US company set to win controversial online payment deal from town hall, over objections from Toronto tech industry
Toronto City Council appears poised this week to approve a U.S. firm’s proposal to move a slew of payments Torontonians make to town hall online, despite objections to the deal from members of the tech community local.
Missouri-based PayIt, through its new Canadian affiliate, says it can replace 11 separate portals for property taxes, parking permits, parking tickets, water bills and more with a easy to use interface accessible via a mobile application or a computer.
Residents would pay by credit card, debit, or electronic funds transfer, either as a “guest” or with a personal digital “wallet” to schedule or review payments.
City staff recommend “partnering” with PayIt on a three-year contract, with city options for up to two one-year extensions, saying it offers “a personalized digital experience for consumers. citizens ”, in a city behind the others on electronic payment options.
“It could really position the city as a leader” on the ground while providing better service to residents demanding more online options during the pandemic, city transformation director Assim Hussain said last week.
“We know the province is also talking to PayIt.”
The data would remain the property of the city, stored in Canada. The city would not pay the initial development costs. PayIt would charge residents using debit cards 1.5 percent of the cost of the transaction. The charge for credit card users is 2.35%.
Electronic bank transfers would continue to be free for users. City staff expect this to remain the popular choice for large bills such as property taxes.
City staff estimate that PayIt could make between $ 20 million and $ 25 million from the contract. They think taxpayers could save $ 11 million over five years on costs, including credit card fees currently paid by the city.
Critics say Canada’s most populous city is about to take a risky risk on unsolicited land from a Kansas City startup with no clients of comparable size.
The city council voted last year against a sole-source contract with PayIt. The staff then set up a “Swiss challenge” tendering process to see if any companies could make a better case. Twenty-two companies uploaded the conditions, but only one Toronto company, SQL Power Group, submitted an offer, which staff rejected saying it did not meet the criteria.
Bianca Wylie, a local open government advocate and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, said city council should reject the PayIt proposal and start over.
“This is an important public digital infrastructure deal – it’s worth $ 20 million for low-end PayIt,” according to “Toronto’s stable and secure tax base,” she said. declared.
“We don’t know enough about the terms of this deal to know it’s good. Look at Presto, ”she said. “Look at (toll highway) 407.”
SQL President Sam Selim told The Star that despite an unusually short response time, his company offered a payment platform with more features for less money. If PayIt was forced to match but won anyway, he would be okay with that, he said.
Instead, city staff stopped reviewing SQL’s offering after failing to score enough points to pass a section that included a request for referrals to show the company’s ability to foster “l ‘digital adoption’ and other modernization goals.
SQL was not told before bidding that this particular question was worth 72 out of 100 points, while six other questions in the section were only worth 28 points combined.
“The city should issue a standard large-scale RFP that doesn’t give a company special status, where the best deal and best price wins,” Selim said.
“The Swiss challenge was imperfect. They didn’t look at our solution at all, they weren’t at all interested in finding an alternative, ”he told PayIt.
At the executive committee, city staff strongly rejected any suggestion of favoritism, noting that a city fairness monitor has reviewed the Swiss challenge process and monitored its implementation, without objection. They also noted that the city may, under the terms offered, cancel the contract for any reason.
Mayor John Tory voted for the proposal to the executive and he will urge the entire city council at its meeting scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday to do the same, his spokesman Lawvin Hadisi said.
Tory believes that city staff have responded to the complaints and “this deal will make life easier for the residents of Toronto – the people the city serves,” she said.
The Council will consider other points, in particular:
- Whether it’s to end Toronto’s ban on electric scooters and regulate electric scooter sharing services such as Bird and Lime operating in other Canadian cities.
- An update to the response to COVID-19 and a recommendation from Toronto Public Health that the provincial government offer a paid sick days program with up to 10 days off for workers, rather than the new program with only three paid days.