The following sources were consulted:
Of note, the SaskTender registry contained only a fraction of consultancies listed as being paid for in the annual Public Accounts.
Not all contracts are tendered, or at least were not tendered in the years examined. For example, just 21 tenders were listed for the health ministry in 2013-2014, all related to medical supplies. No lean consultants or other IT and management consultants were listed, although the ministry makes heavy use of such services. The Public Accounts showed 26 such consultants were hired that year, including a $10 million contract for John Black and Associates that does not appear in SaskTenders.
Conversely, an award of $66,455 to Probe Research of Winnipeg to conduct labour market analysis for Enterprise Saskatchewan in 2012 appeared in SaskTenders but did not appear in Public Accounts.Write comment (0 Comments)
“...a minister may engage the services of or retain any technical, professional or other advisors, specialists or consultants that the minister considers necessary.” – The Executive Government Administration Act.
In December 2014, Saskatchewan provincial auditor Judy Ferguson released a report that revealed the province had spent $120 million on consultants in 2013-2014, an increase of 288 per cent in the past six years.
She also found inadequate reporting and oversight on services provided.
“If procurement of services is not undertaken fairly and impartially, the Ministry may not select the most suitable consultant, not achieve intended results, pay more than intended, and not receive the best value. Unfair procurements would damage the reputation of the Government,” her report stated.
The auditor’s report provided a summary chart of the spending increases, but not details of individual contracts.
Students in the Investigative Journalism class at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism used the auditor’s report as a springboard to an exercise in examining public documents. The questions they set out to answer were:
The team looked at government ministries. They did not investigate agencies or Crown corporations.
Students started by identifying payments to consultants that are recorded in Public Accounts, a document released annually that details government expenditures. In particular, they examined payments to third parties listed under ‘Goods and Services’ for each ministry. Only a fraction of such third party payments appear in the SaskTenders registry - therefore, public accounts were a vital source.
The students then looked at company websites, tender registries and corporate registries to determine the type of services offered by consulting firms, and who the company board members were. They checked names against public records of salaried government employees, and noted any that were receiving both a salary and additional goods and services fees.
Information was put in spreadsheets, employing a technique called Computer-Assisted Reporting (CAR) to indentify patterns, trends, and crossovers.
Because information requires context, students studied the major policy directions and goals of each ministry. In the spirit of ‘right of reply,’ government officials were contacted to provide opportunity to clarify unclear or unusual findings.
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The Provincial Auditor turned to the Government Organization Act to determine what activities fell under the definition of consultation. The Act stated ministers may “engage the services of or retain any technical, professional, or other advisors, specialist or consultants considered necessary.” This Act has since been replaced by the Executive Government Services Act, which contains similar wording.
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