A Freedom of Information request released yesterday by Translink after an extended delay, finally shows the details behind one of the contractors involved in providing services relating to the Mayors Council strategic plan and Transit tax plebiscite.
Where to start ?
How about with how long it took for this FOI to be released.
The initial FOI request was filed on January 9th, 2015. On February 23rd Translink advised they were using a 30 day extension to further consult with a third party and that a response would be given no later than April 8th, 2015. ( the interoffice memo between Translink staff about this release, indicating any highlighted areas are to be redacted is dated January 20th, 2015- which seems to imply that at that point, it was ready for release)
On April 8th a reminder was sent to the Information Access manager at Translink of their prior commitment to respond on that date. Yesterday – April 15th- the information requested was finally released with an apology for the delay,a week post-deadline
Earlier this year, Bob Mackin wrote a post on Translink rolling out the contracts:
On Jan. 2, Counterpoint Communications got a new year’s gift. Its “Business and Stakeholder Outreach” consulting contract was extended indefinitely by TransLink without a bid, because of tight timelines and Counterpoint’s “unique expertise.”
Said the notice of intent: “The Supplier has provided focused stakeholder engagement services to raise awareness of the Mayors’ Council vision, developed a strong understanding of the Mayors’ Plan and provided an important liaison between TransLink/Mayors’ Council and stakeholders.”
Mayors’ Council chair Richard Walton, who is also Mayor of North Vancouver District, was unable to answer about the budget for the contract when I contacted him.
The FOI on this contract is rather open-ended,with few concrete deliverable in place other than what is dictated in the Schedule A ( pg 8) and a proposal letter sent from Counterpoint to Translink VP Bob Paddon in June of 2014 ( Pg 9)
The timeframe for the original contract was June 2014 – December 2014 for $70,000 fees and &4,000 expenses.
An amendment to that contract was signed December 31st,2015 ( pg 15) extending the contract to July 31st 2015, for an additional $100,000 dollars.
No further changes to services were amended.
Also of note is section 17 which notes the following:
While not unusual, it brings to mind the many tweets of Counterpoint principal Bruce Rozenhart and Counterpoint senior consultant Bob Ransford, both of whom have been very involved in tweeting Yes side links and material on Twitter during the campaign period. I wondered if those tweets are part of the services provided in this contract, and sent an email asking for clarification and comment on this to Rozenhart.
As of the time of this posting, I have not received a reply, but I’ll post one if he does respond.
If this is any indicator of the kind of contracts being handed out by Translink, it’s alarming on many levels.
What exactly does it mean to ” stimulate/facilitate discussion and information exchange” on the Mayors Council strategic plan and referendum development?
How is this objective measured? What are the deliverables? Where is the concrete plan written into the contract to ensure the best value for money paid is achieved? Are promotional materials involved? Where is the list of stakeholders to be met?
What exactly is Translink paying for? Conversations? Meetings? Tweets? I really don’t know.
A look at Schedule B (pg10) gives us this:
“…Fees will be paid by Translink in the fixed amount of $74,000 regardless of the amount of time actually expended by the contractor to perform the services.”
Keep in mind, this was extended until July 2015 and for an additional $100,000.00.It’s all very open-ended and frankly, alarmingly vague – it makes me wonder if there are more contracts out there like this!
This is the kind of thing that drives taxpayers batty. We get fixed price contracts and we get the need for public relations and communications strategies. But $174,000.00 for a contract that has no measurable goal-posts in the contract and pays out regardless of how much time was actually spent on “stimulating and facilitating ” discussion and information exchange on the mayors transportation plan and goals?
Which begs the question: Which is the easier ride: Skytrain, or the gravy train?