MONTREAL - The Canadian government suggests it might skip the public tendering process in awarding a multimillion-dollar contract to build a temporary shelter for the Haitian government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a $12-million commitment last week to help build a temporary base in Port-au-Prince for Haiti's battered departments and its key public servants.

The government says it may bypass customary tendering guidelines in order to get construction going as quickly as possible. Government contracts over $25,000 are usually subject to a tendering process.

In an email to The Canadian Press, a spokeswoman for the federal Public Works department said sole-sourcing is allowed in cases where services could not be effectively delivered in an open process.

"Given the urgency of the situation in Haiti and the tight timelines, this contract may be awarded under PWGSC's emergency contracting authorities," the government said.

The base will house several temporary structures, as Haiti's key government buildings - including the education department, the revenue ministry, and the presidential palace -- now lie in ruins.

Harper announced the project during his two-day trip to Haiti last week.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian International Development Agency said the building project could be completed within three weeks, once the site and supplier are chosen.

But the prospect of such a large contract being awarded without a public bidding process has raised the ire of the Opposition Liberals, who have displayed an increasing willingness in recent days to question the government's performance on the Haiti file.

"Doing this without a public tender is outside the normal practice," said Bob Rae, the Liberal foreign-affairs critic, in an email exchange.

"The government will no doubt argue that time is of the essence, but that's no reason to avoid a scoped and focused competition altogether."

In recent days, the Liberals have attacked Conservatives for failing to appoint a high-profile point person for Haiti.

Both the United States and Brazil have named former leaders to act as envoys for their reconstruction effort.

In the U.S., Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have been assigned as special envoys, while current Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula will perform a similar role when his term expires later this year.

The Grits have also accused the government of repackaging existing funds to appear as new aid money for Haiti. The Tories deny the charge.

Rae sees a possible double-standard in the Conservatives skirting the tendering process. He says the government would never permit NGOs to make a similar decision if they wanted funding from Ottawa.

"It lacks transparency and accountability and sets a terrible precedent," he added.

Canadian officials offered to build the facility immediately after last month's earthquake.

Ambassador Gilles Rivard lobbied Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive on Canada's behalf in the days following the earthquake, saying the country was keen to build such a facility.

Canada will also help out with office furniture and supplies, as well as computer equipment. It will also supply electricity, water and cooling systems as well as sanitation equipment.

Ottawa says it was in fact responding to an urgent request from the Haitian government.

The Canadian government has not, however, responded to questions about whether the contract has already been awarded.

It has confirmed that the preliminary cost and feasibility estimates have been conducted.

Under federal guidelines, contracts that are not put to public tender are made the subject of an Advance Contract Award Notice. That notice gives rival businesses a 10-day period to convince the government they could do a better job than the company that secured the contract.