A man who ran the North Slave’s Reid Lake campground for the past three summers questioned the NWT government’s procurement process after the contract was awarded to another business.
Cameron Buddo said his company won the contract to manage Reid Lake Territorial Park in 2018. He said the contract was extended twice – the maximum number of renewals – and he had received “glowing feedback,” with no noted shortcomings, while earning more qualifications.
Despite that, Buddo said, this year’s contract to manage the park was awarded to another company. He described “having a very hard time understanding” why he received failing grades in several areas during the evaluation of his proposal. According to Buddo, his proposal was awarded 40 percent for staff qualifications and experience, 45 percent for community engagement, and 50 percent for its operational plan.
“I have logged more hours in the park than any other individual in the territory and am almost certain I have greater qualifications than the successful proponent, and likely most other operators in the territory,” Buddo wrote in a Facebook post.
By email to Cabin Radio, Buddo said he was asked to remain at the park for a two-week extension in September last year. Under his management, he said, Reid Lake was rated the number-one territorial park on TripAdvisor and Google.
On Facebook, some residents responding to Buddo’s post expressed disappointment at his departure. He provided references from other campers who spoke highly of his park management.
Buddo said he had no way to verify, challenge or appeal the decision not to award his company the park contract. To him, the procurement process lacks checks and balances, openness and transparency.
Buddo said he had requested an independent review of the decision but had yet to hear back. He said he had been refused permission to see the names of members of the review committee – to identify any potential conflicts of interest – and a breakdown of the winning proponent’s scores.
“It’s frustrating as there is no appeals process and there is no way to obtain any meaningful substantiation, as they will not release any information pertaining to the other proponent’s bid,” he said in an email.
“It’s hard to determine if transparency, accountability and openness in government is occurring when you can’t access any of the pertinent information needed in order to do so.”
A spokesperson for the GNWT’s procurement division said bidders can submit complaints regarding procurement through the formal vendor complaint process. If they are unsatisfied with the results of the complaint review, they can “take whatever legal action they deem appropriate,” the spokesperson said.
Proponents can request a debriefing with a member of the evaluation committee and a procurement staff member. That meeting can illuminate “areas where they could improve their proposals in the future,” the spokesperson said by email.
They added the process is overseen by a staff member who “ensures proposals are evaluated fairly, consistently, and in line with policies, procedures and best practices” – but detailed scores are not disclosed to others as they are commercially sensitive.
Reid Lake Territorial Park, located off the Ingraham Trail north of Yellowknife, has 65 sites capable of accommodating RVs and trailers alongside 11 tent sites with pads.
Individuals overseeing campgrounds in the territory are responsible for general operation, cleaning, minor maintenance and repairs, and ensuring that guests have a safe and enjoyable stay.
An independent review of the territory’s broader procurement process, which has been criticized for failing to adequately support northern businesses, is currently under way.