Ottawa, June 26, 2014 – The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) is using the one-year anniversary of Shared Services Canada’s (SSC) outsourcing of email services to corporate IT giants Bell and CGI to raise public alarms about weaknesses in the department’s outsourcing policy. The email transformation operation, which aims to streamline and consolidate all federal government systems at a cost of $400 million, has been plagued with problems from the start.
“Outsourcing is more expensive, less accountable and raises serious ethical and security concerns for Canadians,” says PIPSC President Debi Daviau. “Now that we are one year into the project, our initial fears have become unfortunate realities.”
Periodic updates given to staff from SSC management show a disappointing track record for the implementation of email transformation. The first presentation, dated September 2013, announced “Wave 0” would be executed by January 31, 2014. As the name suggests, Wave 0 is a preliminary phase and is described by internal documents as involving actions such as: aligning, deploying, coordinating and communicating. By February 2014, the expected implementation date for Wave 0 was pushed back to April 2014. The most recent presentation, dated June 2014, now lists August 2014 as the start date for Wave 0.
“One year into the contract and they are already six months behind. This is unacceptable,” said Daviau. “We said from the start that this entire process was unnecessary. As one of the largest IT enterprises in the country, SSC already has all the necessary skills and staff resources available in-house. This looks like it’s going to be a big waste of time and money.”
Unfortunately, the bad news for Shared Services Canada does not end there. An internal document from April 2014 entitled “Audit of Professional Services Contracting” provides some scathing criticism of SSC’s handling of outsourced workers. Low-lights from the report include: 84% of the contractors reviewed displayed risk indicators that suggest a more permanent employer-employee relationship is forming between private contractors and the department; information about contracted resources was inadequate and described as “incomplete and scattered”; and a prevalence (41%) of sample procurement files had been improperly documented. Most troubling are the security implications set out in the internal audit:
“The most often missing document was the security confirmation. Without this particular document on file, it was unknown whether the contracted resource met the required security requirements at the time the contract was awarded when we reviewed the file.”
“This government is outsourcing for the sake of outsourcing, even when services can be provided more effectively by existing staff,” continued Daviau. “Moving forward, Shared Services Canada needs to reassess how they evaluate the allocation of resources between contractors and staff, we haven’t seen any proof that this decision-making process is guided by evidence. It seems as if the default action is to outsource first and hope for the best, and that’s bad management.”
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada represents some 55,000 professionals across Canada’s public sector, including approximately 13,000 Information Technology specialists.