A government official warns subordinates to be careful about what they write about McKinsey audits
The Comptroller General of Canada has warned his subordinates to be careful about what they write during federal government reviews of federal contracts awarded to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Testifying before the House of Commons Government Works and Appraisals Committee on Wednesday, Roch Huppé confirmed that he had recently met with the chief financial officers of various federal agencies in connection with ongoing reviews of McKinsey contracts.
In response to questions from Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, Huppé confirmed that he was urging colleagues to look at what they write in relation to these audits, as the documents could eventually be made public.
The committee reviews the federal government’s contracts with McKinsey. Since the Liberals came to power seven years ago, the firm has received at least $116 million in government consulting fees.
The company, which has offices in 65 countries, has often sparked controversy through its work. It has come under criticism for its role in the opioid crisis and for collaborating with authoritarian governments.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month announced a review of his government’s contracts with McKinsey, but Conservatives have urged the Auditor General to investigate the matter. The government review is expected to be completed by the end of June.
REGARD |Comptroller General says he’s advised subordinates to be “careful” about what they write down in connection with reviewing federal contracts with McKinsey
“I warned people that as officials we have to be very factual about what we say,” Huppé told the committee.
“So writing personal opinions on various topics in email is not necessarily the right place for it.”
McCauley, who chairs the committee, asked Huppé if he told subordinates to be careful.
“Be absolutely careful what you write down,” Huppé said. “I have warned people that as we are dealing with sensitive situations, you must remain very businesslike.”
Conservative MP files complaint
McCauley said he would lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner, adding Huppé’s comments undermine “the intent and spirit of the Access to Information Act.”
“I’m very concerned … that there’s a culture of secrecy, and it seems you tend to be,” McCauley told Huppé.
“Let me just express my extreme displeasure with the comments that may have been made about hiding things from access to information and continued secrecy from this level.”
Treasury Secretary Mona Fortier also testified before the committee on Wednesday.
Fortier said the civil service has many skills, but the government occasionally needs to hire consultancies to benefit from the expertise of the private sector.
Fortier said she is preparing to improve the proactive disclosure system to provide Canadians with more information about federally awarded contracts.
She promised that the review of contracts awarded to McKinsey would be completed by the end of June and made public as soon as possible.
Tory MP Garnett Genuis has repeatedly asked Fortier if she thinks McKinsey is an ethical company.
Fortier declined to answer those questions directly, instead reiterating that the company is eligible to receive federal contracts under the current integrity regime.
This regulation only prevents the awarding of contracts if companies are found guilty of certain criminal offences.