Procurement Practice Reviews - Frequently Asked Questions

What is a procurement practice review?

A procurement practice review is an independent, objective review of federal government contracting practices. A review may include examining the application of procurement policies, and assessing the processes, tools and activities related to acquiring goods and services.

How is a practice review different from an investigation?

An investigation is initiated by and focused upon a supplier's complaint regarding a specific contract. The investigation seeks to determine if the allegations made by the supplier have merit. In contrast, practice review topics stem from issues that are systemic in nature and can affect the procurement system more broadly. A review may focus on issues within a single department or a single issue across multiple departments. Reviews are proactive and forward thinking in that they are focused on identifying effective practices and strengthening the fairness, openness and transparency of the contracting system.

What is the Procurement Ombudsman's mandate with regard to procurement practice reviews?

The Procurement Ombudsman reviews the procurement practices of federal government departments and agencies (listed in schedules l, l.1, and ll of the Financial Administration Act) for acquiring goods and services to assess their fairness, openness, and transparency, and makes recommendations for their improvement.

What do you mean by fairness, openness and transparency?

As defined by the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman:

  • Fairness is providing equal treatment to current and potential suppliers.
  • Openness is providing all potential suppliers with the opportunity to submit bids for government procurement.
  • Transparency is providing information to Canadians in a timely manner that facilitates public scrutiny of the decisions made and actions undertaken.

How does the Procurement Ombudsman report on procurement practice reviews?

All review reports are posted on the Reports and Publications. The Procurement Ombudsman also provides the final review report to the Deputy Heads of the federal organizations subject to the review.

In addition, the Procurement Ombudsman summarizes all procurement practice review activities in the Office's Annual Report, which is tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

How will the Procurement Ombudsman improve the fairness, openness and transparency of federal government procurement practices?

Reviews provide the Procurement Ombudsman with the opportunity to make recommendations for strengthening fairness, openness and transparency in federal procurement practices. Reviews also allow OPO to share effective practices from across the federal government with its stakeholders.

The results of the reviews are available to suppliers and the public, through OPO's website, leading to increased awareness of federal government procurement practices. Furthermore, to determine the impact the Office's reviews have on federal procurement practices, follow-up reviews take place two to three years after the release of a report to assess the extent to which OPO's recommendations have been acted upon.

The Office also conducts studies and analysis on procurement-related topics to ensure the procurement community has a balanced understanding of the interests and concerns of government, suppliers and parliamentarians. OPO studies and analysis can identify effective practices and are intended to stimulate discussion.

How are topics for procurement practice reviews chosen?

The Office is in the process of establishing a methodology that will assist in selecting topics for reviews of federal government procurement practices for inclusion in a three year strategic plan for practice reviews.

The methodology includes a process that involves the scan of all issues raised to our Office by suppliers, federal officials and media, as well as information gathered from environmental scanning and stakeholder feedback. These issues are then assessed against criteria to determine a list of potential review topics. A detailed assessment is carried out on each potential review topic to identify the issues posing the greatest risk to the fairness, openness and transparency of the federal procurement system, and those that would be of most common interest to suppliers, federal officials and parliamentarians.

I asked Office of the Procurement Ombudsman to review an issue and it was outside of your investigation mandate. Are you going to do a practice review on it?

OPO will consider complaints and issues raised to the Office by suppliers as part of the practice review topic selection process. Complaints and issues raised are taken into consideration alongside additional sources of information including issues raised by: government departments and parliamentarians; in the media; and, national and international trends and developments in procurement.

How does the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman conduct its reviews?

Generally, the Office conducts reviews using a three-step process:

  • Planning: the review's objectives, lines of inquiry, and methodology are established. The Office also establishes what type of information and analysis will be undertaken to carry out the review.
  • Field Work: information is collected and a detailed analysis is conducted. Activities may include: interviews with departmental employees and experts; reviewing documents and files; and, researching procurement practices in other jurisdictions.
  • Reporting: the review team drafts the report, based on the facts and analysis. Once complete, the draft report is shared with the implicated department(s) for consideration and comments prior to being finalized and made publically available.

My department is being reviewed - what does that mean and what can I expect?

Once the objectives and methodology of the review have been confirmed, OPO will contact the department(s) to inform them of their involvement in an upcoming review. OPO may have previously contacted the department(s) for preliminary information during the planning phase. A meeting is then scheduled and held with the department(s) to discuss the review process including what can be expected from OPO (objectives, activities, timelines, etc) and how departments will be asked to assist.

As part of OPO's field work, the Office may conduct interviews with departmental employees and request access to data and files for review and analysis.

Once the research and analysis is complete, a draft report is written and provided to the department(s) for comments prior to finalization. A copy of the final report will be provided to the participating department(s) and published on OPO's website.

How does the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman ensure the quality of its reviews?

Procurement practice reviews are conducted by qualified, multi-disciplinary teams with a mix of skills, backgrounds, and experiences in the areas of government procurement, internal audit, business process mapping, and governance.

In addition, the Office has its own legal counsel and can consult other experts as necessary. The Office also has a quality assurance and risk management system to ensure that quality is built into all of its processes.