Outsourcing 2.0 isn’t worth the upgrade

The recent recommendations of yet another consultants’ report on Shared Services Canada (SSC) demonstrate that, when it comes to federal government outsourcing, there’s no shortage of private sector advice. The “SSC Resource Alignment Review,” begun last year at a cost of $1.35 million by Gartner Canada Co., criticizes the government for the fact that it “vastly underestimated the size, scale and complexity” of its IT plans. It then proceeds to recommend a number of changes – e.g., a joint SSC Transition Task Force comprised of industry representatives and government executives, a “relief valve” to allow departments to find alternatives when SSC can’t deliver, and the need to consider a new structure for SSC, “such as an agency, crown corporation, strategic partnership, joint venture” – all of which would, if implemented, promote even wider outsourcing of services than is practiced now.

It seems like only yesterday that Public Services Minister Judy Foote stood in the House of Commons and insisted SSC would not be allowed to outsource nearly a third of its workforce, as a 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by SSC sought to do. This latest report deserves to meet the same fate.

After successfully negotiating stronger language to protect our CS Group members from the impacts of outsourcing, the suggestion that Shared Services should now be outsourced on an even grander scale than proposed under the Harper government is a bitter irony, given the Liberal government’s promises in 2015 to reduce spending on outside consultants to 2005-06 levels.

Equally troubling is the fact that the report’s “Management Summary” (the full report has not been made public) lists no fewer than 34 instances in which information has been redacted, meaning that the government is not sharing all the analysis and recommendations on which the report is based. PIPSC is filing access to information requests to learn more.

All of this comes on the heels of another separate report based on a 2016 survey of SSC employees by Ipsos Public Affairs which found, among other things, that outsourcing has contributed to a massive drop in morale at the department – a finding that corroborates our own survey findings of 2015.

Outsourcing didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now – as we are constantly reminded by the chronic cost overruns, delays and other problems associated with email consolidation, the Canada.ca website and pay transformation alone.

When it comes to outsourcing we’re all at risk of being Phoenixed.

The government should stop its overreliance on outsourcing and start listening to its own employees. That begins with investing in our members and the resources they need to make SSC succeed, not outside companies.

PIPSC will be writing to Treasury Board President Scott Brison to convey our concerns in detail and will pursue all means at our disposal to ensure the Gartner report is never implemented.

Better Together.

Debi Daviau,