Today, the Right to Know Coalition released a Report on government contracting, including a set of recommendations for how the province’s procurement system should be improved to bring it into line with international open contracting standards. In comparison to the global trend, which is unmistakably in favour of greater access to procurement information, Nova Scotia remains stuck in the past, with systems that trend towards secrecy, or provide only a bare minimum of information.
“Nova Scotians have a democratic right to know how the government is spending their money,” said Michael Karanicolas, President of the Right to Know Coalition. “However, there is also evidence that open contracting can save governments money, by making procurement more efficient and competitive. We hope that Nova Scotia’s government will consider the recommendations in this Report carefully, and introduce the necessary improvements.”
The Report is based on research carried out by the Right to Know Coalition over the past year, which compares Nova Scotia’s contracting policies against global transparency standards. Among the key findings is that Nova Scotia publishes less information about its contracts than more progressive jurisdictions, and should move to a system where information such as costing breakdowns for contracts and information about unsuccessful bidders are published as a matter of routine. Moreover, information fields on Nova Scotia’s tendering web portal are often left blank, or include broken links to external websites, making it difficult to obtain a complete picture of provincial spending.
The Report also recommends that Nova Scotia establish a database of sole source contracts, similar to the database that Alberta has set up, and that the province introduce annual procurement reports, like those published by the city of Vancouver, that spell out a full and easily digestible documentation of public spending activities.