CIMM#53: Government Operations Committee on Federal Government Consulting Contracts Awarded to McKinsey & Company

House of Commons Debate
Government Operations Committee on Feb. 15th, 2023
Evidence of meeting #53 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session.

 
4:55 p.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the minister and officials for appearing before the committee.

I just want to establish the process with respect to policy decisions. I fully anticipate and expect that it's the minister who makes these decisions. However, before the minister does, often officials will provide briefing documents and recommendations for the minister's consideration. 

Is that the case for the immigration levels numbers or any other policy within IRCC?

Sean Fraser Central Nova, NS
Liberal

Ms. Kwan, I want to make sure I answer your question. If I need to extend this to make sure I don't dodge it on you here, I'd be happy to.

The policy process, of course, comes to me. At the end of the day, my signature goes on whatever policy decisions we take. Sometimes there are delegated authorities to departments, but it's common for us to receive advice from different groups that could lead to recommendations. That is not a unique practice.

In addition to whatever exercise the department may undertake, I will on many occasions engage with stakeholders or partners directly.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Thank you.

My question is this. At any point in time, did McKinsey engage in discussions or meetings with officials where they might have discussed policy decisions, or did work that would have implications for policy decisions? To that end, could the minister provide a list of the officials who actually met with McKinsey and what topics they discussed?


Sean Fraser Central Nova, NS
Liberal

I think my deputy minister, who's in the room, would be better positioned to discuss engagement at the officials level with McKinsey.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Maybe the easiest thing would be that, if there is such a list, we could receive that list of where McKinsey had engaged in discussions with officials. Could you provide that list and what topics they discussed?

My next question is this. The minister said that there wasn't the capacity or they needed McKinsey to help build capacity within IRCC, yet IRCC staff within the department are on the public record as saying that they offered to work with the government with ideas and forwarded these ideas, and there was zero uptake. IRCC, by the way, is the one department within government that contracts out more work than any other department. That has been confirmed with a PIPSC report. 

The other thing that has been noted is that IRCC does not make a reasonable effort to hire before contracting out. As well, IRCC has more grievances than any other department within government. This is on the public record, in a report that's there for everyone to see.

Given the comment that people tried to offer their ideas and suggestions, why were those not received well and taken up?


Sean Fraser Central Nova, NS
Liberal

I have a different view, with great respect, Ms. Kwan, on your allegation about our being slow to hire and also on the interplay between McKinsey and officials within the department. 

To be a little bit more specific, my view, of course coming in after some of the work was performed, is that the collaboration that took place between the consulting firm and the department actually did help grow the capacity. We're starting to see some of the work that has come about as a result of the groundwork that was done a few years ago result in new digital processes.

With respect to the allegation about being slow to hire, since the past summer we've hired more than—


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I'm sorry. I'm going to interrupt you here, Minister. I think you might have misheard me. It wasn't slow to hire. The issue is that the government and the department chose to contract out instead of hiring in-house. 

In fact, there's a report here that I'll turn the minister's attention to, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada's “Contracting Out Report”, which actually outlines very clearly the contracting out of IRCC and how it's actually breaching the collective agreement, by the way, in the number of grievances that exist within the system. That's there and on the record. 

It has also been reported by CBC that staff within IRCC had offered to work with the department on some of these issues, yet that offer was not taken up.

I think the point here is that there is a systemic problem, I would suggest, within IRCC, then, where the workers are not being valued and we're not utilizing the talent from within. There needs to be an explanation as to why there is this level of contracting out that IRCC has engaged in with McKinsey.


Sean Fraser Central Nova, NS
Liiberal

First, let me dispel any misconceptions that, somehow, there isn't respect for the public service. They are and have been doing extraordinary work under very difficult circumstances, particularly over the past few years. We ask an awful lot of them as we seek to grow our immigration ambition, and I'm grateful for the work that they do.

With respect to the specific contracts that we're talking about with McKinsey and IRCC, my view is that it was in an area that was both time-limited and that required incremental work that wasn't within the capacity...not to operate a new digital system in perpetuity but to help build the capacity to finish the design and implementation of it.

The contracts were entered into within the department, not at a ministerial level. If there's supplementary information that the deputy minister has on this, I would be happy to give her time to offer an explanation.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I will say this—


The Chair Kelly McCauley
Conservative

I'm afraid that's our time.

We're now into our second round of five minutes with Mr. Paul-Hus.
5:15 p.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

IRCC has 327 IT employees. That's fewer than half of what Correctional Service Canada has and about half as many as CBSA. Between January 2018 and September 2022, IRCC used 270 IT contracts but only hired 23 permanent positions. If IRCC needs IT for this transformation that the minister's talking about, why isn't IRCC hiring public servants to do this work instead of contracting it out? 

How many staff, permanent positions, could the department get with $24.8 million?


Sean Fraser Central Nova, NS
Liberal

For clarification—and I may have to point to my deputy to confirm the numbers—I believe we've added about 160 new IT staff. This would include designers and IT specialists. The bigger point to me is not just the design of the system and people who have IT skills but developing a system where our staff who process ordinary cases will have the ability to use the digital system on the back end.

To my deputy, if there's further clarity you'd like to offer on the numbers, I'd be happy to yield the floor.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Maybe the minister can have staff table those numbers dating back over the last five years in terms of what the trend is and the dollars spent on contracting out that have gone out correspondingly to date. I think that would be useful.

The other thing, of course, with IT staff is that it includes programmers as well. With my information, programmers were almost 60 times as many contracted out, but there were only two advertisements during this period for regular employees. Again, why isn't the government hiring in-house instead of contracting out? You're talking about $24.8 million for this transformation.

I also want to point that, at the CIMM committee, immigration consultants and lawyers have come up to talk about what disasters the transformation and digital process are in certain areas. They're saying that they can't upload documents, and when they do spend hours doing it, the system crashes.

The minister, I'm sure, is aware of all of this. Is this what we bought with $24.8 million?


Sean Fraser Central Nova, NS
Liberal

I would suggest that we're in the middle of a major transition, and the system we're working with now is predominantly the legacy system GCMS that the department uses rather than a fully modernized system, which will be available and fine-tuned after a few years. I think it's important that we continue to work with those stakeholders to understand where there are gaps to be improved and then work to improve them.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
Liberal

Thank you, Minister. 


The Chair Kelly McCauley
Conservative

That's our time.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

I appreciate that it's a new system, but the reality is that it's not working very well. If McKinsey was spearheading this with $24.8 million in tax dollars, it's not a very good job. I have to say that.

Can the minister advise if McKinsey—


The Chair Kelly McCauley
Conservative

I'm sorry, Ms. Kwan. I'm afraid that is your time. You will have one more two and a half minute round after this.

We now go over to Mrs. Block, please, for five minutes.
https://openparliament.ca/committees/government-operations/44-1/53/jenny-kwan-1/

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