Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, good morning.
I was invited to appear before this committee today to address your questions on the role of the Treasury Board and its secretariat in regards to government procurement.
As the government's management board, one of the Treasury Board's key responsibilities is to set the rules, standards, and performance expectations for public sector management government-wide. If I could, I'll take a few minutes to give you a quick overview of the management responsibilities for federal institutions.
The Treasury Board Secretariat supports the Treasury Board in its role through a number of activities. This includes setting management policies and assessing management performance in departments through the management accountability framework. The secretariat also supports departments by providing guidance and tools and developing capacity in key functional communities through learning and development activities.
Deputies have the responsibility to ensure that the day-to-day management of their departments comply with Treasury Board management policies. They are also responsible for ensuring that appropriate controls are in place for the sound management of the institution's human and financial resources.
Ministers are also accountable to Parliament for the use of funds in their institutions and their offices. They are also accountable for complying with and ensuring that their exempt staff comply with the Policies and Guidelines for Ministers' Offices. This document sets out financial, personal, and administrative guidelines and policies that govern expenses incurred by ministers and their exempt staff, including contracting. The guidelines clearly stipulate that unless specifically exempted, ministers and ministers' budgets are subject to Treasury Board policies and regulations.
Procurement is one of the key management functions in the government. To give you a sense of the significance of procurement in the Government of Canada, in 2006 the government attributed close to 400,000 contracts, for a total value of more than $12 billion. Of the total number of contracts, 4,700, or 1%, are sole-source contracts over $25,000. A well-managed procurement function is essential to the effective and efficient operations of government. Upholding the principles of fairness, openness, and transparency to achieve value for money for Canadians in contracting is the foundation on which the Government of Canada's contracting policy is built.
I mentioned the management accountability framework. The MAF is used to assess, on an annual basis, the management performance and capacity of each department. This assessment is used to establish priorities and plans for management improvement. In fact the Clerk of the Privy Council uses the MAF as an integral part of his performance assessments of deputy heads. We have been using the MAF now for five years, and procurement management practices is one of the areas we have been measuring since the inception of MAF. One key element that we measure is whether departments have the right oversight and controls in place. Although there is still room for improvement, when we look at procurement through the MAF lens we find that institutions have strengthened their contracting controls and practices over the last three years. As a result, the number of organizations rated positively has risen.
With the coming into force of different components of the Federal Accountability Act and the implementation of key initiatives from the federal accountability action plan, we have taken further steps to strengthen contracting practices in government. For example, an overarching statement of principle in procurement that commits the government to promoting fairness, openness, and transparency in the bidding process has been incorporated into the legislation through the Financial Administration Act. Also, since 2004 all contracts over $10,000 are proactively disclosed on government websites. The proactive disclosure of contracts contributes to the principles of openness and transparency, strengthens accountability in government, and ensures fairness in contracting activities.
Furthermore, the government adopted a new code of conduct for procurement in September of last year. As well, a procurement ombudsman designate has been appointed, and draft regulations to define the scope of his duties and functions were posted in December. The ombudsman's mandate is to review procurement practices across government, handle complaints from potential suppliers, review complaints regarding contract administration, and ensure the provision of an alternative dispute resolution process for contracts.
We're also making sure that practitioners have the tools, skills, knowledge, and expertise they need to do their work. That's why we are further developing capacity in the procurement, materiel, and real property management communities. Our professional development and certification program is one example. Finalized in 2006, it is designed to provide learning tools to approximately 10,000 functional specialists involved in the acquisition and management of assets and services. The program includes a competency standard and web-based assessment tools, a program curriculum, and a certification component to give federal government practitioners a professional designation from the Canadian General Standards Board.
Mr. Chair, I hope that this quick overview of the role of the Secretariat of the Treasury Board and of some of the activities we are conducting is useful for the committee. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you. Merci.