately in question.

In trying to find out how and who appoints these advisors, I emailed Partnerships BC, however have not received a response as of the time of this posting. However, I did locate  this document: http://www.partnershipsbc.ca/files/documents/FairnessAdvisorRFQ2008Nov-Final.pdf, on their website- it is a request for qualifications for fairness advisors, issued in 2008, but ongoing until December of this year.

It details some of their criteria for evaluating potential candidates, however this is all it had to say for remuneration:

“It is expected that any Candidate retained by Partnerships BC will enter into a Contract with Partnerships BC. Any Contract between a Candidate and Partnerships BC will be substantially similar to the terms and conditions of the standard Partnerships British Columbia Service Contract (General), in use by Partnerships BC at the time of the Contract.The basis of compensation and form of Contract between a Candidate and a Client will be as agreed between the parties ”

 So, the fairness advisor is selected and hire and paid by Partnerships BC, to report to Partnerships BC or other senior official in the Ministry such as a deputy minister.  In the case of Ms. Young, one might ask,  if it is fair to the bidders,or in the public’s best interests, to have a professional with such a long and close working relationship with the province of B.C. put in the role of someone deemed with ensuring the fairness of the bidding process? 

 Some may say it is anything but fair, and that there is an expectation that someone who is appointed as independent and beyond reproach in this un-biased capacity of fairness advisor, would not have any prior working relationship with any of the participants of the bidding process -on either the government or private sector side . Would such a history constitute a conflict of interest with the role of fairness advisor ? Perhaps not, however that is certainly not something I am qualified to determine. It is interesting to note that as far as I can determine, no such “fairness advisor” has given anything but full approval for the bidding process on any project. One wonders if such a thing would even occur…

 Considering the way Partnerships BC  has been shown to skew their Value for Cost reports in a blatant bias and favour towards their method of  pricing and procurement – as in the Sea to Sky highway – certainly I think it is in both the public’s best interest, as well as the bidders, to question these “independent  fairness advisor” appointments for what they are worth.

*** while we are on the topic of questioning the activities of Partnerships BC, let’s take a look at what the executives behind this unique entity who answers to no one but themselves, are pulling in, as per the 2009/2010 compensation disclosure, in PDF format : executive disclosure 

Click on the picture to enlarge and see what one earns for pushing these expensive,over-priced and often over- built P3 projects on the people of BC.

** credit given where it is due to NVG, research assistant extraordinaire, for sending some pointed links in my direction!

21 thoughts on “When is an “independent fairness advisor” …not?

  1. For an interesting take of “fairness reviews” check out the Charles Rivers review of the BC Rail theft. Even the company itself doesn’t stand behind its “findings.” The principles who dealt with the (un)fairness review have since left or been terminated by Charles Rivers and Charles Rivers acts as if they have nothing to do with the findings.

    One of those principles was either deposed or acted as a witness at the BC Rail Sham Trial by video link from somewhere in the Maritimes. That “fairness review” was nothing less than an attempted whitewash of a scam of the people of British Columbia!

    Like

  2. Curt

    Gee Laila, do I see a threat being made? Are you a troublemaker? I don’t think so. Some people eh. What are they afraid of?

    We’re all looking for the truth and it’s pretty clear you can’t get it from the “mainstream” media. They just repeat their bs over and over and over and over and over ….. The blogs have become the info for the hardworking, honest folks just trying to live their lives honestly and expecting the same from government. (Well not this government.)

    And those pay cheques for the liberal friends. They certainly aren’t hurting are they?

    Interesting to read the employment record of Ms. Young. Interesting indeed. Independent fairness advisor? Hmm, I don’t think so, in my opinion.

    Keep up the good work Laila. We look forward to the truth.

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  3. Leah

    Anon 7:55…hasn’t your Mommy told you not to make threats on the internet, that no one is truly anonymous – and that one isn’t even veiled!

    You might sign your name “anonymous,” but you aren’t. In fact, any third string hacker could find you in a matter of minutes…right down to the house you live in.

    If you can’t handle truth, if the bright light of it hurts your eyes…then perhaps this site isn’t for you – but – threatening anyone for speaking it is not only childish, it’s beyond stupid. Grow up.

    Keep up the good work Laila and NVG…obviously, if this story got to them…there’s more hidden, and far worse.

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  4. Ole Nielson

    Wow, after reading through the documents it certainly seems that Partnerships BC enjoys a cozy relationship with the BC Liberals, rather than an arm’s length one.

    And after reading Ms. Young’s resume it is apparent that she has had a long involvement as a contract employee of the same government. Wouldn’t she want to tell the Libs what they want to hear in order to get future lucrative contracts?!

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    1. Laila

      Gary Collins was the one who was part and parcel to the creation of Partnerships BC, I posted a link to his speech in the very first sea to sky story, easily accessible under the ‘best of’ page above. All part of keeping it in the family, I have to say. The senior officials involved in the Ministry of Transportation have all been very cosy for the last ten years, if not longer, and there are many stories to be told about how they all work together -and who ultimately benefits from these relationships.

      As with many senior ministry officials, like Dan Doyle, they retire, thus hauling in that hefty pension, and within a very short time are hired back in a consultants capacity… which rakes in a very hefty fee as well – in essence, double dipping, which although frowned up at parties when eating chips, is completely acceptable in this definition!!! : )

      Like

    1. Laila

      I think Corky Evans would make a wonderful leader. I truly believe our province would be well served by this man. Interesting enough Rafe Mair has a good commentary on this- although I certainly do not agree when he says he would be comfortable supporting Dianne Watts( from what he can tell) Check it out http://rafeonline.com/2010/11/potential-new-ndp-leaders-ii/

      Corky does inspire great thoughts. He has fire to see the right thing done.

      Like

  5. "BillY"

    I, for one, shall be more than please when humanity has evolved to the point where “leaders” have been replaced with administrators whose function it is to maintain the infrastructures, but them I have always been a misunderstood visionary who sees no need for the status quo.

    Like

  6. North Van's Grumps

    Winter is almost here and for those who live in the city of Vancouver, and are homeless, help is near at hand…..in 2011/2012

    “A side-benefit of these enhancements to BC Place is that the City will now have a fully functional emergency shelter.”

    Don’t know quite what to do with that great gaping hole in the roof though.

    Source: http://www.bcpavco.com/pdf/capproj.pdf

    Page 3 Under the heading of Item 4 Costs and Benefits

    Like

  7. Ray

    Uh, Laila,don’t know if you’ve seen this or not,but that Tsakumis guy is walking the line of defamation now.This was sent to me this morning, http://alexgtsakumis.com/2010/11/15/breaking-news-basi-virk-prosecution-requests-meeting-with-defence/comment-page-1/#comment-9136b

    You have nothing here but facts,backed with more facts,have been published in many papers from the links I can find,and he’s trying to discredit you and make you look like an NDP kook! Why do you allow this verbal abuse to continue?

    He accuses you of being biased,but shit,anyone who reads his site knows he is has long been a freaking liberal friend,who dabbles with the BC cons too.Which is why it’s funny he says people with NDP bias have no credibility,but in the same vein he has Liberal bias too.Being a fed con also makes him no better than Harper,and he calls you and others biased. What a twit.

    Like

  8. anonymous

    you have long been verbal about your lack of support for the NDP under the current leadership and executive.he is grasping at straws. Your work speaks for itself,keep it up.success always begets haters.

    Like

  9. Laila

    Hi North Van! Kind of funny to think of the city using that for a homeless shelter and not being able to close the roof…lol. That entire project is a joke. For the price, we could have had an entirely new facility.

    Morning Ray, and yes, I have seen the latest from AGT, courtesy of several readers and colleagues. All I can is he is welcome to his opinion, and I refuse to lower myself to the same unprofessional name-calling and language.His venomous attack against anyone whose opinions differ from his,or those he doesnt agree with, is well known by pretty much everyone,so what else can I say? I have no time for the kind of nonsense he repeatedly partakes of, but thank you for your concern and support. Things are going very well for me,with many opportunities since breaking these stories, which indicates that my credibility is clearly not an issue for anyone but AGT.

    anonymous, glad to see you commenting, and thank you for your kind words.

    I’m working on a post for this afternoon/evening, so check back later on!

    Like

  10. North Van's Grumps

    A story in the Globe and Mail today, can’t remember if it was Justine Hunter or Gary Mason, both their columns were side by side on A1…. and then the reader was sent to page A3 without an indication as to what column was who’s, left or right, which just goes to make my point on what one of them was was writing about…… this.

    It seems that the first thing that one of the Premier contenders has promised he’ll do is cancel the 15% cut in personal income tax (but the good old Deputy Premier who is also the Finance Minister says NO CAN DO, its in the Spring Budget 2011) Second on his list would be to Cancel the Spring Budget (do you hear that Colin Hansen); third on his list was stopping the shuffle of the ministries staff, and on that note…. Dear Dave Crebo, we, the public realize that you told us that Jeff Knight was taking over your desk at Transportation and you have moved to Forestry, Mining Tourism….. make sure you leave a memo DON’T SHRED DOCUMENTS SENT BY THE PUBLIC.

    According to the old phone book directory for Transportation there are 24 divisions below the Minister
    http://dir.gov.bc.ca/gtds.cgi?Index=ByUnitHier&OrgCode=TRAN

    However, to get down to your old desk Mr. Crebo the public had to first go into the Minister’s Office > then down to Public Affairs Bureau > through the Communications Division > crawled past Transportation and Infrastructure Communications Office > and here’s Daaaaaaave Crebo….. was Dave Crebo.

    Can you just imagine all of hand wringing the ministers are going through because of the door name changing, business cards, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and
    MEMORIZING who the new faces are along with email addresses.

    Minister’s Office > Public Affairs Bureau > Communications Division > Forests, Mines and Land Communications Office > here’s Daaaaaaave Crebo…..

    What’s going to happen Mr. Crebo, do you think Mr. Knight will make room for you? Do you think all of your files will still be order or has Mr. Knight moved them to other desks, or heaven forbid!!!!!!! shredded them? already

    Like

  11. Pingback: Columns: P3 Projects And Public Accountability | Pitt Meadows Today – the Other Side of the News

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