Mr. George Etoka
Clerk of the Committee
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
180 Wellington Street, Room 646
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Mr. Etoka:
Recommendation 6 of the Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on the above-noted chapter requested that Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) provide the Committee with a report assuring it that its contracting tools are not being used to circumvent contracting policies and regulations. The following is provided in response to that request.
Specifically, the report referred to the Informatics Professional Services Marketplace, now renamed Professional Services Online, and the procurement vehicles in place for use by the Information Technology Services Branch (ITSB). As outlined below, PWGSC has taken a number of steps to ensure that its tools are not being used to circumvent contracting policies and regulations.
First, PWGSC has strengthened its oversight of the use of Professional Services Online. Specifically, we have completed approximately 180 audits affecting a variety of users. We have followed up by taking appropriate corrective actions in areas covered by our mandate and by sharing the information with client departments for them to take corrective action in their areas of accountability. Further, PWGSC will introduce an expanded automated reporting capability to Professional Services Online in the first quarter of fiscal year 2007/08. These additional reports will help us monitor the usage of Professional Services Online and identify possible areas of concerns.
In addition, since Professional Services Online was implemented in 1995, it has been mandatory for federal department users to receive training prior to being granted access to the database. Since 1995, PWGSC has trained over 1,100 individuals from 95 departments and agencies. As part of the training, PWGSC provides information concerning the Professional Services Online application and a clear explanation of departments’ obligations related to usage of the tool. An information web site has also been established which contains the protocol for departments using the application and clearly defines users’ responsibilities. Training has also been provided to procurement staff in PWGSC’s regional offices, with the intent that they will train regional clients in the use of Professional Services Online.
The Committee was also concerned about the use of ITSB procurement vehicles. Over the past year, in response to the Auditor General’s recommendations, ITSB has taken steps to strengthen the management of its service to government departments. For instance, the new Enterprise Product Catalogue has been released for distribution, outlining a list of products currently offered by ITSB to its clients. There are no service offerings that provide professional services without a formal service agreement being in place between ITSB and its client that identifies service levels.
ITSB has also consolidated its contract management function in one unit to ensure that all policies are adhered to and reestablished a Contract Review Board to approve all contracts. Clear and concise guidelines for ITSB staff have been implemented to ensure compliance to internal and Treasury Board contracting practices and policies. In addition, we have made all staff aware of the consequences of inappropriate contracting practices and reinforced this message through specialized training we have developed regarding ethics and procurement.
In conclusion, I wish to assure you that PWGSC has taken the Committee’s recommendation seriously and I will continue to ensure that the department has the necessary frameworks in place with respect to the tools that it has established for use by its clients.
I. David Marshall