Conservatives want auditor general to probe McKinsey contracts

The federal Conservatives are calling on the auditor general to probe the government’s use of consulting firm McKinsey for outside advice — a company the Tories say deserves close scrutiny because of its past ties to China and the opioid crisis.

McKinsey has received more than $100 million in government contracts over the last seven years — much more than the firm received when former prime minister Stephen Harper was in office.

The public service has been relying more on outsider advisers as it navigates policy challenges, such as the mounting immigration backlog.

McKinsey was retained to help on this file and others, but some public servants have questioned the value of their work.

The company’s past ties to Dominic Barton, the firm’s former global managing director and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former ambassador to China, has also been a source of controversy.

The government procurement process is carried out by civil servants, not politicians, but the Conservatives maintain something is amiss.

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said McKinsey has been involved in “so many scandals around the world.” He pointed to its past work with Purdue Pharma, a company that aggressively sold opioids, and authoritarian regimes like China and Saudi Arabia.

WATCH: Conservatives push for investigation of McKinsey contracts 

Conservatives push for investigation of McKinsey contracts

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis says his party will put forward a motion in the House of Commons to have the auditor general look into federal contracts awarded to the McKinsey & Company consulting firm under the Trudeau government.

“So far, the Liberals have disclosed at least $120 million in contracts to McKinsey, an enormous amount of money that keeps rising. Yet despite this huge price tag, media reports have quoted senior public servants who say they have no idea what McKinsey did in return for these contracts,” Genuis said.

“Canadians deserve answers. They deserve answers not simply on how much of their money was spent, but what exactly their money was spent on and what value they got from these contracts.”

While Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has tried to depict Barton as a close personal friend of the prime minister, Barton told a Commons committee probing the contracts last week that the two men are merely acquaintances and have no meaningful relationship.

Barton also insisted he had no involvement in any contracts granted to McKinsey over the past few decades.

“I had no involvement whatsoever in any awarding of paid work to McKinsey by the federal government since I relocated to Asia in 1996,” he told the committee.

Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek has said the government is doing a “full review” of the McKinsey contracts to ensure they align with all Treasury Board policies and directives.

Genuis said that isn’t good enough.

“We don’t believe Liberals can be trusted to investigate other Liberals,” he said. “We’re asking the auditor general to come in and do this investigation.”

Auditor General Karen Hogan ultimately will decide whether to probe the contracts. While parliamentarians can request an investigation, it’s Hogan who makes the final call.

Asked why the AG should focus on McKinsey when other firms get a lot more federal money for similar work, Genuis said Barton’s past connections to the government — he also also served on former finance minister Bill Morneau’s advisory council on economic growth — demand a closer look.

WATCH: MPs question former head of McKinsey about nature of relationship with Trudeau

MPs question former head of McKinsey & Company about nature of relationship with Trudeau

Former head of McKinsey & Company Dominic Barton was questioned by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather on the extent of his friendship with the prime minister during his appearance before a Commons committee investigating federal consulting contracts.

The NDP is interested in reviewing the government’s increasing reliance on outside firms — not just McKinsey.

The party says it also wants to review all contracts handed to Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, KPMG and Ernst & Young.

“Canadians are really upset to see that the Liberal government has given hundreds of millions of dollars to a private company instead of letting Canada’s public service do the jobs we hired them to do,” said Gord Johns, the party’s procurement critic.

“We have a competent public service that could be doing this work, but the federal Liberals would rather fund his wealthy consultant friends. We need to get to the bottom of how much money has been spent in contracting with private companies, outside of McKinsey, under both the Liberals and Conservatives.”

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