One post in a series to understand and evaluate the procurement process followed for PayIt. This post is a simple copy/paste from a thread of tweets – this is an archive post to cover tweets from April 9 to May 20, 2022. *process note: when I made this transfer from twitter to support, a whole bunch of tweets were duplicated with the copy/paste method. I read and think I fixed it, but if some are out of order/deleted, that’s my mistake and I have an archive.
it’s been a year since PayIt went to (and was approved by) Toronto City Council (May 5, 2021). I’m reviewing the council session today. the item starts at 1:08:24. Board motions were passed to increase accountability of the agreement (and others) in the future: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdPUpqOrGtE&t=4107s
starts with Cllr. Carroll. it establishes, by asking the general manager, that it is the role of the board, in all supplies and purchases, to advise and monitor the awarding of contracts that come on the board’s agenda. The city manager agrees – yes, that’s their role.
Next is something that was part of the tone of the previous Executive Committee meeting on PayIt, BIG DEAL. Carroll seeks, through the city manager, to separate the idea that council can ask questions about the procurement process, that they can criticize it, without inherently attacking staff
will stop there for today. It is in this tension, in the cultural norms that define board-staff relations, that the problem with public technology procurement lies. what this culture is from city to city/government level to government level deserves attention. public administration ethics in practice.
in March 2021, I contacted the Toronto Ombudsman to file a complaint about PayIt. I had never filed a complaint with them before, so this opened the door to a lot of information about the four Toronto Accountability Offices that I will share in future posts. https://ombudsmantoronto.ca
Last week I was informed that my complaint had been forwarded to the Auditor General of Toronto for review. https://www.torontoauditor.ca/
moving it to AG has two good elements. First, the transaction is valued at tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars being misappropriated from Toronto residents. Good for auditors to consider financial justification/benefits to the City defined by contract negotiation
second, they oversee the Toronto Public Service Regulations, which create a framework to help hold staff accountable for their actions in relation to the management of public property. https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/accountability-operations-customer-service/city-administration/toronto-public-service-by-law/
Finally, Tied/Untied: The legality of the city entering into business with PayIt while being a customer still baffles me, from a good governance perspective.
all this also makes me wade into the municipal code. “The Toronto Municipal Code is a compilation of bylaws organized by subject. Each chapter is a regulation. For example, Chapter 591 — Noise; or, Chapter 447 — Fences. https://toronto.ca/legdocs/bylaws/lawmcode.htm
chapter 3 is about accountability officers: https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/municode/1184_003.pdf
update on PayIt FOI #1 (scope of which is below) – City is extending it for 60 days.
it’s about understanding what processes exist/how they were followed when using public IT assets outside of a contract.
this access to information request reminds me of the information and recordkeeping architectures that would support a much more open government. there is a ton to do here and no incentive inside.
back in creating the PayIt timeline this morning. here’s a cross between PayIt and the world of COVID Alert apps: if some government decisions about technology tenders and implementation are legal (it’s a if), where are they made legal? what adjustments are needed, if any, for the future?
one of the many modes of intervention for government accountability regarding technology is to maintain government activity against *existing* law. here we can find weaknesses and consider adjustments. the advantage and efficiency here is to build on and use pre-existing institutions of accountability.
the gap that may need to be filled here is not so much new policies or laws, but how to shape and integrate new harms into the construction of old accountability mechanisms and practices.
received an email today regarding FOI #2 for PayIt, the one for documentation of how the Partnerships Office implemented the City’s Unsolicited Proposals Policy. to possibly get PayIt’s unsolicited proposal, it will take up to 60 days for PayIt to accept the post (third-party notification process)
will probably remove it from the FOI application and file it separately. I had emailed a while ago asking for this from the Partnerships Office, which remained silent, probably because of this process.
removed the unsolicited PayIt proposal from FOI#2. will file a separate new application, which will be FOI#4.
if I stop and think about it, it’s not great that the city waited so long to potentially add a 60-day window to this access to information process. if they had asked me that at the beginning, I think 60 days would have already passed. you have to go back and look. lesson learned, could have pointed that out too.
received FOI #2 results now. one that requested documentation of how the City followed its unsolicited proposal policy to decide that PayIt didn’t have to go through a standard tender. just left a message for City because if it’s not a miscommunication/partial file, I don’t know what.
this is what I asked:
replay policy for the nth time. trying to understand how PayIt went from an unsolicited proposal to a sole source recommendation when policy states that unsolicited proposals must be submitted to the board for approval of the dispute if there is no standard supply ? totally missed this. https://www.toronto.ca/business-economy/doing-business-with-the-city/unsolicited-quotations-for-proposals-policy/#:~:text=An%20unsolicited%20quotation%20or%20proposal, readily%20available%20from%20other%20sources
Today I learned that the staff opted out of following part of the Unsolicited Proposals Policy when recommending PayIt as a sole source. the policy states that all unsolicited proposals, if viable, go to the Swiss Challenge. staff justification was pandemic. I wonder if they told the councilors.
I’m going to re-read the first staff report, but if they didn’t tell the advisors, how would the advisors know? interesting questions of public administration emerge at this stage. What can we do as a public if the public service does not follow the policy?
based on the records returned so far, staff have deviated from the guidelines of the Unsolicited Proposals Policy. asked the clerk’s office to verify the results returned via FOI which should have provided documentation explaining how and why they decided to do so.
kicking in the accountability/redress mechanisms for public policy implementation, using this procurement as an example, is a bit of a bad red flag in terms of what it might mean for the genre as a whole together.
review the staff report. no explicit mention by staff that they are deviating from the policy on unsolicited proposals by recommending a sole-source. so a question here is, when staff deviate from the procurement policy, should they inform the board?https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2020/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-148995 .pdf
wait for questions sent to the clerk regarding: FOI #2 to understand how many staff have deviated from policy. 3 key checks on unsolicited proposals are 1) process to verify it shouldn’t go to std procurement 2) evaluation team review then 3) ask board regarding Swiss challenge (no source unique)
as of now we know that the third check was skipped as the staff searched for sole sourcing. it is not known what happened with the first two. the records originally returned for FOI #2 did not describe how 1 or 2 were handled by staff, therefore I am seeking clarification/asking if any records were missed.
final note today: lobbying on this file began in January 2019. an unsolicited proposal was submitted on August 30, 2019. lobbying was mainly with staff, minimal with elected officials. this makes us wonder how the unsolicited proposal was shaped before it was submitted.
It’s been five working days today since the Clerk’s Office asked the Partnerships Office if they had missed any files in the results they provided for FOI#2. these results relate to 1) how they decided PayIt didn’t have to go through standard procurement and 2) the evaluation process to evaluate the proposal
no filings were returned containing information on these two issues, except for a note that staff expected the process to take two weeks after receiving the unsolicited proposal.
reminder that these are the criteria staff should use to make the decision not to use PayIt for standard provisioning. the policy is clear: “Unsolicited quotes or proposals shall not be allowed to circumvent the City’s procurement process” https://www.toronto.ca/business-economy/doing-business-with-the- city/unsolicited-quotations-for -proposals-policy/#:~:text=An %20unsolicited%20or%20proposal%20 readily%20available%20from%20other%20sources
staff deviated from policy by recommending sole sourcing. had to FOI to get Gartner “market valuation” (was audacious to call it that, seeing it) which was used as part of the rationale for the decision. now seeking FOI to understand what influenced the decision. not everything is great, in terms of process
It’s been ten working days today since the Registrar’s Office asked the Partnerships Office if they had missed any files in the results they provided for FOI#2. these results relate to 1) how they decided PayIt didn’t have to go through standard procurement and 2) the evaluation process to evaluate the proposal