Transparency: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—June 2, 2021

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Transparency of COVID-19 related contracts

Context

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is publicly disclosing, to the fullest extent possible, information on contracting related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suggested response

If pressed on why contracts are not being disclosed sooner or in full:

If pressed on the use of the national security exception and Access to Information Act to prevent disclosure of information:

Background

At the outset of the pandemic, the government was faced with intense competition to procure essential supplies and PPE. To this end, the national security exception was applied to remove certain obligations, such as timeframes and public post tender notices, to complete urgent procurements more quickly. Additionally, the use of section 18 (b) of the Access to Information Act was also applied to exempt sensitive information relevant to ongoing contract negotiations.

Given the global nature of the pandemic and the severe competition for goods, we needed to protect the names of suppliers for certain hard-to-procure commodities, such as N95 respirators and test kits to ensure these sources of supply remained available to us.

In line with this new reality, and consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are now disclosing the majority of our COVID-19 contracting information on our webpage as well as through normal proactive disclosure requirements. In limited cases, certain contract details cannot be disclosed, for example to protect commercial confidentiality of suppliers.

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