The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak.
Today, I would like to talk about agile procurement processes.
Before I get into the substance of the debate, I would like to say, first of all, that the Auditor General's role is extremely important. Anyone who wants can show appreciation for that role, where time, energy, human ingenuity and, I am sure, robust discussions happen so that Canadians can know that there is a proper value-for-money auditing of government programs and services.
We know that, as a country, we have tremendous difficulty when it comes to procurement. Part of that is institutional and part of it, I would say, has to do with a lack of leadership. It is a difficult task, and the Auditor General comes to this place and tables a report to make the system better. The government accepts the recommendations, but it is not about just saying “We accept them.” It is about whether or not the recommendations get the proper scrutiny or the political pressure to actually see those recommendations implemented.
For anyone in this place to rise and say that we should not be discussing things like agile procurement processes, given the failures of the government to effect the change that is necessary so that we can move past the process issues, I think, is not ideal. We should be talking about these things, because they cost billions of dollars, and when they fail, they fail Canadians.
The Phoenix payroll system, some people might say, was brought in by the previous government. Those processes were brought in, but the ultimate decision to initiate, overruling the advice given by IBM and others to this government that the system was not prepared and that there would be problems with the system, lies fully on the government's decision to start it.
Now, I am not going to relitigate that whole issue, but it does point out a very recent example where Canadians were hurt hard. We had public servants who, in effect, were unable to give the proper information to CRA and who were unable to feed their families or pay their mortgages. If any members in this place try to diminish today's debate on concurrence, that is on them. They are trying to avoid the accountability and the expertise brought forward by the Auditor General.
When the Auditor General says that she is “frustrated” about things like veterans wait-lists, when she and her office have made repetitive recommendations, accepted by government, but have not seen the subsequent improvements, I can understand how frustrating it is. We make recommendations to the government on a regular basis, and it does not accept any of them. The Liberals actually say things like, “We have nothing to learn”, yet they ultimately have to do it, such as the decision on Huawei. It was this side of the House that said that the government needs to stand with our allies in saying “no way” to Huawei, yet the government did not listen.
Now, getting back to agile procurement, for those who are not necessarily familiar with the term, let me bring out what the Auditor General had to say: “We found that the way in which procurement teams collaborated with private sector suppliers on proposed IT solutions needed improvement.” Suppliers reported that they “should regularly confirm that their procurement activities support the business need.” I will sum it up by saying that agile, versus the status quo, is bringing industry in early and developing ongoing understanding and objectives.
This subject reminds of a story right out of a book called The Death of Common Sense by a lawyer from New York. He gave the example of a public servant in New York in the late seventies and early eighties. This person was told he needed to put in place a procurement process for a new bridge. The gentleman at the time said, “Let's bring in industry.” He brought in industry, asked how they would do this and then was very quiet.
Some of the larger firms said they would do the traditional process and laid out what that would be, which was at great cost to the taxpayer and was a very lengthy process. One of the participants said they would not do any of that. They said they would build the bridge by using the natural characteristics of the route, which would save on time and money and get the bridge built much faster. The error the public servant made, after bringing the bridge developer back in a second time, was giving the contract directly to that person.
That bridge was built two years ahead of schedule at half the cost. Why? It is because rather than coming in with a prescriptive approach, wherein the government thought it had the perfect solution, and saying to industry to build a big bridge that would cost millions of dollars, go way over budget and take extra time, someone simply asked, “How would you do this?”
Now, the public servant was ultimately fired. Yes, he was fired, because he did not follow the procurement rules at the time. There is a great saying from the book The Peter Principle: The first to go in any organization are the hyper-competent and the hyper-incompetent. If someone is terrible at what they do, they are gone. If someone is incredible at what they do, they are gone.
That is the example I would like to put forward today because agile procurement takes a very similar approach. For example, instead of government saying what it thinks, we should go to industry, bring them in early and hear the proposals. That is not what the government is doing.
The government has been criticized as being too prescriptive and not necessarily taking advantage of the new technologies. This might shock some Liberal, NDP and Bloc members, but the government is not always a leader when it comes to new technology. We need to talk to the experts, and unfortunately the experts are in industry most of the time. They understand the technology and what it can and cannot do. Unfortunately, even when IBM said to the government not to press start on the Phoenix pay system, the government ignored the advice.
This report is incredibly complex. It is important for us to acknowledge that we need to move from the current procurement process to the agile process laid out in this report. I invite Canadians to go to the Auditor General's website. It is the first report of the latest batch. I would ask Canadians to take a look at it to see the contrasting approach. I really do hope the government will draw upon it.
I am a big believer in Canadian industry. I am a big believer in the notion that we can reinvent government, especially when it comes to procurement processes. However, we need a government that embraces change.
The government, with its so-called deliverology, has not delivered when it comes to procurement. I certainly hope it listens to our Auditor General. It may not listen to me, and that is okay and I understand it. Sometimes I do not want to listen to myself either. However, it is so fundamentally important that we start to address these processes, because procurement is one of the things that hold our government back.
While I am on my feet, I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.