Figuring out what consultants do was at times a major challenge. Here’s how some of them describe their work:
 
Syntegration facilitates planning, decision making and information sharing in a non-hierarchical, non-threatening context, and supports collaborative development and implementation of strategies and plans.
-        Team Syntegrity Americas Inc. (Health)
 
We provide stewardship, which comprises the processes and systems to establish and maintain quality in each phase of the project life cycle.
-        ZW Project Management (Health)
 
At the core of the model is a self-sustaining interactive ecosystem that spreads its message, content and products faster and more cost-effectively than a traditional brand, while driving deeper participation and engagement.
-        Blast Radius (Executive Council)
 
Hay Group is a global management consulting firm that works with leaders to transform strategy into reality...Our focus is on making change happen and helping people and organizations realize their potential.
-        Hay Group (Public Services)
 
Policy In Action uses a disciplined approach to seek out fresh perspectives on defining an issue and innovative approaches to creating solutions.  In this generalist approach Policy In Action provides imaginative, intuitive, inquisitive, and inspirational leadership in managing human intellect, making linkages across a wide range of disciplines and helping to convert information into useful products or services.
 
-        Policy in Action (Justice)
 
Our solution-based services are founded on mature internal competencies in technology provisioning, enterprise software licensing etc.
-        Acrodex Inc (Justice)
 
Managing risk is about navigating uncertainty to generate actionable insights. Insights that are critical to financial institutions and asset managers, not only to improve their risk controls, but also to identify opportunities to create value. Risk Advisors Inc. was founded to transform this conviction into reality.
-        Risk Advisors Inc (Justice)
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Researched by Paige Kreutzwieser and Rebekah Lesko

ClimbIT may stand out in the field of Web-based information sharing, however the company has had its own communications problems in the past.

The NDP opposition has raised concerns around unfinished work and conflict of interest, while the government has defended the company as a good provider – and challenged opposition members to step outside the Legislature with their comments.

Here is the history.

ClimbIT was subcontracted through an agency of record (The Phoenix Group, part of 50 vendors who could bid for projects) for $71,000 in 2011-2012. They also had contracts through Public Service Commissions ministry for $47,250 in 2011-2012 and $37,170 and $1,596 in 2012-2013.

In May 2013, ClimbIT became a subject of debate in the provincial legislature. The Opposition charged that after three untendered contracts amounting to $150,000 for the same web project, the work still remained unfinished. In the end, two government employees finished the task.

ClimbIT was also in the public eye in 2013 following a CBC investigative report on conflict of interest in a University of Regina carbon capture project, which ClimbIT was involved in defending. At the time, the Minister of Energy said there was no direct relationship between the company and the provincial government, beyond a single ClimbIT employer contracted to the Information Technology Office.

When quizzed by the Opposition in an Economy Committee meeting on May 7, 2013, information and technology minister Tim McMillan said, “Mr. Chair, we don’t know with certainty who the directors of this company is, or many companies specific to this company. We don’t have a contract with them. We have one of their contractors on site through the ITO, but I would expect that you, through the corporate registry, anyone could find the proprietors of a company that’s incorporated.”

In a Crown Agencies Committee meeting, it was reported the project was completed, and any mistakes in the tendering process were being addressed.

Clearly the government is satisfied with their work. ClimbIT has since continued to appear on the public accounts under Central Services, receiving $145,010 in 2013-2014; $161,642 in 2012-2013 and; $172,564 in 2011-2012 under Information Technology Services.

 

The background: News story

The original charge: Question Period Hansard

Questions raised: Econ Committee Meeting Hansard

The explanation given: Crown Agencies Committee Hansard

 

 

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The advertising agencies of the past now mainly refer to themselves as communications consultants, offering everything from social media strategies, to market analyticis, to speech writing.

The provincial auditor did not include communications in her review, so we also set them aside from our final tallies.

But given that such firms now tread deep into consultation territory, we made note of some of the more active ones over the years. These include:

When they formed the government, the NDP were frequently under fire for government-paid advertising, particularly before election years. You can see this trend in the highest spending year we examined, $7.4 million in 2005-06.

That aside, the communicators remained busy folk in subsequent years examined, most recently taking in $2.5 million.

Downloadable data spreadsheet of communications contracts (Excel file)

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In addition to external consultants, the government has in-house special advisors.

 

Duncan Fisher, for example, earned $363,532 in 2013-2014 as a special advisor to the deputy minister of health, out-earning the deputy minister himself ($219,773).

 

Fisher was transferred from social services, where he had briefly served as deputy minister from November 2007 to July 2008. A Leader-Post report stated he was moved after he “evidently locked horns” with his minister. The transfer to health was a homecoming – three years earlier he worked in the same ministry at an annual salary of $121,637.

 

In Justice, Randy Koroluk is paid a salary of $94,150 as witness protection program director. The Public Accounts for 2013-2014 state he received $385,826 for providing unspecified goods and services to the justice ministry. He received $375,029 the previous year, 2012-2013, as well, under Corrections, Policing and Public Safety. 

 

When contacted by a Consultant Watch researcher, a ministry spokesperson said the additional payment to Koroluk was related to witness protection, and asked that the information be handled with discretion. Following publication of this article, a spokesperson further stated it was payment for witness protection goods.

 

Consultancies may potentially offer a path to senior ministerial appointments without the fuss and public profile of an official Order in Council; people described as senior advisors or deputy ministers may not show up on lists of salaried employees, but can be found in Public Accounts as freelance consulting businesses.  

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Throughout the semester, two words bedevilled student journalist Britton Gray: Infuzion Technologies.

 

Infuzion Technologies first appeared in the 2012-2013 Public Accounts, receiving $83,743 under the Public Services Commission. The following year, $104,559 was paid out from Central Services.

Assigned to track down Central Services-contracted companies lettered ‘F’ to ‘J,’ Gray ticked steadily through the list until he got to the letter ‘I.’

Whether based in Canada or overseas, other companies left multiple online footprints. In this case, a thorough search offered up just one entity answering to the name Infuzion Technologies: a Saskatchewan company with a broken-down website that hadn’t been updated in over a decade. The contact addresses were private homes in Regina and Estevan.

Gray found it odd that a tech company doing close to $200,000 in government business would have such a meagre online presence. He flagged it for supervising professor Patricia Elliott.

Elliott asked him to confirm the company’s identity the simple, old-fashioned way: with a phone call. This turned out to be not so simple, though.

 

Dead end

The first phone number listed on the website was a dead end, unanswered after multiple calls. The second number led to someone who spoke no English. Undeterred, Gray turned to classmate Carlos Prieto, a multi-lingual international student. Prieto also struck out.

With no answer from the company itself, the next step was to ask the government. PSC and Central Services spokespeople responded by email that they would look into the details and get back to Gray, however weeks passed with no further answers.

Meanwhile, Elliott asked Gray to use the ISC corporate registry to seek out the company’s directors. Surely they could confirm the facts.

There was only one company registered as Infuzion Technologies in Saskatchewan. This led to director-shareholder Kevin Tonita, employed as a Ministry of Education assistant director of assessment since 2012, and a former Estevan school teacher.

But it was another dead end. Tonita responded by email that Infuzion Technologies worked with small businesses only, and did no consulting work with the province.

If this wasn’t the right Infuzion Technologies, then what was? A search of the SaskTenders website and the Merx online directory of public contracts came up empty. Another possibility was a similarly-named Ontario company called Infusion Technologies – but when contacted, a company spokesperson said though they were active in Saskatchewan and once did a job for SaskEnergy, they'd done no business with the Goverment of Saskatchewan itself.

 

"That information was not requested in the tender."

With a deadline looming, and a professor demanding confirmation before publication, Gray contacted Central Services again for details of what work the company did, and where it was based.

Finally, three weeks after his first inquiry to government, Gray received a response stating that Infuzion was hired by the Public Services Commission in 2012 to develop course content for an online e-learning orientation course called Learn, to be delivered to all government employees.

“The work was tendered. While the contact information provided by the company for the tender process was Regina, Saskatchewan, it is unknown if that is where the company is based out of.  That information was not requested in the tender,” the email response stated.

A renewed search for a record of the tender in the SaskTenders registry came up empty.

In her examination of Central Service’s practices, Saskatchewan auditor-general Judy Ferguson found that 17 per cent of test cases did not provide sufficient documentation of services provided, and that nearly half of contract extensions were similarly under-documented regarding rationale for continuing the contracts.

Indeed, after over a month of digging through official public sources, Gray still cannot definitively answer the question: “What is Infuzion Technologies?”

But he gets an ‘A’ for effort.

 

 

Screenshot: Gray's initial starting point led only to dead ends.

 

  

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