Ethics Committee calls for sweeping reforms following WE Charity scandal
A House of Commons committee is proposing a series of sweeping reforms to how the federal government makes contracting decisions after it released a report on the WE Charity scandal.
Among the nearly two dozen recommendations contained in its 116-page report, tabled today, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics calls on the government not to attribute any contract to the WE group before an independent audit or a CRA forensic audit can determine how money flows between its charitable operations and their “multitude of side companies and real estate.”
The committee also recommends that the government no longer award contracts to shell companies that lack assets in order to avoid liability.
During the WE scandal, it was revealed that the federal government’s $ 912 million contract with the WE organization to run a student volunteer program was in fact with the WE Charity Foundation, a shell company created by WE Charity.
The foundation was created to hold real estate assets, but these assets had not been transferred to the foundation when the agreement with the government was signed.
The committee said it also wanted to see rule changes put in place to avoid conflicts of interest on the part of cabinet ministers. For example, he wants to tighten the filtering of conflicts of interest for ministers before Cabinet decisions are made. He also says public office holders should be accompanied by staff to take notes when meeting with lobbyists.
The report is the result of a process that began in the summer of 2020 when the committee began to examine what safeguards were in place to prevent conflicts of interest in federal government spending policies. In November 2020, the committee shifted the study’s focus to conflict of interest and lobbying related to pandemic-related spending.
As he tabled the report in Parliament on Thursday, Tory MP Chris Warkentin, chairman of the committee, said government employees’ refusal to testify and the committee’s difficulties in obtaining documents led him to conclude that many questions remained unanswered.
Conservative ethics critic and committee member MP Michael Barrett slammed the government for obstructing 20 committee meetings and proroguing Parliament.
“Canadians deserve … a government that is committed to good ethical governance,” Barrett told the House. “Someone who doesn’t prepare the red carpet for their friends and help them skip the line and get the indoor track in Ottawa.
The report comes a month after Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion concluded that former Finance Minister Bill Morneau broke ethics rules in his dealings with WE Charity, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to do so. had not done.