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December 8, 2008

Tory government spending spree on consultants

CANADA - The Conservative government spent almost $1 billion on consultants in its first two years in office – nearly double what the Liberals spent in a similar time period, according to a new investigation of government spending.

Consultants with expertise in strategy, communications, policy, executive hiring, professional speaking, training and information technology were among the consulting companies that benefited from the Conservative spending spree, an analysis of approx. 21,000 government records shows.

In the Conservative government's recent economic update, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the government is asking ministers in all departments to "rein in" costs, including spending on consultants and travel. Conservative ministers and senior staff were frequently traveling overseas first class, often with a large entourage.

When in opposition, the Conservatives frequently criticized the Liberals for high spending on government contracts, travel and hospitality, but according to records in its first two years in power (2006-08), the Conservatives signed consulting contracts worth $917 million. That's a 42% increase over the $534 million in consulting contracts signed in the final two years of the Liberal government (2004-06).

The biggest jump for the Conservatives came with a $270 million contract with Resolve Corporation, which was hired to manage the government's national student loan program. The increase of $113 million over the Liberal period was made up of myriad smaller consulting contracts, some with dubious ties to the Conservative party's coffers.

Out of 18 departments and government agencies 14 of them had dramatically increased the amount they spend on consultants during the past two years.

One company whose government contracts increased dramatically was Dare Human Resources Corporation, an Ottawa-based firm that describes itself as providing "human capital management" to government. Translation: they help staff government departments with full-time or temporary employees. Under the first two years of the Conservatives, Dare had contracts worth $2.6 million in nine departments, including the Privy Council office, which advises and supports the prime minister and cabinet. That's up from $592,000 spent on consulting contracts to Dare in five government departments in the two years of Liberal government.

The info is based on approx. 21,000 records of consulting contracts from the federal government's "proactive disclosure" website. Proactive disclosure is the routine release of information on contracts and expenses. The government says this is done to enhance "transparency and oversight of public resources in the federal government."

But the information provided is minimal... just the name of the consultant, the date and time of the contract, and the amount. The public is not told what the contract is for, or what its terms are. Its difficult to tell if it money well spent or just Conservatives going hog wild with their spending sprees.

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