Government executives are responsible for ensuring the integrity of the procurement function despite the politics of the day. There are several excellent sources of advice on how to do this. One is the report from the Toronto computer leasing inquiry.
It has been five years since Justice Bellamy released her final report. You may recall that it began when a $43 million lease for computers ended up costing $86 million. The city launched a judicial inquiry that lasted two years, had 214 hearing days, reviewed 124,000 pages of documents, heard from 156 witnesses, and involved more than 60 lawyers.
Two elements of this report have grown in stature and are especially noteworthy: her narrative and the recommendations she made.
First, her narrative is compelling and easy-to-follow, and has all of the elements of a melodrama, transformed into a daily soap opera or a cable TV special presentation. She writes that: “Sparks flew. Vitriol and confrontation reigned”…“she went behind the back of her dedicated and principled subordinate”…“this was cronyism”…“[he] had easily jumped over the public sector ethics defence line”…“[he], a public servant, was for sale”…“[b]oth would once again prove to be inept but persistent liars”…“[a]s he drifted from lie to lie in a performance worthy of Pinocchio…”
Second, her recommendations on public procurement were based on best and leading edge practices, not only within Ontario but throughout the developed world. Many of these practices are followed in exemplary jurisdictions. Most procurement people are familiar with these practices and promote their adoption. However, their bosses or their political masters have not always embraced these practices.
Justice Bellamy’s recommendations about procurement form a solid compendium of measures to mitigate the risks to “fair, open and transparent” procurement. Her list of recommendations is useful as a checklist in evaluating the strength of an agency’s policies and procedures.
The report contains more than 100 recommendations dealing with procurement. Those dealing with elected officials could potentially alter the state of public procurement most dramatically, especially in some smaller jurisdictions. These recommendations fall into the category of corruption resistance defined by the OECD in a report that discusses how to build organizational resistance to corruption in public procurement. The OECD’s recommendations “protect officials from undue influence, in particular political interference” by providing an “institutional framework.”
The following are Justice Bellamy’s recommendations for elected officials and, by extension, senior management:
• City Council should establish fair, transparent, and objective procurement processes. These processes should be structured so that they are and clearly appear to be completely free from political influence or interference.
• Councillors should separate themselves from the procurement process. They should have no involvement whatsoever in specific procurements. They have the strongest ethical obligation to refrain from seeking to be involved in any way.
• Members of Council should not see any documents or receive any information related to a particular procurement while the procurement process is ongoing.
• Councillors who receive inquiries from vendors related to any specific procurement should tell them to communicate with one or more of the following three people, as is appropriate in the circumstances:
Does your organization’s procurement policy address the actions of its elected officials and senior executives? If not, consider incorporating these recommendations into your policy framework, your policy and the resulting procedures.
• Justice Bellamy’s Report: www.toronto.ca/inquiry/inquiry_site/report/index.html
• Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Draft Checklist for Enhancing Integrity in Public Procurement: www.oecd.org/dataoecd/18/15/38944200.pdf
• For a high level view of the leasing scandal: