Sunday, May 26, 2013

Elections Canada: outsourcing one of its most vital roles as guardians of Canada's electoral system

A fundamental principle of government contracting is the competitive bidding process.  Canadian taxpayers deserve the best work from the most qualified individuals at the cheapest possible cost.

Here it is, explained by the Treasury Board:
Government contracting shall be conducted in a manner that will:
  1. stand the test of public scrutiny in matters of prudence and probity, facilitate access, encourage competition, and reflect fairness in the spending of public funds;
  2. ensure the pre-eminence of operational requirements…

Competitive bids must be sought unless one of the four exceptions as set out in the Government Contracts Regulations, outlined below apply.
  1. The need is one of pressing emergency in which delay would be injurious to the public interest;
  2. The estimated expenditure is less than $25,000;
  3. The nature of the work is such that it would not be in the public interest to solicit bids; or
  4. Only one person or firm is capable of performing the work.
For some unexplained reason, Elections Canada outsourced one of its most important mandates: maintaining the integrity of Canada’s electoral system. But if that’s the route Elections Canada chose to take, at least they followed the competitive bidding process to ensure Canadians got the best investigators at the best price, right?


Elections Canada justifies its rationale for using sole source contracts to hire robocalls investigators by starting “Although there is no specific circumstance that may be identified above to substantiate the sole source contracts…” In other words, they acknowledge the Treasury Board and PWGSC rules and that Elections Canada can’t possibly justify sole sourcing investigators.

But hey, let’s try anyway!

Here's an excerpt of some of the amusing rationale presented in the document above: 

 “The original contracts [based on a three-day work week] were presented in the spring of 2012 and approved for a period of one year [until March 31, 2013].  The number of investigations has increased dramatically over the past months, and robocalls are a priority matter for the Commissioner.  There exists a backlog of complaints which we are having difficulty in attending to in a timely manner.

The increased workload… requires that the contractual investigators work more [than their originally agreed upon three-day work week].  For this reason, the total estimated cost of the current contracts are higher than what was anticipated and there are not enough funds outstanding in these contracts to cover the remaining months.

We are seeking new sole source contracts for Raymond Lincourt & Associes, Ace Thouin Consultants, Thomas Ritchie, and SH Neville & Associates.

In addition, we are seeking one new sole source contract for John Dickson Professional Corporation… that would start immediately and end on March 31, 2014.”

Oddly enough, I can’t find “we’re too busy to run the competitive bidding process” anywhere in the Treasury Board or PWGSC policy statement.

But then when has Elections Canada ever shown the slightest interest in following the rules in this botched investigation?