September 25th, 2021

Orka rescinds proposal: Lone company to bid on taking over Invest Medicine Hat withdraws

By COLLIN GALLANT on July 24, 2021.

Jason Melhoff, the director of Invest Medicine Hat, is pictured at city hall in Medicine Hat on March 5, 2020. - NEWS PHOTO COLLIN GALLANT

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

The only company to bid on taking over Invest Medicine Hat has rescinded its proposal after public complaints the process appeared tainted, and it hopes “more discussion” will dispel that notion.

Orka Management stated in a press release on Friday afternoon that “the perception of a conflict of interest is sufficient to remove our firm from the bidding process and to allow the City opportunity to re-evaluate their bid process with questions from the community.”

The firm, formed last winter by city employees in the IMH department, provided the only formal submission to a “request for proposals” process that concluded on July 19.

It asked for credentials and plans to operate investment attraction services, lands sales and land development for the City of Medicine Hat for a 10-year period.

As well, companies could suggest other city services that might be added to the contract that would be negotiated – pending council approval – in August and signed in September.

That time-line, the inclusion of city employees as potential bidders, its wide scope and relatively little interest from outside the city raised flags for the city’s main union, business groups, residents and candidates in the October election.

City officials told the News this week that the fact only one bid was submitted meant it would proceed to council for a vote along with analysis done by third-party consultants from national accounting firm MNP.

Now that the bid has been pulled back, it is officially considered that no interest was expressed and Mayor Ted Clugston told the News the content of the bid isn’t known to the city or MNP.

“It’s considered as zero bids,” he said. “We have no idea what’s in that bid, but that process has now slowed.”

The unsigned press release from Orka, which is led by current Invest managing director Jason Melhoff, states that it was formed in February after senior officials made it clear the division’s activities would be privatized (they were prior to 2019), and that the city has a “robust” process to ensure the integrity of the RFP process.

During a five-week period starting in June, 18 other interested parties downloaded materials related to the bid.

It states that “Orka’s bid was designed to deliver substantial savings for the city while providing an innovative solution for long-term regional economic development which we believe is essential.”

It concludes: “We look forward to further direction from the City of Medicine Hat.”

The contents of the proposal were not made available. It directed further inquires to senior administrators at the City of Medicine Hat.

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