A school that teaches government procedures and rules to civil servants is once again facing questions about its own dealings with retired bureaucrats.
According to government officials and documents, the Canada School of Public Service is providing free staff and technological support to a research project being led by former top civil servant Jocelyne Bourgon, even though the agreement that initially framed the collaboration expired two years ago.
Informed of the situation, the office of Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who is the minister responsible for the school, said that basic contracting rules need to be followed.
“The Treasury Board expects all government organizations and agencies to follow procedures that ensure all contracting is transparent and clearly identified,” said Mr. Clement’s director of communications, Andrea Mandel-Campbell.
Mr. Clement already criticized the school this year for its generous teaching contracts to retired bureaucrats, who earn per-diems of up to $760 to give classes to civil servants, in addition to their pensions.
Ms. Bourgon is the president emeritus of the school, an honorary title that was bestowed upon her in 2003.
In 2009, the school signed a two-year deal with Ms. Bourgon to participate in the “New Synthesis” research project, which involves governments and institutions in Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
The project uses case studies in a bid to help civil services around the world offer an “open and dynamic system of governance.”
According to a copy of the 2009 agreement released under Access to Information, the school agreed to make “a significant contribution by assigning personnel and providing office space, equipment, and administrative support to the project team for the next two years.”
As part of the two-year agreement, the school agreed to host and fund an international roundtable, develop case studies and “contribute substantively to the research effort.”
In answer to questions from The Globe and Mail this year, the school said the “original research project culminated in the publication” of Ms. Bourgon’s book, A New Synthesis of Public Administration, in the fall of 2011. The school added that “there is currently no agreement in place” with Ms. Bourgon. “The school didn’t extend this memorandum of understanding,” the school said.
The school added that Ms. Bourgon “does not receive remuneration from the school for her role as president emeritus. … It is an honorary position.”
In answer to follow-up questions, however, the school confirmed it is still providing IT, administrative and research help, all directly in relation to the New Synthesis project. The school stated it is providing support for website development, research, writing and co-ordination of the continuing research project.
“Since January, 2012, limited in-kind support was provided to the school’s president emeritus for gathering case studies related to the New Synthesis project,” the school said. “In exchange, the school benefited from privileged access to the research for application in its programs and courses and new models of case study development.”
Ms. Bourgon said it is “up to the school” to decide whether there is a need for a new formal agreement to govern its involvement with her New Synthesis project.
She added that given her volunteer position as president emeritus of the school, it is only normal for the institution to offer an adequate level of staffing support to conduct research that is used in the institution’s classrooms.
“The school benefits from the work of Jocelyne Bourgon,” Ms. Bourgon, the former clerk of the Privy Council, said in an interview.
Ms. Bourgon said there was a need for a memorandum of understanding between 2009 and 2011 because of the international nature of the project and the number of partners.
She said the current level of support offered by the school is in line with the original intention of the government in giving her the emeritus title in 2003. The only other civil servant to have such a title is former chief statistician Ivan Fellegi.
Ms. Bourgon said there is no payment related to her title, and it is normal for the school to provide a level of support to her activities, in the same way a library does not ask its volunteers to bring their own office supplies.
“Many of my projects interest them highly,” Ms. Bourgon said. “Let’s be honest, they want to include them in their curriculum.”