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Omnibus Outsourcing

One of the many provisions in this spring’s federal budget – which the government insists is not an omnibus budget – is to allow departments, with a minister’s permission, to opt out of using Shared Services Canada (SSC), the department tasked with serving the IT needs of 43 federal departments and agencies.

As many PIPSC members who work for SSC can attest, Shared Services was poorly conceived and inadequately resourced from the very first day the Harper government launched it in 2011. It has frequently been criticized for problems and delays related to large infrastructure projects such as consolidation of government email systems – many of which have been outsourced to private companies.

All that is not to say that the creation of Shared Services was a bad idea – only that it has been badly implemented.

Given the government’s over-reliance on outsourcing rather than “insourcing” (aka hiring staff and building internal capacity) for IT work, it seems likely many more departments may now, post-budget and for lack of a workable, government-wide and adequately resourced strategy, turn increasingly to outsourced services. (The federal government’s cloud computing strategy is a recent case in point.)

The problems with government outsourcing have now become so widespread that the practice is undermining the only federal contracts that really matter – those with the public and its own employees. Annual spending on professional services now sits at $12 billion (it was $11 billion last year), defying the promise made during the 2015 election campaign to return spending on outside consultants to 2005/06 levels.

As the CBC’s Katie Simpson recently reported, the practice is now even confounding government efforts to hire additional contractors to perform work related to the Phoenix pay system, since it risks infringing the ongoing contract begun under IBM.

By allowing more departments to opt out of SSC’s services rather than properly investing in what is, after all, one of the country’s largest and most vital IT enterprises, the government may by default be launching its own program of ”omnibus outsourcing”.

 

Publish Date: 05-MAY-2017 03:09 PM