Ombudsman asks Indian Affairs to probe contract

The federal watchdog overseeing government contracts is asking Indian Affairs to review a $25,000 contract awarded to a former departmental employee.

APTN National News
OTTAWA–The federal watchdog overseeing government contracts is asking Indian Affairs to review a $25,000 contract awarded to a former departmental employee.

The contract to review the department’s Aboriginal Economic Development Program was awarded to the Ottawa-based bureaucrat who left Indian Affairs last fall.

The department withdrew the contract after a complaint from the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) in Manitoba. One of SCO’s concerns was that the contract was awarded in contravention of the standard one-year cooling off period after someone leaves the department.

In a Oct. 13 letter, obtained by APTN National News, federal deputy procurement ombudsman Oriana Trombetti asks Michael Wernick, Indian Affairs deputy minister, to consider a review.

“I am writing to bring to your attention information provided to our office…regarding the practices surrounding the posting and subsequent cancellation of (an) Aboriginal set-aside advance contract award notice,” said Trombetti.

Trombetti said the contract fell outside her office’s mandate but should still be investigated because of a potential conflict of interest.

Indian Affairs awarded the contract on June 29 but cancelled it in August after the SCO took their complaint to the office of former Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl.

In turn, Strahl’s office turned the issue over to the procurement ombudsman.

Indian Affairs also initiated its own investigation.

Before he left, the former bureaucrat was working in a the department’s economic development section and was involved in a program now facing court action from an Aboriginal bank over the department’s decision to freeze out Aboriginal financial firms from the initiative.

The department was not immediately available for comment.

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2 thoughts on “Ombudsman asks Indian Affairs to probe contract

  1. As noted in this article, the $25,000 contract in question is part of the set-aside program intended for Aboriginal contractors. In spite of that, the contractor to whom it was awarded was non-aboriginal. Couple this with the fact that no Aboriginal contractors were notified but instead were excluded through the Advance Contract Award Notice (ACAN) program and the legitimacy of the entire process must be questioned and investigated fully.

    The nature of the contract is key in developing future Aboriginal policy. That the decision-making is being outsourced to private non-aboriginal interests unfriendly to Aboriginal interests makes it of great concern. Aboriginals are not only being denied competitive participation in such matters but they are being cut out of the INAC process entirely by sole-source procedures. Native peoples for whom the INAC policies are designed must be intrinsically involved in determining how such monies are being used and this cannot be circumvented by INACu2019s incestuous dealings with former top bureaucrats under the Harper government.

    Activities such as these must be monitored carefully as they have the potential of harming developing Aboriginal interests. In any instance where a people have no notice or input of policy-making specific to them, their rights are placed in a precarious position. This is aggravated in a case such as this where there is evidence of behind the scenes efforts being used to bypass normal protocols and procurement policies.

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