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TNRD alters procurement policy

The new policy requires staff to follow a documented process and that sole source spending will require more rigour
TNRD boardroom

A new Thompson-Nicola Regional District procurement policy will distribute power over spending decisions, create a paper trail and increase oversight over sole-source contracting.

This week, the TNRD’s policy review committee got a look at new policy that has been more than two years in the making.

TNRD chief administrative officer Scott Hildebrand told the committee on Wednesday (Sept. 21) that procurement was one of the first things he spoke about with former interim CAO Randy Diehl when Hildebrand joined the regional district and that he is proud of the new policy.

TNRD general manager of corporate and legislative services Deanna Campbell described the new policy as a “fairly significant overhaul.”

One significant procedural shift is the addition of purchasing authorization limits for general managers, managers and supervisors. The new policy will grant authority for supervisors and executive assistants to authorize spending up to $25,000, managers up to $50,000, general managers up to $100,000 and the CAO or chief financial officer up to $250,000. Anything totalling $250,000 or more would require board approval.

Campbell explained managers and supervisors previously had no delegated spending authorities and general managers had up to $25,000 maximum. In the past, Campbell said, “almost everything” went to the CAO.

Kamloops This Week previously reported on spending concerns raised at the regional district under former CAO Sukh Gill, including questions raised about a janitorial contract and preferred dining choices. Gill departed the regional district suddenly in February 2020 with a taxpayer-funded settlement valued at about $520,000 and a legal agreement to call his departure a “retirement.”

A janitorial company, Gentle Janitorial, contracted to clean the TNRD Building downtown for nearly 20 years did not go through a typical procurement process. In addition, Nandi’s Flavours of India was a repeat caterer for TNRD events.

An independent forensic audit was subsequently launched by the regional district and conducted by BDO Canada. A redacted report released to the public stated: “Conflicts of interest are apparent in [Gill’s] dealings with TNRD vendors, including accepting personal benefits from vendors.”

The report said Gill accepted invitations to a TNRD contractor’s vacation residence on at least two occasions and Gill’s relative appears to have been hired by a vendor around the time of a contract renewal.

The audit report also noted a $6,195 attic insulation upgrade from a vendor in 2010, despite the TNRD Building having no attic space.

Another example detailed a self-contracted employee hired by the TNRD on a contractual basis to assist with tasks such as changing filters, building renovations and more. The person, who was not identified, was granted a TNRD corporate cellphone. The audit report noted one individual advised BDO Canada the contractor did home renovations on Gill’s home, including witnessing the person using TNRD vehicles for transporting supplies to work on Gill’s home.

On Wednesday, Campbell said the new policy also requires staff to follow a documented process and that sole source spending will require more rigour. Concerns about procurement were apparently raised in 2019 by the TNRD’s audit committee, a report on the policy to the committee notes. Campbell told KTW concerns at the time included sole source justifications and a lack of documentation, as well as contract practices.

Audit committee chair and Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine told KTW: “We had a report from former staff that we should look at that and, in fact, that was done I believe when Randy Diehl came in … We had no clear evidence or anything like that, just what we received indirectly from a former employee that we should look into the procurement policy, so we said ‘Yep …’”

Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian was also on the TNRD audit committee at that time.

TNRD directors weighed in on the new procurement policy, suggesting that documentation on sole-source spending be forwarded to the CAO so it had at least two sets of eyes.

“This is a huge improvement over what we had previously,” Merritt Mayor Linda Brown said.

TNRD Area P director Mel Rothenburger said the board also recently received a report on TNRD cheques, which he said will provide a “big piece of accountability.” The TNRD has also listed quarterly director and management total expenses on its website, in addition to cheques.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend the draft policy for final approval from the board.

Read the draft procurement policy online here: