The construction sector wants major reforms in public contracts

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The construction sector wants major reforms in public contracts

Coalition says there will be a sharp drop interest in public projects among contractors and construction professionals because calls for tenders are deficient.

Better contracting procedures and professional project management would save $14 billion in 10 years to the Quebec government, according to a coalition of project managers and builders. (File photo)

Quebec could save $14 billion over the next 10 years by cleaning up its procedures for awarding public contracts and, above all, by instituting professional and competent project management.

This is supported by a coalition made up of two major construction associations and two independent institutions, the Montreal section of the Project Management Institute (PMI-Montreal) and the Center d'expertise et de recherche in urban infrastructure (CERIU).

If the best practices in project management – we are talking about project management in work planning, cost control, human resources management, but also to involve stakeholders, such as certain partners, whether contractors, consulting engineers or project managers and better managed procurement – ​​are in place, risks or delays, everything will be better managed, explains Kateri Normandeau, president of PMI-Montréal in an interview with The Canadian Press.


The figure of 14 billion dollars is based on an international study by PMI Global, which shows that the implementation of good practices in project management leads to the optimization of financial resources by 10%. However, the 2022-2032 Quebec Infrastructure Plan provides for investments of 142.5 billion, hence the figure of 14 billion.

This amount is therefore very likely underestimated, since the same logic applies to public contracts from other levels of government.

The question of project management is at the heart of the coalition's demands: Clearly, one of the main issues that are raised by the industry is the lack of expertise among the work provider. This lack of expertise in project management influences the definition of the project, the process and then the call for proposals.

The coalition, whose other two members are the Association de la construction du Québec (ACQ) and the Corporation of General Contractors of Quebec (CEGQ), note a clear decline in interest in public projects among construction contractors and professionals, precisely because tenders are badly done.

A study carried out a year ago by the firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton shows that 72% of contractors and 82% of professionals (architects and engineers, in particular) reject public work providers because of the conditions that x27;they offer.

Despite repeated requests for improvements and countless political promises to this effect, the problems of long, cumbersome and complex processes and those of payment delays persist.

The effervescence of the construction industry means that contractors and professionals can afford to choose their projects, abandoning those which are badly put together. (File photo)

Since the construction market is booming and the labor shortage is limiting their ability to adapt to often non-standard public contracts, contractors and professionals can afford to choose, underlines Ms. Normandeau. If there is a contractual heaviness, payment deadlines, and if we can choose at the same time another proposal where there is not this heaviness or these deadlines, there will be no too much hesitation: they are business people, they will make business decisions.

I have heard some firms say that they only choose to do business with private companies, that it is a choice that they have made in the way they operate, because public projects are not attractive enough. It becomes strategic choices, she adds.

“Attractiveness, for a contract, can be summed up in two key factors: the delivery method must be adapted to the type of project and subject to good project management. »

— Kateri Normandeau, President of PMI-Montréal

The coalition is asking Quebec to establish better conditions for access to public markets and to develop a center of excellence in project management with trained or certified people.

Quebec is particularly targeted, since the study cited above places the Société québécoise des infrastructures, the health network and the education network respectively in second, third and fourth place when it comes to determining the sectors which experienced the worst declines in interest from entrepreneurs and professionals between 2016 and 2021.

However, it is the municipalities that occupy the first rank of this not very glorious list, which tends to give reason to those who speak of the lack of competence of project managers. In addition to large cities, most small municipalities struggle to offer this expertise.

We also note that at the very bottom of this ranking are the government and federal departments , suggesting that Ottawa has best practices.

The Ministère des Transports du Québec also ranks well, which suggests that many contracts that emanate from it are relatively standardized and that several entrepreneurs have acquired habitual reflexes for these projects.

What could change in Quebec after so many years of unfulfilled promises? The coalition relies on signals from Quebec: Minister Julien, responsible for infrastructure, really verbalized at the last CEGQ congress that he wants to improve project management practices, underlines the president of PMI-Montreal.< /p>

The ball, according to the coalition, is therefore in the court of Minister Julien and his government.

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