Inside authorities paperwork present that the worth of a contract to construct a brand new software program software for managing IT companies throughout the federal authorities has grown by practically 70 per cent, to $55-million – a rise Shared Providers Canada has not publicly revealed.
The paperwork additionally present that whereas the unique contract required all work to be performed on-site for safety functions, the division later allowed a number of folks to work on the mission from residence in the USA throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – offered they took precautions resembling maintaining their pc screens away from home windows in order that nobody might see what they have been doing.
In Aug. 2019, Shared Providers Canada (SSC) awarded the contract, initially valued at $32.4-million, to the Canadian arm of BMC Software program Inc., a multinational IT agency based mostly in Houston.
Paperwork launched in response to entry to data requests and later confirmed by SSC present the worth of that contract elevated to $52.4-million in February, 2020. One other doc reveals the contract was amended once more on Dec. 31, 2021, growing the full worth to $55-million.
And but, as of this month, neither revised quantity had been revealed on both of the 2 federal authorities web sites that present data on authorities contracts.
The federal authorities’s pointers on the disclosure of contracts say any contract or modification value greater than $10,000 ought to be disclosed quarterly, inside 30 days after the top of any of the primary three quarters of a fiscal 12 months, or inside 60 days after the top of the fourth quarter.
The lots of of pages of contract data have been obtained by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin and reviewed by The Globe and Mail.
In response to an in depth assertion SSC offered to The Globe, the brand new software program software the division will get hold of by the contract might be used for issues resembling managing requests for IT companies throughout all departments that choose to make use of the product. The contract entails shopping for the software program itself, in addition to help and upkeep from BMC till 2030.
The assertion mentioned this can result in a discount within the variety of related software program instruments in use throughout the federal government and can enhance effectivity “by making a single self-service entry level for departments to entry SSC companies.”
The division mentioned that whereas the worth of the contract was elevated by $20-million in February, 2020, to permit different departments along with SSC to take part, “the eventual, precise worth of the contract” will rely upon what choices are utilized by SSC and “the extent of adoption of the software” by different departments.
When requested why this $20-million enhance has but to be disclosed two years later, SSC mentioned the change shall be disclosed ultimately.
“The contract worth was elevated on Feb. 21, 2020, to mirror anticipated expenditures. This extra worth has been consumed over time and shall be revealed in an upcoming proactive disclosure report,” the division mentioned.
Wesley Wark, a senior fellow with the Centre for Worldwide Governance Innovation who has served on federal advisory panels associated to nationwide safety, laughed out loud upon studying that the contractors are required to maintain their screens away from home windows. He mentioned the recommendation is old school.
After reviewing the principle paperwork and the federal government’s rationalization, Mr. Wark mentioned the aim of the contract is unclear and the safety threat mitigation guidelines are meaningless, as a result of there isn’t a obvious oversight to make sure they’re adopted by the U.S.-based contractors.
Mr. Wark additionally mentioned giant IT contracts associated to vital authorities digital infrastructure shouldn’t be awarded to international companies.
“I feel it is a supply of nice frustration for the various cybersecurity companies, many good ones in Canada, who discover it simply so extraordinarily troublesome and irritating to work with the federal authorities by its procurement and infrequently discover themselves primarily thrust to the perimeters by American bidders,” he mentioned. “That simply strikes me as mistaken, and what’s mistaken about it’s each certainly one of these contracts, significantly ones of a large nature, ought to be thought of within the mild of rising a Canadian capability, not feeding the bankroll of an American firm.”
The Globe reported in January that federal authorities spending on outsourcing contracts had elevated by 41.8 per cent because the Liberals got here to energy in 2015, though the Liberal Celebration promised that 12 months to chop again on using consultants.
The rise introduced federal spending on contracts to $11.8-billion within the 2020-21 fiscal 12 months, up from $8.4-billion in 2015-16.
Critics of the outsourcing development see the BMC contract as an extra instance of this spending progress. They are saying the federal government ought to be much more clear.
“Essentially what is required is extra transparency and well timed launch of information. The quantity of sleuthing required to easily learn how authorities funds are being spent is absurd,” mentioned Jennifer Carr, president of the Skilled Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union that primarily represents scientists and professionals within the federal public service. The group has been trying to trace contract amendments.
“From what we see right here, it seems to be one other instance of ballooning outsourced prices that lack a clear examination of how this work might have been executed in-house by public service staff. Canadians ought to pay attention to how their cash is being spent and the true prices of such shortsightedness.”
Conservative MP and Treasury Board critic Kelly McCauley additionally mentioned giant IT contracts ought to be going to Canadian staff. He criticized the shortage of transparency concerning the rising price of the contract and dismissed the federal government’s assurances that the distant work could be executed securely in the USA.
“As for the safety, it’s an absolute shame these days with unhealthy actors, whether or not it’s communist China or Russia … and but we’ve this keystone cop degree of safety,” he mentioned.
Mr. McCauley mentioned Canadian IT firms have lengthy expressed frustration at being shut out of federal IT contracts.
“Right here we’ve an opportunity to develop our personal IT. We’ve seen from Blackberry and different firms, we are able to do safety right here in Canada. And we overlook it to ship it off to an American firm after which use backdoor procedures to extend the worth of the contract,” he mentioned.
Mr. McCauley mentioned he would really like Public Providers and Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi to place the work on pause till MPs obtain solutions as to the standing of the contract and why its rising price was not publicly disclosed.
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