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Government plans independent review of how F-35 purchase program was handled

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to employees, at Virtek Vision International Inc. in Waterloo Ontario March 11, 2011.

Fred Thornhill/Reuters

The government is looking for an independent firm to review how the program to buy new stealth fighters was handled.

Public Works has issued a request for proposal for a company to study how things worked up to last June, when the government put the brakes on and set up a new body to handle the program.

The department says the review will look at whether the problems with the acquisition process uncovered by the auditor general last spring have been addressed.

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It will also look at whether the process followed government rules and policies and recommend any needed changes to the process. The review will focus only on the acquisition process and won't duplicate the work of KPMG, which has been commissioned to study the cost of the F-35 program.

Public Works expects to award a contract by December.

"This is one of several activities that need to be completed before conclusions about replacing the CF-18 will be presented to the government," Public Works said in a statement.

Last spring, the auditor general tore a strip off the government, accusing National Defence of hiding $10 billion in continuing costs for the fighter and Public Works of not doing enough homework to justify the purchase. In the wake of that report, the government produced a seven-point plan that took responsibility for the plane away from National Defence, giving it to a secretariat at Public Works.

The sophisticated F-35 aircraft is proposed as a replacement for the aging fleet of CF-18 fighter-bombers, but has been dogged by teething problems and rising costs.

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