GN, NTI in stand-off over contracting policy

Sides can’t agree on how appeals board should work.



IQALUIT — The territorial government and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. are butting heads over a policy to help Inuit-owned businesses compete for government contracts.

They’re disagreeing about how to set up a board to hear appeals on the awarding of government contracts.

The GN’s contracting policy, dubbed Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti, or NNI, gives Inuit-owned firms a competitive advantage when bidding on government contracts.

But the bickering between the GN and NTI means there’s no system in place for a firm to appeal the way a contract was awarded.

“The NNI policy has been in the works for a while now and it’s going well. But certainly, the appeals process is the area we are still concerned about,” said Paul Quassa, NTI’s president.

The policy was launched in March 2000. In August of that year, NTI and the territorial government sat down to establish an appeals board and found they couldn’t agree on how it would work.

NTI says the GN is being too strict on what kind of appeals can be made. The GN puts the blame on NTI, saying the organization is refusing to help set up the board.

GN too strict

Quassa said the government will only hear appeals that deal with two matters: whether the contractor’s status as a northern, Inuit or local firm was properly determined, and whether the bid adjustment was calculated correctly. Under the NNI policy, Inuit-owned and Nunavut-based businesses are given an advantage by having their bids adjusted so they’re more competitive with outside firms.

“We really need to get the appeals board off the ground since there are appeals coming forward.”

— Minister Manitok Thompson

The GN’s idea for the board doesn’t work for NTI.

“We feel the Public Works’ interpretation of the appeals board is too narrow,” Quassa said.

He said it isn’t fair because firms may want to make appeals on a range of issues.

“For example, let’s say an Inuit firm doesn’t win a bid and goes to the appeals process saying ‘Look, this government of Nunavut is not getting us to participate in the economic development of Nunavut as the Article 24 states.’ Now according to the current interpretation of the appeals board, that Inuit firm can’t argue on that basis,” Quassa said.

That doesn’t sit well with NTI, whose mandate it is to ensure the Inuit rights outlined in the land-claim agreement are upheld.

“These are obligations that this government has to live up to,” Quassa stressed.

Without a way to make appeals, some of those rights aren’t being met, he said.

GN blames NTI

The disagreement over the appeals board came to light last month at the legislative assembly session in Cambridge Bay.

Manitok Thompson, minister of public works, admitted things aren’t going well. Thompson’s department is responsible for the awarding of government contracts.

Thompson said NTI had been holding up the process of creating an the appeals board.

“None of those have been going forward because of the fact that NTI has not participated well with this process,” Thompson said on May 28.

“We really need to get the appeals board off the ground since there are appeals coming forward.”

Because of the ongoing disagreement, both sides have turned to another source for help.

The Department of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs will now mediate between NTI and Public Works.

Neither Quassa nor Thompson were sure how long it would be before the board will be operating.

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