Ombudsman says federal ministries will withhold documents

Alexander Jeglic, the independent ombudsman charged with investigating allegations of bias in government contract awards, said: annual report According to it, the federal ministry refused to provide documents to his office and participate in mediation to resolve the dispute.

On 19 October, the Office of the Ombudsman for Procurement (OPO) submitted its Annual Report to Parliament for the period 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.

According to the report, many of the complaints received were about “lack of transparency” related to government procurement of COVID-19 related items. He also said the “failure to maintain proper records of important decisions” is a persistent problem.

Jeglic is looking for new ways to force government agencies to provide requested documents. “Now departments can only disclose what they choose to disclose, suppressing information that is essential to conducting a fair and transparent review without fear of potential consequences. increase.”

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The ombudsman said that on many occasions, his office should write to federal departments and “remind them to provide documents we know exist.” He said it was essential to be able to compel the document to “increase both fairness and transparency.”

He said he had received numerous complaints from suppliers about their “inability to obtain information” about the bidding process and “why the bids failed.”

He also noted that in early 2020, the federal government invoked a National Security Exception (NSE) for the purchase of COVID-19 items. The report suggests that the use of NSEs has led to a decline in government accountability, further reducing impartiality, openness and transparency.

The annual report lists the top 10 issues investigated by Jeglic’s office. Sixty-one complaints claimed that government contracts were prejudiced against individual suppliers. Based on unfair or biased standards; or using standards in awarding overly restrictive contracts that limit competition.

Jeglic did not respond to a request for an interview in time for a press conference, but said the regulations would allow him to remove the cap on compensation he could give if he determined the complaint was justified. He said he wanted changes. “The maximum compensation I can currently recommend is $3,030 for him on a merchandise contract and $12,120 for him on a service contract.”

“In many cases, these amounts are insufficient to cover the supplier’s lost profits and bid preparation costs, not to mention the time and expense required to file a complaint,” he wrote. He said the cap “disincentivizes suppliers with legitimate complaints to seek recourse.”

Refusal of Arbitration

During the period covered by the annual report, the Ombudsman noted that his office received seven requests from suppliers seeking mediation with the government, three of which involved federal ministries participating in mediation to resolve disputes. said it refused.

Jeglic named Health Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Employment and Social Development Canada as three departments that declined to participate in mediation services offered by OPO.

He said, “It’s frustrating for the department to refuse to try to resolve the issue through mediation, as suppliers try to resolve contract disputes outside of costly legal proceedings.”

The Ombudsman’s role is to provide a neutral and independent method of resolving contract disputes between businesses and the federal government. The Ombudsman reviews procurement practices, reviews and investigates complaints related to contracts awarded to businesses by the government, and provides alternative dispute resolution.

On November 7, Blacklocks Reporter identified a number of government contracts awarded to the sole source obtained from the Commons Board of Health in a 2021 document. These were not included in Jeglic’s report, but appeared in the news as suspicious.

These include:

• A $237.3 million purchase order for ventilators from Baylis Medical Co.; This company never made ventilators and was run by a former liberal MP in Pierrefonds-Dollard, Quebec. Frank Baylis

• Received $23.4 million in grants and $118.6 million mask contract from 3M. This was after the company contacted lobbyist Kevin Bosch, a former deputy director of the Liberal Investigations Service, who boasted in an email that he would “get things done.”

• Appeal by former Liberal Party organizer Ellie Alboim. emailed Cabinet aid to demand contract awarded to son. “I vouch for Ellie,” chief of staff wrote to public works minister

• A $149 million contract with Spartan Bioscience Inc.; Now a bankrupt supplier of test kits, he was hired after “a few good meetings” at the prime minister’s office.

• $150 million contract with SNC-Lavalin Group field hospital What health authorities didn’t ask for

Blacklocks Reporter contributed to this report.

Marnie Cathcart


Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.