Canada: Appel D'offres : Un Prix Forfaitaire Peut Constituer Une Irrégularité Majeure

( Available in French only )

Journal Constructo – 30 novembre 2017

Dans une affaire récente, Construction GCP inc. c. Ville de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu[1], le Tribunal a décidé que le fait pour un entrepreneur de soumettre un prix forfaitaire regroupant plusieurs items au bordereau de soumission, alors que des prix unitaires étaient demandés, constitue une irrégularité « majeure » entraînant la disqualification de la soumission.

Contexte

Il s'agissait d'un appel d'offres émis par la ville de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (« la Ville ») pour des travaux d'agrandissement d'un bâtiment de service au Poste Gouin.   Les travaux à exécuter incluaient notamment certains travaux de bétonnage, lesquels étaient répartis sur plusieurs items au bordereau de soumission, et pour lesquels les soumissionnaires devaient fournir un prix unitaire, au mètre cube.

À l'ouverture des soumissions, la soumission de l'entrepreneur Construction GCP inc. (« G.C.P. ») est celle comportant le prix le plus bas. Cependant, lors de l'analyse de cette soumission, les représentants de la Ville constatent que G.C.P. a fourni, pour les travaux de bétonnage, un seul prix forfaitaire regroupant plusieurs items au bordereau de soumission. Face à la méthode utilisée par G.C.P. pour fixer son prix, la Ville considère la soumission non-conforme, disqualifie G.C.P. et octroie le contrat au deuxième plus bas soumissionnaire.

L'action de G.C.P. et arguments des parties

Suite au rejet de sa soumission, G.C.P. intente un recours contre la Ville réclamant, notamment, ses pertes de profits.

Au soutien de son recours, G.C.P. plaide que le fait d'avoir soumis un prix forfaitaire regroupant certains items au bordereau de soumission n'a eu aucun impact sur le prix total de sa soumission, et donc que cela n'a aucune incidence sur l'égalité entre les soumissionnaires. Pour G.C.P., il s'agirait tout au plus d'une irrégularité « mineure » ne permettant pas la disqualification de sa soumission et la dérogation par la Ville au principe de l'octroi du contrat au plus bas soumissionnaire conforme.

La Ville plaide au contraire que soumettre un prix forfaitaire alors qu'un prix unitaire est demandé constitue une irrégularité « majeure » et qu'elle devait disqualifier la soumission de G.C.P. En effet, en agissant ainsi G.C.P. modifiait dans sa soumission, le type de prix demandé à l'égard des items du bordereau de soumission en question, pourtant une exigence de fond contenue à l'appel d'offres.

Analyse du tribunal et décision

Le Tribunal devait alors décider si le fait pour l'entrepreneur d'avoir soumis un prix forfaitaire regroupant plusieurs items au bordereau de soumission (au lieu d'un prix unitaire pour chacun de ces items) constitue une irrégularité « majeure » ou « mineure », et, comme corollaire, si la Ville était justifiée de disqualifier la soumission de G.C.P.

Dans son analyse, le Tribunal rappelle les principes tirés de la jurisprudence[2], à savoir notamment que le principe de l'égalité des soumissionnaires constitue le facteur déterminant pour qualifier une irrégularité de « majeure » ou « mineure ».  En résumé, une irrégularité sera qualifiée de « mineure » lorsqu'elle n'a pas d'effet sur le prix de la soumission ou sur une exigence de fond de l'appel d'offres. Dans le cas contraire, l'irrégularité sera considérée comme « majeure », emportant alors nécessairement le rejet de la soumission.

Dans le cas sous étude, le tribunal analyse les dispositions et exigences de l'appel d'offres, et note la clause 11.1 de Clauses administratives générales, clause par ailleurs habituelle en matière d'appels d'offres publics. Cette clause se lit comme suit :

« Les quantités au bordereau sont des quantités estimées; celles-ci pourraient varier lors de la réalisation des Travaux. Seules les quantités réelles seront payées à l'Entrepreneur. »

Le Tribunal considère que le prix forfaitaire soumis par G.C.P. empêcherait l'application de cette clause 11.1 au cours de l'exécution du contrat, car la Ville serait tenue de payer le prix forfaitaire soumis par G.C.P., et ce même si les quantités réelles étaient inférieures à celles prévues dans l'appel d'offres[3]. Ainsi, cette façon de définir le prix serait contraire aux dispositions de l'appel d'offres.

De plus, le Tribunal constate que le prix forfaitaire soumis par G.C.P. laisserait la Ville sans prix unitaire de référence pour certains items compris au bordereau, et ce, contrairement aux exigences de l'appel d'offres.

Pour ces motifs, le Tribunal conclut donc que le fait d'avoir soumis un prix forfaitaire regroupant plusieurs items au bordereau de soumission (au lieu d'un prix unitaire pour chacun des items) constitue une irrégularité « majeure », car elle modifie les conditions de l'appel d'offres. Le Tribunal décide que la Ville était justifiée d'écarter la soumission de G.C.P., et rejette ainsi l'action de l'entrepreneur.

Conclusions

Cette décision illustre l'importance pour les entrepreneurs de porter une attention particulière aux exigences des appels d'offres et de s'assurer que leurs soumissions  soient en tout point conforme à celles-ci. Plus particulièrement, lorsqu'une non-conformité porte sur le prix de la soumission, sur ses modalités de fixation,  ou sur  ses modalités de fixation, cela peut affecter l'égalité entre les soumissionnaires. Ainsi cette irrégularité risque d'être qualifiée de « majeure », entraînant alors le rejet de la soumission.

 Cet article est paru dans l'édition du 30 novembre 2017 du Journal Constructo 

Footnotes

[1] 2017 QCCQ 12279 (CanLII)

[2] Notamment : MJ.B. Entreprises c. Construction de défense (1951) ltée, 1999 CanLII 677 (CSC); Ville de Rimouski c. Les Structures GB Ltée 2010 QCCA 219 (CanLII).

[3] À cet égard, le tribunal réfère à l'article 2109 du Code civil du Québec, lequel prévoit :

« 2109. Lorsque le contrat est à forfait, le client doit payer le prix convenu et il ne peut prétendre à une diminution du prix en faisant valoir que l'ouvrage ou le service a exigé moins de travail ou a coûté moins cher qu'il n'avait été prévu. (...) »

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