The City of Toronto PayIt Procurement: Freedom of Information Requests, Fairness, and Transparency VI

Bianca Wylie
8 min readJun 24, 2022


A post in a series to understand and assess the procurement process followed for PayIt. This post is a straight copy/paste of a thread of tweets — this is an archival post to cover tweets from May 26-June 20, 2022

in hold mode w PayIt while waiting on two FOIs. what has sunk in over time, however, is this: when the mayor asked me, in the tone that he did, if I was suggesting that staff had done something wrong, i got scared. danced around saying yes. now trying to figure out what he knew.

reason being, I don’t think I gave the mayor the correct answer. which doesn’t feel great and I may try to fix. taking this all at face value, however, does it make sense for the mayor to be relying on a deputant to understand how a procurement policy was or was not followed? no

with tech procurement we have to trace and map both sides of the equation and how they do and don’t interact (the political side and the public service side) over time.

the time part is critical. one observation from an elected official in toronto is that by the time these procurements get to their committee, they’re done. the standard place to exert political influence on these processes, in terms of shaping them, is way too late.

which is another way of understanding the problem: staff wielding political power through tech procurement that they were never formally granted.

this deal is about a lot of public money flowing out of the City, potentially in perpetuity. that part was dressed up/ obscured in tech and customer experience clothes.

am still waiting for more information back. but how information was or was not moving on political side of this equation is something to add to the list of how this happened. if our representatives weren’t informed about what staff were doing, then what? where does that leave us?

exploring this all in the frame of assume good intent. politicians + govts are allowed to make bad decisions, do bad deals, do things we disagree with. in tech procurement, however, there appears to be info and influence flow coupled with time problems that we need to address.

do bad deals — within a limit. am curious to understand how the auditor general will deal with the valuations and costing math that went into PayIt. they may conclude this was a good deal in a narrow frame. but broaden, consider how else this could be done, and there is no way.

three weeks now, no word back yet from the City Clerk’s office about possible missing records in the latest PayIt FOI. no documentation was returned detailing how staff followed procurement policy for unsolicited proposals, which was the core of the request.

next Friday will mark over a month since I asked the Clerk’s Office if the Partnerships Office missed any files in the FOI results re: PayIt procurement policy adherence. Clerk’s has let me know that I can check in then if I haven’t heard anything back from them yet. From Clerk’s

the (maybe?) conundrum here is that as far as I understand, you escalate to the province when you think you’re not getting all the records returned. this is a different problem than no records existing.

my email to Clerk’s office. think I’m being reasonable here. I really don’t know. I am in a new place, re: experience with FOIs. If you think otherwise would be helpful to hear from you. Process is taking what seems to me a long time for a decently narrow/straightforward request.

to put this in perspective again. this procurement is valued at tens of millions of dollars. so far I have had no results returned — none — regarding the procurement process staff followed in terms of the unsolicited proposal policy. from here it went to recommended sole source.

that last part — from unsolicited proposal to sole source — that already goes against what the policy says should have been done.

from Clerk’s: “I will advise the program area that you will be filing an appeal if no response has been received by June 10th. I will advise regarding any updates in the meantime.”

in today’s adventures with the province: learning about appeals. found out i have 30 day appeal window on FOI results. which ends today. got in on time by fluke. feels like rights the City might want to be a little more clear about, if they have interest in us exercising them.

looking at the FOI results again this is one puzzling bit. City staff knew (below is from email between staff, Sept 2019, from FOI) that they were supposed to go to Council for approval on what they were doing. then they didn’t do that. and on top of that tried to sole source it.

again from staff, Sept 2019 email. why did they go off policy course when they were so clear about what the course was? did staff feel this was such a good deal that they should go their own way, and not follow policy related to Council approval? is this a thing that happens?

By the time the Auditor General gets to reporting on PayIt and the Partnerships Office as requested by Council, both the City Manager and the Head of Procurement will be in different positions (one gone, one is in a different role). Hope they are still reachable for that work.

related: when I checked in with the company the City hired to review the fairness of the procurement, found out the person that oversaw this file is no longer there.

getting into strange place w Clerk’s. they’re asking me if I have proposal I asked them for, which they didn’t share: “The program area has located any additional records at this point. Just as a point of clarification, have you already obtained a copy of the initial proposal?”

and the program area not having located any additional records at this point, whew. no additional records found so far as to how the procurement policy process went down, in addition to the none I’ve received.

anyway, why are they asking me if I have the document? why would they do that?

30+ days ago told Clerk’s I’d file new FOI for unsolicited proposal b/c they said including it would delay the results I got up to 30 days, as they had to ask PayIt. today I check in re: possible missing procurement records, they ask if I have the unsolicited proposal. why?

this was a weird turn. i’m sitting with it. i’m new to FOI, but this seems weird.

weird turn aside there are apparently no records of how procurement policy was implemented. at least that anyone can find at the moment. did a courtesy check before filing with the province about missing records, checked in with Clerk’s today. no, nothing more found. this is wild

first part of this procurement policy process is criteria used to stop proposals that should go to formal tender from coming in through unsolicited proposal door. second is to have evaluation team review proposal. apparently there are no records of either.

what happens when this starts to happen is you (me) feel like you must have missed something/asked incorrectly because there can be no way there are no written down records of how this policy was or was not applied for a deal of this size and import. no way.

v puzzling all of this today. good night

Clerk’s office asking *me* about records I have. make it make sense.

one of those ones where you’re expecting the email recall thing to happen

multiple people that know city admin well confirming that Clerk’s asking me about records I have is indeed off

FOI request filed today with the City for the unsolicited proposal sent August 30, 2019 from PayIt to the unsolicited proposals email alias

been thinking a lot about whether “because pandemic” will be invoked in terms of how this procurement went down. looking at the dates again today was a good reminder that the receipt of proposal/beginning of this, which is where it’s v murky so far, was before pandemic started.

below is another FOI submitted about PayIt. submitted in January 2022, reduced scope agreed upon with Clerk’s office in February (as below). March email from Clerk’s about delay — says these records should have been returned by March. Still no decision letter now, mid-June.

this FOI deals with a few issues that the lobbyist registrar did not have a response to. one of them: how are we dealing with influence between vendor and City — as well as information flow — when they work together outside of a contract? interactions aren’t captured by registrar

am calling Clerk’s office next week. when reviewing everything that’s happening here with these FOIs need some human context and a sanity check on process. am moving this thread into a post after that conversation.

the auditor general is supposed to be starting an investigation into the PayIt procurement and the partnerships office this year. that’s another piece of the timeline coming into play. they will have better access to records.

the auditor general is supposed to be starting an investigation into the PayIt procurement and the partnerships office this year. that’s another piece of the timeline coming into play. they will have better access to records.

left vm with Clerk’s. intent is to understand/clarify what is going on with the PayIt procurement FOI. what is Clerk’s role in seeking records vs. Partnerships office in providing. check that we’re not having a misunderstanding as to what i asked for/if I made an error in request

there is a thing that can happen with public authorities where they communicate things to you as though what they are saying is reasonable, when it is not. this creates self-doubt. it creates a need to check things ten, fifteen, twenty times.

Clerk’s just called back — they were v helpful and patient in terms of explaining general process to me, as someone v new to FOIs. They confirmed that my request for the records about unsolicited proposal procurement policy adherence for PayIt — and what that meant — was clear.

the Director of the Partnerships Office that was there for the PayIt procurement and follow-on process is no longer with the City, as confirmed today by trying to call them.

let’s recap what the auditor general is heading into: zero written records on procurement policy adherence, third-party fairness monitor moved on from firm, City of Toronto head of procurement has changed positions, director of partnerships office gone, city manager will be gone.