Bid Challenge and Recourse Mechanisms

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DISCLAIMER: The following recourse options are presented for informational purposes only. The recourse mechanisms listed on this page are not applicable to every procurement, or to every supplier. Individual circumstances should be considered on a case-by-case basis for applicability.

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Suppliers often feel they should have been awarded a particular contract, or that their proposal was wrongly rejected. When seeking recourse in either instance, suppliers should note that there can be strict deadlines for filing objections or complaints and that time periods vary depending on the particular recourse mechanism. Potential suppliers are therefore urged to exercise vigilance in order to preserve their right to recourse.

In addition to whether a complaint is filed on time, the applicable recourse mechanism will depend on several factors which may include the applicability of the trade agreements, the basis of complaint, the dollar value in question, the status of contract award, and other factors.

A supplier is encouraged to first contact the contracting authority associated with the tendering process. Suppliers should keep in mind that the strict deadlines for filing objections or complaints may still apply. The fact that an objection is directed to a government institution does not prevent a potential supplier from seeking recourse elsewhere.

Office of the Procurement Ombudsman

The Office of the Procurement Ombudsman (OPO) is a neutral and impartial entity that can review complaints about the award of certain federal contracts valued below $26,400 for goods and $105,700 for services, provided that certain criteria apply. These criteria include: the complaint must be filed in writing, by a Canadian supplier, within strict timeframes; the facts and grounds of the complaint have not been before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal or a court; and the subject of the contract is not one of the exemptions or exceptions in the Canadian Free Trade Agreement.

In most cases, a supplier has 30 working days after public notice of the award of the contract to file a written complaint with OPO. If there was no public notice, the supplier has 30 working days after the day on which the supplier became aware, or should have become aware, of the award of the contract.

OPO can also review complaints about the administration of certain contracts, regardless of dollar value.

For full details, consult the Procurement Ombudsman Regulations, sections 7-14 for complaints regarding contract award, and sections 15-22 for complaints regarding contract administration.

In all instances, suppliers should act quickly due to the strict deadlines that may apply. For more information, please visit OPO’s Frequently asked questions on how to make a complaint or contact OPO’s toll-free number (1-866-734-5169) or email at opo-boa@opo-boa.gc.ca.

The Canadian International Trade Tribunal

The Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT or ‘the Tribunal’) may conduct an inquiry into a complaint by a bidder or prospective bidder that relates to any aspect of the federal government procurement process for a designated contract.

In order to be considered a “designated contract”, the government procurement in question must be covered by at least one of the trade agreements under which Canada has obligations with respect to government procurement. You will find a list of these trade agreements on the CITT web site.

Generally, a potential supplier that files a complaint with the Tribunal must do so no later than 10 working days after the day on which the basis of the complaint became known or reasonably should have become known to the potential supplier.

If a potential supplier has made an objection to the relevant government institution, it may file a complaint with the Tribunal within 10 working days after the day on which it has actual or constructive knowledge of the denial of relief by that government institution, provided the objection was made to the government institution within the 10-working-day period mentioned in the previous paragraph.

For more information on filing a complaint with the CITT – including who can, and how to file complaint, please visit CITT’s Frequently Asked Questions – Procurement Inquires web site.

Other bid challenge and recourse mechanisms

Other bid challenge and recourse mechanisms may also be available.

For example, a supplier may also have recourse to the Federal Court of Canada or the provincial or territorial superior court system. These regimes also are associated with specific limitation periods.