ACEC-SK Response to Engineering Services as Part of SUMAdvantage Affinity Program

ACEC-SK has long recognized the unique challenges faced by towns and cities, particularly the smaller municipalities, when faced with commissioning an engineering firm to provide professional services.  Our members’ main goal has always been to overcome these challenges so that SUMA members receive the appropriate engineering services for their infrastructure and other community projects.

ACEC-SK understands that often municipalities do not have the technical expertise at either the staff or the council level to make informed decisions about their professional service needs.  Over the years our association has worked to help SUMA members with this challenge, so we understand SUMA’s desire to explore a new opportunity to assist its members procure engineering services. 

The new opportunity was SUMA’s recent decision to include engineering procurement as part of its SUMAdvantage program. In an ACEC-SK/SUMA meeting, SUMA explained that the model is based on an Australian engineering procurement program which has enjoyed some success there, and that repurposing it to the Saskatchewan market was seen as a viable solution to local procurement challenges.  However, after learning more detail about how this program will operate locally, it is ACEC-SK’s opinion that it will not improve the engineering procurement process.  The original problem was a lack of technical expertise to review the engineering submissions, and this new program does not change this because as far as ACEC-SK is aware, no technical resources are being introduced to help in that decision-making process going forward.  The success enjoyed in Australia with this program is based squarely on the fact that engineering professionals are embedded into Australian municipalities’ decision-making teams, and they use evaluations of the services of the engineering firms being considered in their decision-making process.

ACEC-SK leadership considered multiple ways to communicate its concerns about this program before releasing a letter expressing these concerns to the SUMA board and administration. A number of questions remain about the program details, and the potential unintended consequences to municipalities that this delivery model may bring.  Engineering services have to be the right fit for municipal clients, and not having experts available to determine this will not solve the original problem, nor provide SUMA members the advice and guidance they need.   ACEC-SK’s number one priority remains that municipalities in our province get the help they deserve, all the while recognizing the wide divide between perennially limited municipal budgets and huge infrastructure investment needs.

ACEC-SK will continue to engage with its members and SUMA representatives as this issue evolves.

Sept 17, 2019

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