Over the next four months the territorial government is launching an independent review of its procurement process.
In a press conference Wednesday morning, Caroline Wawzonek, minister of finance, says this is due as the procedure hasn’t been substantially updated since 2010.
The review will involve elected leaders, the business community, stakeholders, residents as well as Indigenous governments and organizations.
Wawzonek says this is another reason the review is urgent.
“We can’t afford to have disputes like that,” she says.
When asked if she thinks there’s support for Indigenous governments to directly negotiate procurement for projects on their land, she said the review will find out.
“There’s a lot of interest in what this review might lead to, and a lot of interest in what that might mean for indigenous governments,” she says.
When asked what she’s heard from Indigenous businesses about directly negotiating procurement projects, Wawzonek says there’s likely a desire for this, but wouldn’t go into detail.
“I’m being intentionally a bit vague about what the outcomes or solutions might be, because I really would like those impacted to think through innovative solutions without feeling constrained by what the government is already assuming,” she explains.
There are three people on the review panel including Leslie Anderson, a public procurement expert.
Anderson also spoke at the press conference and says the panel has three key areas of focus.
The first is to understand how the policies in place are working. The second, to consider what is possible and desirable with respect to the use of procurement policy. And the third to provide recommendations to the GNWT to improve procurement.
“We know that the government has created this independent panel to ensure that the process, and the advice that we provide are outside of any kind of political influence, and also to provide some fresh eyes,” she says.
The other members of the panel include Peter Vician, the NWT-based facilitator, and Darrell Beaulieu, president and CEO of Denendeh Investments Incorporated and spokesperson for the NWT Indigenous Leaders Economic Coalition.
There is also added incentive with the COVID-19 pandemic putting economic recovery front and centre.
“While the need for this review was identified before most of us even became aware of COVID-19,” Wawzonek explains, “I think it is safe to say that the circumstances surrounding the current global pandemic have heightened the importance of this review.”
The review will be completed through interviews, written submissions, engagement opportunities and online surveys, a GNWT press release reads.
Recommendations are expected to be delivered to the GNWT this summer.