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This report offers an independent review of the Government of Canada's Draft Treasury Board Policy on Managing Procurement. The federal government recognizes there is room for improvement in managing its procurement of billions of dollars of goods and services annually.
After conducting a document review and consulting a range of stakeholders, it is the conclusion of the reviewer that the new draft policy supports the government's stated intent of achieving fairness, openness and transparency in procurement. The policy, if effectively implemented and managed, should obtain value for money, enhance oversight without restricting public servants in a tangle of rules, and foster a culture of ethics and innovation within the federal public service.
The Government of Canada is undertaking to revise its procurement policy at a time when the procurement environment has grown increasingly complex and challenging in the public sector. Taxpayers expect greater levels of accountability, governments cope with budget constraints and procurement professionals face evolving technologies and multiplying global sourcing options. In public procurement, trade-offs must be made among the sometimes competing goals of best value, socio-economic outcomes, openness and competition, integrity and transparency, and responsible management.
In this context, the government's draft policy offers many strengths. The draft policy is principles-based, and takes a broad and strategic approach to guiding and supporting procurement practices. It sets out essential expectations and accountabilities in achieving sound management of resources, while allowing room for flexibility, initiative and professional judgment.
There are, however, a few areas of the draft policy that would benefit from further clarification and expansion. These include defining the key terms of fairness, openness and transparency, and providing further direction on reporting requirements and the establishment of performance measures. Finally, the development of a comprehensive implementation plan will be critical to the effectiveness of the policy.
While the scope of this report is primarily limited to a review of the government's draft procurement policy and not a system-wide review of procurement, several opportunities for streamlining procurement were identified. A key recommendation is that the government incorporate select best practices from the private sector, including alternatives to full competition among suppliers. The government should also consider means to promote a team-based procurement approach across the public service. At the same time, the government must address the need for specialized procurement talent and develop this expertise through training.
It is vital to reinforce public confidence in government spending and to respond to today's challenges through building capacity across the federal public service, and through continuing to pursue a progressive approach to procurement. This draft policy marks a sound starting point.
It must be clearly stated at the outset that the scope of this report is primarily limited to a review of the government's Draft Treasury Board Policy on Managing Procurement. This report is not intended to offer a system-wide review of government procurement. The wide-ranging research and analysis required for a full-scale examination was neither mandated nor undertaken.
However, in conducting a specific assessment of the policy, opportunities were identified both through documentation review as well as numerous stakeholder consultations for broader reform of the government procurement system. While these additional observations are by no means exhaustive, they do merit further consideration by the Government of Canada.
It is the opinion of the reviewer that the Draft Treasury Board Policy on Managing Procurement supports government objectives and will obtain its stated intent of achieving fairness, openness and transparency in federal government procurement.
In dramatically reducing the current government Contracting Policy from in excess of 200 pages to eight, this new Draft Policy on Managing Procurement is appropriately high level. It clearly sets out essential expectations and accountabilities in achieving sound management of resources. The policy provides senior management with an integrated, streamlined framework for effective decision-making on matters of procurement. It takes an enterprise-wide perspective and establishes a solid basis for the development of future directives, guidelines and training to support procurement professionals across government.
The policy, if effectively implemented and managed, should serve to strengthen the government's commitment to value for money, enhanced oversight without unduly restricting public servants in a tangle of rules, and foster a culture of ethics and innovation.
During the course of the review what was revealed is a sound public procurement system. While there are obviously opportunities for improvement, some of which are outlined in this report, there is a disconnect between the high standards of procurement within the government of Canada and the public perception.
High-profile lapses such as those outlined in the Gomery Commission report or the more recent challenges encountered with the government's Way Forward initiative, should not discourage us from recognizing excellence in public sector management. As a personal observation, in conducting this review I encountered a dedicated group of procurement professionals and department managers who want to do the right thing. I now have a greater appreciation of the quality of individual employed in the public service of Canada.
However, it is vital to reinforce public confidence in government spending and address today's challenges through building capacity across the federal public service, and through continuing to pursue a progressive approach to procurement. This draft policy marks a sound starting point.
This section summarizes the scope and conduct of the review, as assigned by the Treasury Board of Canada. As is clear, the main focus is an assessment of the Draft Policy on Managing Procurement. The documentation consulted and the stakeholders interviewed during the review process are also outlined.
In carrying out the review, I have met with a wide range of both internal and external stakeholders who have an interest in ensuring that the Government of Canada's procurement process is open, fair and transparent and adheres to the principles of value for money and stewardship.
In total, I have spoken with 27 officials in federal departments and agencies who are involved in or have in-depth knowledge and understanding of the procurement process in their departments.
Additionally, I have met with three external stakeholder groups, two of whom represent major contract service providers and a third stakeholder who is an advocacy body for small and medium enterprises.
The views of all stakeholders were incorporated into this report; however the key conclusions are those of the author.
Please see Appendix A for a complete list of individuals interviewed. Also, see Appendix B for a biography of the reviewer.