Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Operation Government Shutdown

The Citizen reports that the Cons aren't done throwing monkey wrenches into the works of government yet, as the federal civil service is facing an almost total prohibition on normal purchasing processes and other operations for the duration of the election campaign:
In an unprecedented clampdown, Public Works and Government Services Canada is vetting all federal purchasing to ensure only contracts for "essential or urgent" goods and services are issued during the rest of the election campaign...

The screening of contracts is part of a sweeping clampdown imposed by the Privy Council Office on communications and business that is slowing down the work of some departments to a crawl.

The restrictions have resulted in travel bans in some departments, public servants bowing out of long-scheduled conferences, speaking engagements and meetings with everyone from consumer advocacy groups to industry representatives. Bureaucrats, lobbyists, suppliers and anyone who deals with government say they have never seen such a chill on the workings of the bureaucracy. Many say the Conservative government's tight control of information over the past two years has bureaucrats overreacting.

Public Works normally refrains from signing or awarding any big contracts during an election, but public servants say they have never seen all contracts screened and reviewed before being posted. The written directive provided by PCO says that during an election, "the government acts with restraint, confining itself to necessary public business -- continuing to communicate on matters that are routine, non-controversial, and urgent and in the public interest."

What is different this time is that the government doesn't seem to trust the judgment and restraint bureaucrats used to be expected to exercise during an election in deciding what contracts to issue. Caution has snowballed into "paranoia to the extreme," said one procurement expert...

It also comes at one of the busiest times for the bureaucracy as departments are racing to get contracts ready or in place to get their work done before the March 31 year-end. Deferred contracts will come back to haunt the government with delays and backlogs.
Not that it should come as much surprise that the Cons' iron fist has been gripping the public service even harder than usual during the election campaign.

But it should once again say plenty about Harper's priorities that he's effectively ordered Public Works to avoid doing its job for the balance of the campaign - ensuring that it'll have to rush to finish the same work later - in the name of improving their position during the campaign. And the Cons' continued insistence on putting their interests over any desire for good government should have both the civil service in particular and Canadians in general eager to remove Harper from power.

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