Dear MLA Furstenau:
Thank you for your letter of February 6, 2019, addressed to the Honourable Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizen Services, regarding the outcome of the recent WorkBC Employment Services procurement process. As WorkBC falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, I am pleased to respond on behalf of my colleague and I apologize for the lengthy delay in doing so.
I appreciate the time you’ve taken to enquire about this contract process.
First, I want you to know that our government is committed to the procurement of goods, services and construction based on the principles of fair and open public-sector procurement. We value competition, demand aggregation, value for money, transparency and accountability. Ministries are accountable for the results of their procurement decisions and the appropriateness of the processes followed. When concerns are brought to government’s attention, we take them seriously.
With respect to your concerns about the procurement policy, I want to assure you that the WorkBC Employment Services procurement process was conducted in accordance with the provincial government’s applicable legislation and with core policy. The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (SDPR) followed all current government procurement rules to ensure an open and fair tendering process. The Procurement Services Branch of the Ministry of Citizens’ Services supported and monitored the process, and the Ministry of Attorney General’s legal representatives oversaw the process.
The WorkBC Employment Services Request for Qualifications advertised on BC Bid was open to all interested parties, including current contractors. Proposals from not-for-profit agencies were evaluated against the same criteria as those received from any other proponents.
In your letter, you noted Maximus’ ownership. An organization’s ownership structure, or country of incorporation, was not a factor in the evaluation of proposals. Through the procurement process, all service providers were required to demonstrate their knowledge of the communities, their development of community level partnerships, and their understanding of a service delivery model that would be suitable for the community.
Respondents were evaluated on their experience in creating and maintaining positive community connections and access to local community resources. Further, respondents were asked to provide examples of their experience in establishing a community presence and connections with local community groups and organizations. Respondents were also asked to provide evidence of how such local connections were leveraged to achieve employment outcomes for citizens.
The service providers’ ability to deliver quality employment services tailored to local community needs to provide effective client service was an important criterion evaluated. Successful service providers have experience working in the current program, including services, policies, and systems that will support them in the new contract.
It’s a priority for SDPR to ensure WorkBC Employment Services contractor staff reflect the diversity of their communities and our province. The procurement of new employment contracts was aligned with government’s Social Impact Purchasing Guidelines as WorkBC contractors are required to have staff recruitment practices that reflect the diversity of the community in which the they operate.
In your letter, you also raise concerns about layoffs in local communities. I want you to know that SDPR recognizes that current WorkBC centre staff bring specific skills and experience. We anticipate that most staff will find an opportunity with the new local WorkBC service provider. As well, service provider staff hired or transferred to a new WorkBC contract will be reasonably compensated because of the contractual requirements with us. The contract requires that all employees are paid at a minimum the median Prevailing Wage rate as set by the federal Job Bank website (https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/wagereport/location/geo9219).
The provincial government understands that WorkBC is an important part of delivering services to British Columbians in need. It’s a top priority for the Province to ensure people have access to programming that can help them achieve sustainable employment. We have started working with WorkBC service providers to understand their challenges and to find opportunities for collaboration and improvements. SDPR recently held a call with service providers and contractors to discuss their concerns and clarify any details, and over the coming months, we will be meeting with service providers again to continue building relationships with them, so we can best serve our mutual clients.
I would like to assure you that the new contracts will ensure that WorkBC Employment Services are meeting the needs of our current and future labour market and supporting all British Columbians to find and keep jobs.
For more information about WorkBC Employment Services, please view the official BC government news release at https://news.gov.bc.ca/18938, where you will also find a factsheet about how government is improving services at WorkBC and a backgrounder on how WorkBC services are changing to better meet people’s needs. To provide further clarity, I’ve also attached the factsheet for you.
Thank you again for taking the time to write. I appreciate you bringing your concerns to my attention. Please let me know if you’d like to meet and discuss this matter further as I’d be happy to do so.
Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction
cc: Honourable Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizen Services