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The federal government is launching a vast investigation to flush out subcontractors who abuse the public contracting system. In the wake of the ArriveCan affair, Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, promised to keep an eye on subcontractors who wish to do business with the government.< /p>

Federal contracts: fraudsters in Ottawa’s sights

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The Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Jean-Yves Duclos is Daniel Thibeault's guest on the show “Les glaces du verre”.

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The announcement is enough to strike the imagination. A fraud uncovered last Wednesday by Ottawa revealed that three technology sector consultants billed 36 federal departments and agencies for the same hours worked on the same files.

This $5 million fraud highlights flaws in the government procurement system and blind spots in the contracting process.

In an interview on the show Les Coulisses du Pouvoir, Minister Jean-Yves Duclos emphasizes that it is a small portion of contracts outside the government that would be targeted by this fraud. Nearly a dozen other cases are already in the sights of its officials.

They [citizens] are right to be shocked. We are all shocked, we are all angry. We would like these cases not to exist, but unfortunately they exist, because that's how human nature works.

A quote from Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Internal investigations into these alleged cases of fraud began several years ago. They have nothing to do with Auditor General Karen Hogan's devastating report regarding the management of external contracts surrounding the design of the ArriveCan app, even though the Ministry of Public Services and Procurement was involved.

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If Jean-Yves Duclos' announcement may seem like an exercise public relations or crisis management, professor and public administration specialist Denis Saint-Martin believes that the search for a good publicity stunt and good public policy are not incompatible.

All the better if that sounds like a witch hunt, which is what it should be. It has to be the kind of […] sword move that ensures that everyone who is used to flouting the rules knows that there is a sword of Damocles above [their heads]. This is not bad in times of crisis.

A quote from Denis Saint-Martin, professor in the political science department of the University of Montreal

The results of internal investigations into the three consultants involved in this five million fraud, whose security clearance was suspended, were transferred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The federal government has also taken steps to recover the overpaid amounts.

The decision announced last week may seem modest, representing three transactions worth five million dollars out of the 400,000 contracts worth $35 billion awarded by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) in 2023.

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Jean- Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

However, Minister Duclos refuses to exaggerate its scale. No, we don't make too much of it. You have to do whatever it takes […] to find them all. It takes a lot of work, but it is essential for […] admits, however, that generalizations must be avoided; the situation does not affect all companies that do business with Ottawa.

These are bad apples in a very big basket of apples. We must avoid believing that the whole basket is rotten.

A quote from Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Services and Supply

The fact that 36 ministries were affected by this fraud underlines the strong tendency of ministries to still work in silos, judge Denis Saint-Martin. According to him, this is an element that ultimately needs to be worked on.

The professor emphasizes also the importance of accountability mechanisms to avoid falling into the black hole of responsibility.

C It was a denunciation via a telephone line that put PSPC on the trail of fraudsters. Then, advanced data analysis techniques allowed him to see that the three consultants had invoiced the same hours of work to several ministries.

Artificial intelligence is one of the new tools available to investigators. Without it, it is difficult – even impossible – to compile, reconcile and analyze data related to hundreds of thousands of federal contracts.

If artificial intelligence can be a tool, it can prove counterproductive, according to Professor Saint-Martin.

Algorithms can help officials looking for clues, but also contractors trying to circumvent the rules.

Among the other tools the ministry relies on to keep an eye on suppliers is the Office of Supplier Integrity and Compliance (BICF). It will see the light of day next May.

The mission of the BICF and its future employees: to ensure that the federal government does not do business with suppliers exhibiting concerning behavior. To do this, the office will have the ability to detect fraud and wrongdoing related to federal procurement.

It may take measures such as suspending or removing a supplier, in the absence of prosecution or accusation , and collaborate with other territories such as Quebec or the United States, according to information provided during a technical briefing.

If the pandemic caused an electric shock which accelerated the digital efforts of public administration, according to Denis Saint-Martin, the episode above all highlighted putting the public service to the test in emergency situations. Good public administration and the concept of emergency are incompatible, he adds.

However , the professor sees a possible return of the pendulum where almost systematic external subcontracting – a way of doing things that dates from the 1990s – would be gradually replaced by more work from internal civil servants.

No one likes bureaucracy. Then, when scandals like that happen, it's sure that it's easy to get away with bad officials, says Denis Saint-Martin.

He adds: These are bad times to have, but some would say they are golden cases and opportunities to really work thoroughly.

The interview of Minister Duclos will be broadcast to Backstage of power< em> at 11 h, Sunday, on HERE RDI and HERE TV.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116