[HALIFAX, NS] — Nova Scotia Business Inc.’s president says his agency did not break it its procurement policy by issuing an untendered contract worth $303,000 for the Ships Start Here campaign.
Stephen Lund told reporters on Wednesday that NSBI operated above board in issuing the contract to MT&L, a Halifax-based advertising firm, without offering other firms the opportunity to bid.
“Not at all,” he said. “We followed the procurement policy, which allowed us in this case to do that. We don’t do that very often, so we’re very careful when we do do it.”
According to NSBI, the Ships Start Here partnership — composed of government, private-sector and labour leaders — agreed at their inaugural meeting on March 11, 2011, to launch an advertising campaign.
NSBI invoked a clause that allows them to bypass normal procurement policies in the event of an “unforeseeable situation of urgency or emergency.” But if the service costs more than $100,000, NSBI needs to first obtain approval from the province’s Treasury Board.
That wasn’t the case with the MT&L contract, explained NSBI vice-president Lisa Bugden, because she expected the ad firm’s work — “digital engagement” through the creation of a website — would cost less.
When MT&L billed NSBI for $105,000 on March 31, Bugden said NSBI sought approval from the province’s Treasury Board.
The NDP were put on the defensive Wednesday after opposition parties attempted to bring Paul Black, Premier Darrell Dexter’s policy director, before the legislature’s public accounts committee to explain the contracts.
The opposition charged Black, who worked for MT&L, and the Premier’s Office attempted to circumvent normal procurement procedures to fast-track the advertising campaign.
Dexter said Black had nothing to do with the campaign.
“We were of course kept informed throughout that,” Dexter said. “But the work that was done was done by Nova Scotia Business Inc.”