A judge has ruled that the province?s access to information legislation should not be used to block information about a publicly tendered contract.

For years, Dicks and Co. has been trying to get information about the office supplies contract at Memorial University.

Previous access to information requests seemed to reveal that because of the structure of the contract, Memorial University was being overcharged for certain office supplies, Dicks and Co. president Barry Tilley said.
When Dicks and Co. bid on the office supplies contract in 2011, it put together an aggressive bid, he said. Staples? winning bid was 42 per cent cheaper.

After filing access to information requests for information about the contract, Dicks and Co. found that MUN was paying a higher price for non-contract office supplies, Tilley said.

The winning bid was on a list of prices for certain contract items. But as the winning bidder, Staples is also MUN?s supplier for other non-contract office supplies.

?Items were substituted. Like, a Staples brand of rubber bands might have been on contract for 33 cents, but MUN bought this many National Brand for $1.36,? he said.

Through the document it got, Dicks and Co. found that the non-contract items being supplied to MUN were worth three times as much as the contract items, Tilley said.

In 2014, when the contract was up for renewal, Staples won again.?Its bid for the contract items was 52 per cent cheaper than Grand and Toy, the next-lowest bid, Tilley said.

?We?re saying, you know, should a public body be concerned if a vendor is supplying things below cost, or not?? he said. ?My view is they should be concerned, because Staples are not in the business to lose money. They?re going to have to make it up somewhere else, so how are they making it up, and what are they doing??
No response.

A spokeswoman for Staples said it would not comment on a matter involving the courts. A spokesman for Memorial University also declined to comment.

The court case started after Bill 29 was enacted, when Dicks asked for a breakdown of contract and non-contract items bought by MUN from Staples. Staples argued it was commercially sensitive information, and should not be released.

Justice Raymond Whalen ruled last week that providing the contract information Dicks and Co. was asking for is ?in step with the fundamental purpose? of the access to information law.

It?s not clear when Dicks and Co. will get the information it is looking for, but Tilley said if it provides further evidence of what they already expect, Dicks will ask MUN?to revisit how it awards tenders.



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