Charbonneau Commission Public Monitoring Committee
Transparency International Canada is a member of a Public Monitoring Committee set up to monitor and report on the implementation of the Charbonneau Commission Recommendations.
Over the last few months, TI Canada along with other committee members and support from a research team analyzed the Quebec government’s response to determine progress made to date.
Using publicly available information, the Public Monitoring Committee noted that, one year after the tabling of the Charbonneau report, 15 recommendations have been implemented satisfactorily, 9 recommendations have been partially implemented, and 36 recommendations have not been implemented.
The Committee did not simply focus on the number of recommendations implemented, but analyzed the quality of the government’s response. In order to do this, the Committee evaluated the government’s actions in five “intervention measures” selected by the Commission to give shape to its recommendations.
The Committee overall concluded that the Quebec government can and must do much better in implementing the Recommendations. The government’s reaction to the Charbonneau Commission’s recommendations is, thus far, unsatisfactory.
Measure no. 1: Reinforce the regulatory framework governing the awarding and management of public contracts.
- Recommendations implemented: 0/7
- Recommendations partially implemented: 2/7
- Recommendations not implemented: 5/7
Essentially, the government’s action in this area was the tabling of Bill 108, which created l’Autorité des marchés publics . This body will have neither the independence nor the powers and functions necessary to act effectively as a centre of expertise in the field of public contracts. Limited to ascertaining the legal compliance of certain contracts, l’Autorité , in contradiction to the wishes of the Commission, will not be able to effect an improvement on the management of public contracts. The fact that it is not authorized to carry out its mandate of ascertaining the compliance of public contracts without express permission from the government is a serious constraint.
Measure no. 2: Improve the activities of prevention, detection, and the importance of sanctions.
- Recommendations implemented: 6/30
- Recommendations partially implemented: 6/30
- Recommendations not implemented: 18/30
The government acted in two ways: introducing legislation for the protection of whistleblowers (Bill 87) and regulations governing the professional workplace (Bill 98). In both cases, the proposed measures clearly do not go far enough.
With regard to the protection of whistleblowers, many questions remain as to the resources that will be made available to the Public Protector to adequately fulfil its mandate. The fact that municipalities are not covered by the bill remains an issue. As for professional practices, the Committee is disappointed that the government did not require professional service firms to be subject to the control of the professional orders, as is done elsewhere in Canada. Recent scandals have clearly shown the limits of a public protection system that only takes into account the conduct of professionals – and not the enterprise that employs them.
Measure no. 3: Shelter the financing of political parties from outside influence.
- Recommendations implemented: 8/12
- Recommendations partially implemented: 1/12
- Recommendations not implemented: 3/12
The Committee wants to underline the fact that a number of concrete steps have been taken to clean up political party financing. Still, the advances in this regard cannot hide the fact that recommendation 47, dealing with modifying the consultative committee of the Directeur général des élections du Québec, was not implemented. Parliament chose to keep the current structure, a committee made up of elected officials and political party representatives who meet behind closed doors. They clearly did not deal with the reasons that, according to the Commission, explain how covert financing schemes have lasted so long, as well as the lacunae in the existing surveillance mechanisms.
Measure no. 4: Encourage citizen participation.
- Recommendations implemented: 1/4
- Recommendations partially implemented: 0/4
- Recommendations not implemented: 3/4
These recommendations were aimed at allowing each citizen to play a watchdog role while encouraging the education and involvement of civil society, especially by making available appropriate information on the management of public contracts. The principal victims of corruption, collusion, and the infiltration of organized crime are the citizens themselves, as public infrastructure and services suffer owing to the diversion of public revenues to the forces of corruption. Citizens are the ideal allies of the State in any initiative that protects the integrity of contracts . The Monitoring Committee, itself born of a citizen initiative, strongly criticizes the government’s unwillingness to put measures in place that would encourage citizen involvement in the battle against such pernicious practices.
Measure no. 5: Renew public confidence in elected officials and public servants.
- Recommendations implemented: 0/7
- Recommendations partially implemented: 0/7
- Recommendations not implemented: 7/7
The Committee is disappointed to note that no action was taken to renew public confidence in the elected officials and public servants. When it comes to integrity, an example must be set at the top. If indeed the State was looking to inculcate a culture of integrity in its suppliers, it must demonstrate that it requires of itself to follow the strictest standards. These standards must apply to all public officials, starting with the politicians. By not implementing any measures to win back the public’s confidence in democracy in Quebec, the elected class sends a worrying message.
In spite of some measures implemented, the effort to date is unsatisfactory. The government must do better. As for the Monitoring Committee, it will continue its mandate and table its second report one year from now.