Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, everyone.
The Department of National Defence is tasked with protecting Canadians, safeguarding our values and securing our interests at home and abroad. One of the ways we do this is by procuring the modern equipment and services our Canadian Armed Forces need to meet the threats of an increasingly dangerous world. This is, it goes without saying, a vitally important task.
I take my role as a steward of public funds very seriously. In particular, as minister, I understand that each dollar counts, especially when it comes to protecting Canadians and equipping our soldiers, sailors, aviators and special forces.
National Defence adheres to the policies laid out by the Treasury Board Secretariat, which require departments to have stringent procedures and financial controls in place to ensure the effective use and sound stewardship of public funds.
National Defence works closely with other federal departments, including PSPC, as well as with the defence industry. We look to assuring that we have in place best practices of our partners and allies, as well as a wide range of competencies within the defence team. Like many other departments, in specific cases we may seek third party expertise externally.
Third party experts may be important in three circumstances: when we need to acquire specialized expertise or experience that does not exist within the department; when we need to focus on achieving a particular outcome quickly, without interrupting the important work our internal teams are already doing; and when we need to fill a specific role.
As with all our financial practices, National Defence takes great care to be open and transparent, in adherence with Treasury Board policies.
Since 2011 and in the following 12 years thereafter, National Defence has awarded 15 contracts to McKinsey for a total value of approximately $29.6 million. Just one of those contracts is still active.
Twelve of them have been call-ups against the national master standing offer, for which PSPC is the contracting authority. McKinsey was selected because they offered proprietary benchmarking and other tools that best met the department's needs. The contracts were for corporate services intended to complement National Defence's in-house expertise.
Let me give you an example.
As the Canadian Armed Forces undertakes massive systemic organizational change, the chief of professional conduct and culture used the firm's services to engage with more than 9,000 defence team members about their lived experiences to inform our efforts on institutional culture change. That included more than 280 engagement sessions across the country, from small group discussions to town halls. In fact, Lieutenant-General Carignan is here with me today as chief, professional conduct and culture, and can provide more detailed information.
Using an external firm was important to undertaking such a large effort in a short period of time, as well as to analyzing and reporting the findings of these critical conversations. When institutional change of this sort is needed, outside experts can play an important role.
To wrap up, as Minister Fortier explained before this committee, departments must maintain the integrity of process, define intended outcomes, get best value at a fair price and ensure the deliverable meets the quality expected. I have expectations for my department to maintain this integrity and to always seek to improve processes.
As elected officials and public servants, it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that we are using public funds responsibly and transparently. This is a priority for National Defence and for me personally.
I am now happy to take your questions.