Quebec could save 14 billion over the next ten years by cleaning up its procedures for awarding public contracts and, above all, by instituting professional and competent project management.

This is supported by a coalition made up of two major construction associations and two independent institutions, the Montreal chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI-Montreal) and the Center for Expertise and Research in Urban Infrastructure (CERIU ).

“If the best practices in project management – we talk about project management in work planning, cost control, human resources management, but also to involve stakeholders, such as certain partners, whether contractors, consulting engineers or project managers and procurement better managed – in doing so, risks or delays, it will all be better mitigated,” explains Kateri Normandeau, president of PMI-Montréal in an interview with La Presse Canadienne.

The figure of 14 billion is based on an international study by PMI Global, which shows that the implementation of good practices in project management can optimize financial resources by 10%. However, the 2022-2032 Quebec Infrastructure Plan provides for investments of 142.5 billion, hence the figure of 14 billion.

This figure is therefore very likely underestimated, since the same logic applies to public contracts from other levels of government.

The issue of project management is at the heart of the coalition’s demands: “Clearly, one of the main issues raised by the industry is the lack of expertise on the part of the client. This lack of expertise in project management impacts the definition of the project, the process and then the call for proposals. »

The coalition, whose other two members are the Association de la construction du Québec (ACQ) and the Corporation of General Contractors of Quebec (CEGQ), has noted a marked decline in interest in public projects among entrepreneurs and professionals in construction, precisely because the calls for tenders are poorly done.

A study conducted a year ago by the firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton shows that 72% of contractors and 82% of professionals (architects and engineers, in particular) reject public work providers because of the conditions they offer. .

Despite repeated requests for improvement and countless political promises to this effect, the problems of long, cumbersome and complex processes and those of payment delays persist. Since the construction market is booming and the labor shortage limits their ability to adapt to often non-standard public contracts, contractors and professionals can afford to choose, underlines Ms. Normandeau: “S there is a contractual heaviness and payment deadlines and we have a choice between another opportunity at the same time when there is not this heaviness or these payment deadlines, they are business people, they are going to make business decisions. »

“I have heard some firms say that they only choose to do business with private companies, that it is a choice that they have made in their mode of operation, because public projects are not attractive enough. It becomes strategic choices,” she adds.

“Attractiveness, for a contract, can be summed up in two key factors: the mode of execution must be adapted to the type of project and subject to good project management. »

The coalition asks Quebec to establish better conditions for access to public markets and to develop a center of excellence in project management with trained or certified people.

Quebec is particularly targeted, since the study cited above places the Société québécoise des infrastructures, the health network and the education network respectively in second, third and fourth place when it comes time to identify the sectors that have experienced the worst declines in interest from entrepreneurs and professionals between 2016 and 2021.

However, it is the municipalities that occupy the first rank of this not very glorious list, which tends to give reason to those who speak of the lack of competence of project managers. Apart from large cities, most small municipalities struggle to offer this expertise.

We also note that at the very bottom of this list are the federal government and departments, which suggests that Ottawa has adopted best practices. The Ministère des Transports du Québec also ranks well, which suggests that many contracts that emanate from it are relatively standardized and that many entrepreneurs have acquired habitual reflexes when faced with these projects.

What could change in Quebec, after so many years of unfulfilled promises? The coalition relies on signals from Quebec: “The Quebec government, Minister Julien responsible for infrastructure, really verbalized at the last CEGQ convention that it wants to improve project management practices,” said the president of PMI-Montreal.

The ball, according to the coalition, is therefore in the court of Minister Julien and his government.