McKinsey & Company’s onetime global managing partner, Dominic Barton, also a former senior policy adviser to the Trudeau government, will appear Wednesday before a parliamentary committee reviewing the spike in federal outsourcing to the New York-based consulting giant.
Federal officials told The Globe and Mail this week that upon further review, the total value of federal contracts awarded to McKinsey since 2015 is at least $116.8-million, up from a previous estimate of $101.4-million provided earlier this month.
Members of Parliament resume sitting Monday for the first time since mid-December and the government operations committee will immediately begin its study of federal outsourcing to McKinsey.
The hearings will start off with researchers from Carleton University, who have been leading a detailed review of federal outsourcing and have made policy recommendations as to how Ottawa could learn from other countries and improve the way it hires outside help.
Then Wednesday, the committee will hear from Mr. Barton for two hours.
Mr. Barton was the head of the global consulting company until 2018. In the early years of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, Mr. Barton acted as both the head of McKinsey and the chair of former finance minister Bill Morneau’s advisory council on economic growth.
The council was supported by McKinsey staff and made several major policy recommendations, many of which were enacted to at least some degree by the Liberal government, including dramatically increasing Canada’s annual immigration targets and creating a Canada Infrastructure Bank.
After leaving McKinsey, Mr. Barton was appointed as Canada’s ambassador to China in September, 2019. His foreign posting ended in December, 2021. That same month, it was announced that Mr. Barton would become chairman of Rio Tinto, a global mining company.
The Globe and Mail first reported in January, 2022, that the value of outsourcing to McKinsey has climbed steadily under the Liberals. While the company also received contracts under the previous Conservative government, the value of federal contracting work had declined to zero in that government’s final years before the Liberals took over in 2015.
Earlier this month, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) provided costing information, saying it had awarded 23 contracts to McKinsey since 2015 with a total value of $101.4-million.
The department followed up this week to say the latest data shows the company has received 24 contracts, with a total value of $104.6-million, through PSPC as the government’s central purchaser. The department said its earlier estimate “was accurate at the time.” However, a refresh of the department’s contract management system has since found a recently issued contract worth $3.2-million.
Officials say the actual total is higher.
“In addition to this, work is ongoing to gather information on contracts awarded to McKinsey & Company by other departments and agencies under their own contracting authorities,” the department said.
It said an initial review has found an additional 10 contracts, worth a combined $12.2-million, awarded to McKinsey by other departments and agencies. That brings the total to at least $116.8-million. The department notes that “this is not considered the final or exhaustive list.”
During a Jan. 18 meeting, the government operations committee approved an amended version of a motion from Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie calling for hearings into McKinsey contracts and for the company and government departments to provide extensive documentation, including contract information.
Ms. Kusie told MPs the parliamentary study is warranted because McKinsey is facing numerous international controversies, including reaching a settlement over its role in promoting opioid sales and being investigated by France’s financial prosecutor over tax fraud allegations.
“Why would the Prime Minister decide to work with a company that has such a questionable ethical background?” Ms. Kusie asked while proposing her motion.
Robert Palter, senior partner with McKinsey, wrote in the letter to the committee this week to say the company is committed to co-operating with the study.
The letter notes that some of the requests seek confidential information or materials covered by contractual commitments to clients.
“As such, we would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you confidentiality protections. With respect to witnesses, we are working to identify the names of senior witnesses to testify,” the letter states.
On Monday, the committee will hear from Amanda Clarke, a Carleton University associate professor of public administration and digital governance, who leads a research team that analyzes federal contract spending trends. Dr. Clarke has published several policy recommendations for how Ottawa could improve its approach to outsourcing, including by issuing smaller contracts.
Dr. Clarke will be joined by her research colleague Sean Boots, who is a public servant-in-residence at Carleton University, on loan from the Treasury Board’s Canadian Digital Service.
The committee will also hear on Monday from Jennifer Carr, the President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. Ms. Carr and her public-sector union have published research warning that the federal government is creating a shadow public service through the excessive use of outside consultants and contractors.