$90,000 a day contract flabbergasting

Every now and again, governments come up with announced plans that simply leave (most) people feeling, well, simply quite flabbergasted.

Every now and again, governments come up with announced plans that simply leave (most) people feeling, well, simply quite flabbergasted.

The current federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper picked early in the first week of its virtually-uncontested first majority Parliament to unveil some additional details on just such a plan.

That is, to contract with outside economic consultants, at a daily cost of $90,000, for proposals to help  government departments cut program expenditures to help meet its updated commitments to balance Canada’s books by 2014.

Deloitte Inc. landed the fat contract in August, selected from a list of 20 “pre-qualified” firms which were asked to bid. Others included IBM Canada, Ernst and Young and Accenture, sort of an ad hoc list of “usual suspects.”

Deloitte will earn $19.8-million total, if they can come up with enough ideas and spending refinements  to shave $4-billion a year from guesstimated annual expenditures of $80-billion, by means of a “cover review” of the required departmental and agency strategic and operating reviews of  budget plans, to allow government to balance the books in three years.

The contract calls for the consultants to then advise “senior and elected officials on public and private sector best practices in improving productivity and achieving operational efficiencies.”

There’s no mention of proposals that don’t pan out. or what that will mean.

The original contract expires March 31, but there’s an option for a one year extension!

“Engaging private sector advisers who have been successful with cost-saving operational reviews will better enable ministers and deputy heads not only to compile their individual cost-savings proposals, but also to provide practical advice on what to look for and how to execute their plans,” was part of an  explanation offered by Heather Hume, speaking as press secretary on behalf of Treasury Board president, Tony Clement.

The Conservatives majority ensures that this will inevitably happen, despite a chorus of wry objections from the NDP and the remaining Liberals.

I don’t have the fine print of the contract agreement – and very little information on the arrangement is available, so I have no idea how anyone will ever know which future cuts can or will be attributed to the “consultants” and which will be “claimed” by ministers and public servants doing their jobs as expected of them. Hopefully, the government will differentiate for the voting peasantry when time (and successful cuts) permit.

My understanding is that senior civil servants will earn their bonuses on the basis of success – no matter where the proposals come from.

Finance minister Jim Flaherty dismissed any controversy in the contract. “There’s a lot of expertise in the public sector – it’s advice is important, essential.”

His Twitter account added, ““When we reach our goal of $11 [billion] savings over four years it will be well worth Deloitte’s cost, which will be under 2/10ths of one percent.”

CBC says the consultants reports are due by the end of February, suggesting possible inclusion in a March budget.

Honestly, really … is this such a good idea? Is it worth $90-million a year?.

For starters, the consultants’ advice will be supplemental to that other flood of advice offered on a daily basis by a hundred special-interest and lobbying groups.

 

My worry is that, well, these consultants are already huge companies juggling large volumes of contracts for a wide range other other clients – and I’d hate to see even the suggestion of the prospect of  taxpayers’ interests being compromised or

compared with those of other private clients.

Keeping half a dozen balls  in the air at one time is quite a trick.

The cracks in the plan seem very evident and I certainly hope the auditor general (a department set up to do just some of this kind of work) is kept constantly current with these economic developments.

Despite its repeated commitments to good federal government for all of Canada and all Canadians, sometimes that’s just not the way it always works out!

Special interests and party policy frequently interfere with good common sense.

And the Conservatives idealistic penchant for privatization is still in high gear!

ahewitson@telus.net

 

 

 

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