What to Expect: Procurement Practice Review Guide

September 2016
Promoting Fairness, Openness and Transparency in Federal Procurement

1 Introduction

This guide outlines the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman’s (OPO) process and timelines for conducting procurement practice reviews, and provides an overview of the expectations of all parties involved.

1.1 The procurement ombudsman’s mandate

Paragraph 22.1(3)(a) of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act states:

  • The Procurement Ombudsman shall, in accordance with the regulations,
    • (a) review the practices of departments for acquiring materiel and services to assess their fairness, openness and transparency and make any appropriate recommendations to the relevant department for the improvement of those practices;…

OPO refers to the process associated with executing this element of the Procurement Ombudsman’s mandate as a Procurement Practice Review.

1.2 What are procurement practice reviews?

Procurement practice reviews are independent and objective examinations of federal procurement practices to assess their fairness, openness and transparency. Among other things, OPO considers the consistency of the practices with applicable laws, policies, guidelines and standards in the course of its assessment.  Practice reviews may cover one or multiple federal organizations.

1.3 Which organizations does the procurement ombudsman review?

The Procurement Ombudsman reviews the procurement practices of federal organizations listed in schedules I, I.1 and II of the Financial Administration Act. However, Section 3 of the Procurement Ombudsman Regulations (the Regulations) prohibits the Procurement Ombudsman from reviewing the procurement practices of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the staff of the Senate and House of Commons.

2 Information necessary for a review

According to Subsection 4(2) of the Regulations, the Procurement Ombudsman may request any document or information necessary for a practice review.

2.1 Type of information required

Information is defined by OPO as records in the possession of the federal organization subject to the review, as well as information provided to OPO via communications with staff from the federal organization. OPO requires access to all documents associated with the requested procurements (including the procurement, program, quality assurance and/or oversight, and financial files) as well as all applicable policies, guides, and process maps to ensure the Ombudsman can issue a report meeting the requirements of Subsection 5.(a) of the Regulations. In addition, access to personnel is necessary for interviews or follow-up questions. All information collected during a practice review is treated by OPO in accordance with Government of Canada security and information management requirements.

3 What to expect

3.1 Timely access to information

Subsection 6(1) of the Regulations requires the Procurement Ombudsman to complete a procurement practice review within one year after its launch; in other words, issue a report. Therefore, timely access to information is crucial to the review process. OPO defines timely as obtaining documents within 5 working days of a request. If the federal organization cannot provide documents requested within this timeframe, it is expected to provide OPO with a reason in writing within the 5 working days. The OPO review team and reviewed organization can discuss and agree on a timeframe. In the event OPO encounters delays in obtaining information, the issue will be escalated. Delays in obtaining requested information can amount to a denial of access and, in these scenarios, will form part of the report’s findings.

3.2 What the reviewed organization can expect

OPO will:

  • Inform the deputy head of the federal organization in writing of the launching of a practice review
  • Provide the Terms of Reference for the review
  • Provide review timelines
  • Make requests for information in writing
  • Adhere to Government of Canada and, if applicable, the federal organization’s security and information management policies when handling information
  • Provide the federal organization the opportunity to review and provide comments on draft reports

3.3 What OPO expects

The federal organization should:

  • Identify a representative, who will coordinate meetings, between OPO and organizational staff, and coordinate the responses to information requests within the organization
  • Respond to information requests in a timely manner
  • Provide access to staff from the organization in a timely manner
  • Refrain from disclosing review information to parties outside of the review process
  • Return all copies of draft reports to OPO or dispose of draft reports in accordance with Government of Canada security and information management policies when handling information

4 Procurement practice review phases

Procurement Practice Reviews are carried out in three phases:

  • Planning
  • Examination
  • Reporting

4.1 Planning

The Procurement Ombudsman launches a practice review when reasonable grounds are established. Practice review topics, and the selection of federal organizations to be reviewed, are established through strategic planning for practice reviews.

Launching a Procurement Practice Review

The Procurement Ombudsman launches a practice review by notifying the organization’s deputy head, in writing, of the review topic and OPO’s point of contact. The notification letter will also request identification of and contact details for an organizational representative. The federal organization is expected to acknowledge receipt in writing and provide the name and contact information of a representative.

4.2 Examination

During the examination phase OPO will:

  • Meet with the representative(s)
  • Provide the Terms of Reference for the review
  • Make requests for information, such as initial data for file selection
  • Review and analyse documentation, such as internal policies, guidelines and information provided by departmental staff
  • Select and review departmental files
  • Interview staff

Meetings and Interviews

Several meetings will take place during the examination phase. An initial (i.e. kick-off) meeting will take place between the organization’s representative(s) and the OPO review team to discuss the review process, outline timelines, and discuss the Terms of Reference. Follow-up meetings may be scheduled as required (see Table 1).

Table 1 – Meetings with Reviewed Organization
Meeting Objective Attendees
Kick-off meeting Discuss review objectives, key dates, milestones and expectations Organizational representative(s) and OPO review team
Interviews Collect or clarify information Organizational staff (Interviewees selected by OPO) and OPO review team
Follow-up meeting(s) Collect or clarify information Organizational staff required to provide information and OPO review team

Requests for Information and File Selection

OPO’s operating standard is to review at least 30 procurement files per federal organization as part of a procurement practice review. OPO will request initial procurement-related data to develop a sample selection strategy specific to the review. The sample can be selected judgementally or at random, depending on the review. Once the sample is selected by OPO, the organization’s representative will be informed of the selected files in writing and is expected to respond to information requests in a timely manner.

4.3 Reporting

During the reporting phase OPO will:

  • Share preliminary findings
  • Make any appropriate recommendations
  • Provide the organization with two drafts of the report

Preliminary Findings

Once OPO completes the analysis, preliminary findings will be shared with the representative of the reviewed organization. The preliminary findings will summarize the results of the analysis.

Recommendations

Based on findings from analysis in the examination phase, the Procurement Ombudsman may make recommendations to improve the fairness, openness, and transparency of the procurement practices reviewed. The draft recommendations will be shared with the reviewed organization through the first draft report.

Draft Reports

Paragraph 5(b) of the Regulations requires the Ombudsman to:

provide an opportunity to the department whose practices have been subject to the review to make comments on the proposed recommendations and the reasons for them within 30 working days after their receipt.

OPO provides the federal organization subject to the review with two opportunities to make comments and provide rationale for its comments on the draft report and proposed recommendations (see Table 2). The first draft report is sent to the organization’s representative with a request for comments. The second draft report is sent to the organization’s deputy head with a request for comments. In addition, OPO will include a table outlining how comments received on the first draft were disposed of by OPO. In the event the organization does not respond within the timelines provided (see Table 2), OPO will conclude the organization has declined to comment.

Final Report

A copy of the final report is provided to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement as per Subsection 6(1) of the Regulations. OPO also provides a copy of the final report to the deputy head of the reviewed organization 5 working days prior to the report’s publication. All procurement practice review reports are published in their entirety on the OPO website in both official languages.

Table 2 – Reporting Milestones
Document Timeframe
1st draft report to organizational representative 20 working days to respond
2nd draft report and disposition table to deputy head 10 working days to respond
Final report to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, and deputy head of reviewed organization Provided 5 working days prior to publication

4.4 Follow-up practice review

OPO conducts a follow-up review two years after the Procurement Ombudsman has issued a procurement practice review report where recommendations were made. The purpose of the follow-up review is to report on the progress made in response to the Procurement Ombudsman’s recommendations and the issues identified in the review.

The Procurement Ombudsman launches the follow-up review by notifying the organization’s deputy head in writing. The notification letter identifies OPO’s point of contact, requests identification of and contact details for an organizational representative, and seeks information on progress made by the organization since the publication of the practice review. The federal organization is expected to provide a written response. The same process for reporting (see 4.3 Reporting) is followed.

5 Road map to procurement practice reviews

Road map to procurement practice reviews - Long description below
Image description

This is a flow chart of the Road map for procurement practice reviews. First the planning phase: OPO will send a notification letter to deputy head and request for dept. representative. The dept. will confirm receipt and provide name and contact information. Second the reporting phase: OPO will request initial data for file selection and departmental documents. The dept. will provide data. OPO will review data, select and review file. Third the Reporting phase: OPO will provide first draft of report to department and request comments. Dept. will provide comment within 20 days. Second draft will be sent to deputy head by OPO and dept. will provide comments within 10 days. Final report will be sent to deputy head 5 day prior to publishing. Report publish on OPO website. Follow-up review (2 years later) OPO will send notification letter to deputy head and dept. will provide name and contact. Same reporting phase will be used.