The Ethics Committee calls for comprehensive reforms following the WE Charity scandal
After releasing its report on the WE Charity scandal, the House of Commons committee proposed a series of comprehensive reforms to the way the federal government makes contractual decisions.
Among the nearly two dozen recommendations in the 116-page report submitted today, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics calls on the government not to award any contracts to WE Group before independent audits or CRA forensic audits to determine how funds are used in its charitable business. Flow between “many affiliates and real estate holding companies”.
The committee also recommended that the government no longer award contracts to shell companies that lack assets to avoid liability.
During the WE scandal, it was revealed that the US$912 million contract signed by the federal government and the WE organization was signed with the WE Charity Foundation (a shell company established by WE Charity) to run the student volunteer program.
The foundation was established to hold real estate assets, but these assets were not transferred to the foundation when the agreement was signed with the government.
The committee said it would also like to see changes in the formulation of rules to prevent conflicts of interest between cabinet ministers. For example, it hopes to strengthen the review of conflicts of interest for ministers before making cabinet decisions. It also stated that public officials should be accompanied by staff to take notes when they encounter lobbyists.
The report is the result of a process that began in the summer of 2020, when the committee began to study what safeguards were taken to prevent conflicts of interest in the federal government’s spending policy. In November 2020, the committee shifted its research focus to conflicts of interest and lobbying related to pandemic expenditures.
When submitting a report to Parliament on Thursday, the chairman of the committee and Conservative MP Chris Walkendin stated that the refusal of government staff to testify and the difficulties the committee encountered in obtaining documents led the committee to conclude that many questions remain unanswered.
Congressman Michael Barrett, a Conservative Party ethics critic and committee member, criticized the government for obstructing the committee’s 20 meetings and adjourning parliament.
“Canadians deserve…a government committed to good ethical governance,” Barrett told the House of Representatives. “A person who won’t lay the red carpet for their friends and help them skip the queue and get into the internal tracks in Ottawa.”
The report came after the Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion concluded that former Treasury Secretary Bill Morneau violated the rules of ethics when dealing with WE Charity, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ( Justin Trudeau) did not violate the rules of ethics one month later.