Arviat wants to oversee contracting on its own



IQALUIT — The Nunavut Housing Corp. should let municipalities and local housing authorities choose and supervise the contractors who are to build 100 social housing units in Nunavut this year, say officials with the Hamlet of Arviat.

“Where is community empowerment going in Nunavut?” Arviat’s SAO, Darren Flynn, asked in a press release last week. “This is a huge step backward.”

The Hamlet of Arviat issued the press release last week to protest the Nunavut Housing Corp.’s decision to handle the tendering process by itself.

In the past, Arviat’s municipal government has administered local construction contracts. The housing corporation cited a number of reasons for the decision, including a lack of staff, the fact that its budget had not been approved in the legislature when the tender call was made.

They also say that having the housing corporation handle the contracting process ensures that the the territorial government’s new incentive policy for Inuit and Nunavut businesses, Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti — or NNI — will apply to the work.

But the Hamlet of Arviat is worried that not as many Arviat residents may be employed in the construction of the six social housing units slated for Arviat, because the NNI only calls for 30 per cent Inuit employment, while the hamlet government’s contracting rules call for 80 per cent.

“This is not a way to shut out Nunavut companies or out-of town companies. What this is, is the community trying to make sure that local employment benefits are maximized regardless of who the contractor is,” Flynn said

“If you’ve got a contract that closes today at 3 o’clock with a 30-per-cent local labour and Inuit content provision, if a contractor comes in and exceeds that bully for them, but there’s no incentive above and beyond the 30 per cent.” In fact, the NNI policy includes cash bonuses for companies that hire more than 30 per cent minimum.

The hamlet wants what they call a “full project authority agreement,” or FPA — an agreement between the housing corporation and the municipality that would allow hamlet officials to set tendering requirements, oversee contract bids, select the lowest bidder, supervise the execution of the contract, and approve or deny any variations in costs.

But the Housing Corp. decided against handing that authority over this year.

“I know the hamlet is indicating we are stepping away from community empowerment. That is not our intent,” said Pam Hine, the president of the NHC. “That was a decision we made for this project alone.”

She said she thinks that it would be unfair to the municipalities to give them the responsibility for administering contracts without providing them training in the NNI. She also says that the housing corporation isn’t fully staffed yet and doesn’t have the capacity to train hamlet staff.

“Also, we’re constructing units in every community in Nunavut, which is a fairly big project. I know from a community-specific point of view they’re only looking at two or three duplexes, but from an overall perspective we have to have our regional controls in order to make sure we’re in budget,” Hine said.

However, last month, during debate in the Nunavut legislature over the line item for Nunavut’s 100 new social housing units, Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo said that in the past, communities in the Baffin have managed larger projects than the $15 million which the housing corporation plans to spend across Nunavut.

“Capacity is not an issue. I think we’re looking at about $900,000 for Arviat, which would make it one of the smaller projects we’ve handled,” Flynn said.

Flynn said having the decisions made in the community makes more sense than having the housing corporation oversee the contract.

“Let’s say the contractor comes to us and says there needs to be a change order on something (a change in the price of the contract) — instead of that having to be a long, drawn-out process, we can make the decision on the spot,” Flynn said.

He said that over the past three years, Arviat has brought in all of the projects it has administered either on budget or under budget.

With the closing date of the tender call falling on Friday May 19, Flynn acknowledged that Arviat’s protest is too late to change anything this year.

But he said the hamlet hoped it would spark a public debate over the decision.

Hine said Tuesday that the housing corporation is offering the job of supervising the construction to the municipality, and that Arviat would then be able to get an administrative fee.

But Flynn said the fee for administering the contract is small and does not represent a large source of revenue for the hamlet.

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