Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services followed closely the work of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and welcomes its final report and recommendations on government contracting.
The minister was pleased to note that the report recognizes much progress has been made by the government to improve the contracting process. At the same time, this government is committed to taking further steps to enhance the openness and accessibility of the federal procurement process for all Canadian businesses.
We rely heavily on views expressed at the committee and on the committee's interim report while developing the request for proposals for the new electronic tendering system. This new system will be launched June 1, 1997. It is a joint federal-provincial initiative that will give Canadian firms cheaper, more user friendly, single window access to information on government business opportunities.
With regard to the matter of sole source contracting, the Department of Public Works and Government Services is sensitive to the concerns of the committee. However, there are cases when the government can turn to only one supplier. Reasons for this include: extreme urgency; exclusive rights, such as copyright and patent; the need for systems to be compatible; or the need to obtain replacement parts from the original manufacturer. The competitive approach is always preferred.
The Department of Public Works and Government Services has dramatically reduced its reliance on sole source contracting from 47 per cent of the value of contracts in 1992-93 to 26 per cent today. One of the ways we have achieved this is through the use of advanced contract award notices or ACANs. When the department publishes an ACAN on the open bidding service and in the "Government Business Opportunities" publication, any supplier that feels qualified to meet the requirement can challenge the sole source award. When the supplier is successful in demonstrating its capability, the requirement is completed.
To be clear, when the non-competitive approach is used, it must be for valid and compelling reasons. Otherwise the requirement is tendered competitively.
I hope that helps the hon. member.