PENTICTON - In an unusual move, Regional District board members approved a recommendation to sole-source a contract for the administration of its new South Okanagan Conservation Fund to the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program.
Conservation program manager Bryn White appeared before the board’s Environment and Infrastructure Committee yesterday, May 18 to explain and seek approval of the South Okanagan Conservation Fund’s draft agreement and terms of reference.
White was also seeking approval for the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program to be the administrator of the program for an amount not to exceed seven per cent of the annual amount requisitioned through the newly established Environmental Conservation Service Establishment bylaw, created late last year.
The South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program is a partnership of non-government, government and First Nations organizations, formed in 2000 with the purpose or working together to preserve biodiversity.
The fund is currently budgeted at $450,000, which would result in an administrative fee of up to $31,500.
Board members questioned the validity of awarding management of the fund to a sole-source contractor.
“I don’t think we have ever delegated the management of a fund as large as $450,000 to a single source contractor,” Area D director Tom Siddon told the board.
Chief administrative officer Bill Newell said regional district policy saw value in competition for such needs, but also noted there were circumstances where the number of possible proponents for the job were limited.
“In this case, the need is of such specific nature, that the knowledge and expertise of the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program, and let’s face it, have been the champion and advocate through development of the conservation fund, puts them in a position where they fall into that very narrow perspective of being the one party that could be effective,” he said, adding should the contract go to tender there may be other parties that would bid less, but staff didn’t see more value in such an option.
The agreement would be reviewed annually, Newell said, adding staff saw sole-sourcing to the conservation program as the best option available.
Penticton director Judy Sentes said she was comfortable checks and balances were in place.
“It makes sense to me, this is a very specialized operation, if you will, and I think the checks and balances are in place,” she said, moving the recommendation.
Siddon talked about other options available, including in-house management.
“This is not to be confused, by the press or others that it is awarding control of the entire fund to a single individual,” he said. "If we’re dealing just with management of the contract and the ceiling is seven per cent, and that’s clearly understood, then I agree with Director Sentes in getting on with this.”
He said the board had to be transparent about the arrangement.
West Bench director Michael Brydon said the conservation program were the only ones with a track record on conservation, asking why the board was debating this.
“I would say because the media are here and we want to do this right,” Siddon responded, adding he wanted the public to understand the board was responsibly managing taxpayers money.
The board agreed to staff’s recommendation to sole-source administration of the conservation fund to the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program.
The first call out for proposals for environmental projects is expected in September, with successful proponents to be notified next January.
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