Now that the facts are known, it is pretty clear that the Toronto Sun can’t take credit for the TDSB cancelling a cell phone Request For Proposal (RFP). It is also pretty clear that the government was wrong when it insinuated that the TDSB only cancelled a cell phone RFP once it was asked about it by media.
It is pretty clear that both the Toronto Sun and the government were wrong to suggest that the TDSB would have paid more than $5 million for cell phones if it had continued with the cell phone RFP process. The Ministry in particular would have known that is a ridiculous assertion.
It is also pretty clear that the TDSB has been reviewing its RFPs both as a matter of good practice and due to its budget situation. The TDSB will continue to follow the government’s advice and keep a close watch on outstanding and new RFPs.
It is one thing for the Toronto Sun to play around with the facts and engage in “gotcha” journalism. It is another thing for the government to do so — without fact checking first. This is yet another example of the government unfairly targeting the TDSB and Toronto.
We would have been happy to have shared this information with the Minister or her staff had they reached out to us prior to issuing a statement based on a single media report. We’re confident that we could have addressed any of her concerns had that happened.
As all facts are known, it is clear that the real story before us is not a cancelled cell phone RFP. The real story continues to be that many, many school boards, including the TDSB, are now facing record budget cuts due to Ministry funding reductions. The TDSB’s budget shortfall is $67.8 million – of which $42.1 million is due to the Ministry’s funding reductions. Other school boards face budget shortfalls that are proportional to that of the TDSB’s.
Unfortunately, the lay-off mitigation plan conceived by the government has some holes. One is that it only covers teachers who were working inside a classroom this school year and does not cover teachers who are returning from leaves or teachers returning to the school from central positions. When they return to work, they return to a teacher pool that has shrunk due to the government’s teacher reduction plan target for year one.
The TDSB has an obligation under our collective agreements to notify staff of potential surplus status or potential layoffs and we must do so by certain dates. This is not fear mongering. It is simply obeying collective agreements and being open, honest and accountable with our employees, parents and students. We regret if, in fulfilling our obligations, we have exposed shortcomings in the provincial government’s teacher layoff mitigation plan.
TDSB Cell Phone RFP: Summary of Facts and Key Dates
- It was an ongoing review of outstanding procurements that led to the cancellation of the cell phone RFP — not a call from the Toronto Sun. The cancellation was posted on the Bids and Tenders website before the Sun contacted the TDSB.
- It was the TDSB that informed the Toronto Sun that the RFP had been cancelled a day prior.
- The procurement began in February, 2019 as a standard practice to go into the market place to assess costs for replacing cell phone hardware, data and voice plans. The current contract was due to expire on December 31, 2019.
- Had the procurement run its course, it would have passed though many checks and balances of approvals up to and including approval by the Board of Trustees. In this case, senior management did not approve given the Board’s current budget constraints.
- Had the procurement run its course, the Board’s costs would not have been more than $5 million (the retail price) as the Toronto Sun claimed and miscalculated and was repeated by the government. As we told the Toronto Sun, the costs would have been closer to one quarter of that price (due to competitive privacy concerns, we are unable to quote the final submitted bid discount.)
- The TDSB received an 80 percent discount off the retail price for hardware in its 2017 contract with Bell.
- Interestingly, the Ministry’s vendor of record for cell phones, which school boards have access to, offers them a discount of more than 50 percent. The TDSB bids were in line with the Ministry’s vendor of record pricing for hardware. Therefore, the Ministry knew or ought to have known that TDSB would have not come close to paying retail prices as calculated by the Toronto Sun and repeated by the Minister in her statement.
- No one from the Ministry or Minister’s Office contacted the TDSB to get the facts before issuing a statement.
February 20, 2019: RFP issue in Bids and Tenders website — long before Ministry announcements in late March, 2019 and late April, 2019 that worsen the TDSB’s financial situation by confirming Ministry funding reductions.
March 25, 2019: RFP Closed
March 25, 2019: Ministry Centralized Procurement Initiative and Introduction of Interim Measures issued — retroactive to March 18
Ministry of Government and Consumer Services advised school boards via FAQ document that: “Procurements that are already posted or closed are not affected. The interim measures apply to new procurements.”
May 29, 2019: Staff decide to cancel RFP in review meeting based on fiscal situation faced by the Board
May 30, 2019: Staff post cancellation on Bids and Tenders.
May 31, 2019: First time Toronto Sun contacts the TDSB about the RFP.