Group speaks out against sole-sourced $26M contract to PwC as Ford government defends it

By Richard Southern

The group Democracy Watch is speaking out against the latest sole-sourced contract awarded by the Ford government — this time, to an international accounting firm — saying, “There is no reason except an emergency for sole-sourced contracting.”

CityNews reported Wednesday the provincial government gave a sole-sourced deal to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to digitize the tribunal system for the Landlord Tenant Board at a cost that has swelled to more than $26 million. It follows news in January of a sole-sourced contract being awarded to office supply company Staples to house nine ServiceOntario outlets.

“The rules need to be strengthened to remove these loopholes,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“The best way to do it would be essentially to require the government to go to the auditor general and actually get approval for sole-sourced contracting.”

The group suggested that the rules be strengthened to have the auditor general look at each proposed deal to decide if it should be sole-sourced or put to open tender.

Conacher added that he feels such deals are “a recipe for waste and corruption.”

Government House Leader Paul Calandra — who is also Ontario’s minister of legislative affairs, as well as municipal affairs and housing — defended the move Thursday, telling CityNews, “There’s obviously a lot of processes when it comes to any contract that has been awarded.”

When asked if he was comfortable with such contracts, Calandra said, “I sit on [the] Treasury Board, and I can assure you that there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into any contract before it is granted by the Province of Ontario.”

The government told CityNews on Wednesday that the PwC deal was “conducted in line with the appropriate public service procurement directive.”

But sources say ministry and tribunals staff have been unhappy with the work provided and that costs have grown dramatically due to change orders and add-on contracts. 

“I think it’s pretty clear that this government is too often using sole-sources contracts,” NDP Leader Marit Stiles told reporters on Thursday.

“We should be giving every business an opportunity to bid, and they should be open bids.”

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