Watchdog unearths more cooked deals

OTTAWA — A federal watchdog is blowing the whistle again on a series of cooked contracts at a school that teaches public servants about ethics and values.

OTTAWA — A federal watchdog is blowing the whistle again on a series of cooked contracts at a school that teaches public servants about ethics and values.

Frank Brunetta, the procurement ombudsman, said Tuesday he found more evidence that the Canada School of Public Service rigged its contracts to make sure they went to favoured suppliers.

The report examined the way contracts were awarded to six consultants, altogether worth $1.7 million, from 2008 to 2011.

Brunetta’s inquiry was sparked by a tip he received in April last year that contracts awarded to two consultants, who were paid $435,000 and $260,000, showed clear signs of favouritism.

The intensive investigation confirmed the tip, with evidence of contract splitting, unfair evaluations and dubious contract amendments — all of which occurred without triggering the school’s supposed checks and balances.

In the case of one consultant given access to confidential files, there was no effort to determine whether the person had secret security clearance.

Investigators “found sufficient evidence to suggest the two consultants at issue were favoured,” the report concludes.

Brunetta then expanded his investigation to four other consultants at the school to determine whether the first cases were an anomaly, and again found compelling evidence of favouritism.

Rules were broken, security clearances not verified, and contracts cooked — all without triggering oversight mechanisms that might have halted the bogus procurements.

The report does not identify by name any of the contractors or misbehaving managers at the school, which is owned and run by the federal government.

“This does not appear to be a case of deficiencies with the school’s procurement policy framework, but rather a case of key controls circumvented for specific contracts,” Brunetta said in a release.

His office cannot levy fines or other penalties for bad behaviour, only requiring that an action plan be drawn up.

The findings drew the ire of Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement, to whom the school reports.

“We find the conduct described in this report is unacceptable,” Clement said in a statement.

“The government will be seeking appropriate sanctions against those responsible.”

A spokesperson for the school could not be reached immediately for comment, but the report said officials had pledged to fix the problems.

Last summer, Brunetta reported on other tilted contracts at the school that benefited one supplier who was awarded a dozen training contracts worth $170,000 between 2009 and 2011.

Brunetta found that the school split contract amounts and generally stacked the deck so that a retired public servant already collecting a pension could get all the work.

At the time, a spokeswoman for Clement also said the actions were “unacceptable” and that Treasury Board would be monitoring the situation to ensure the problems were fixed.