Process, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Accountability and Transparency Inspectorate, ‘PEEATI’

A litany of disastrous decisions have sometimes cost lives and definitely many billions of dollars. Effectively cancelling the Global Public Health Intelligence Network; the failure to implement the pandemic preparedness […]
October 28, 2021

A litany of disastrous decisions have sometimes cost lives and definitely many billions of dollars. Effectively cancelling the Global Public Health Intelligence Network; the failure to implement the pandemic preparedness protocols developed by Ottawa’s public health officer; the Alberta government’s disastrous ‘investments’ in the Keystone XL Express pipeline; the gargantuan black holes of the BC Hydro Peace River Site C hydroelectric dam project; the Manitoba Hydro Keeyask and Bipole III projects; the Nalcor Muskrat Falls project; the cancelled Ontario gas plants that were ill-sited; the failure of Ottawa to make firm purchases of COVID-19 vaccines; slow adoption of early warning systems to detect wildfires; unwise dependence on China and the dubious and irrevocably committed mass purchase of costly F-35 jets by Ottawa.  

What they all have in common was a lack of independent oversight, analysis and evaluation before the bad decisions were made. Parliamentary oversight, federal or provincial, has been ineffective and retroactive. These mistakes can cost billions of dollars and damage or end hundreds of lives. One device that might help is an independent, entirely separate government branch that would have knowledge of existing government programs, processes and decision making and planning procedures. Moreover, the capability of evaluating changes to them, and of the effects of new programs, projects, agencies or regulations on finances, the economy, individuals and groups.  

While there are some entities that deal with such things, namely the Privy Council, the Auditor General, the Conflicts of Interest and Integrity Commissioner, the Parliamentary Budget Office, which ‘scores’ political promises and budgetary proposals, and the Justice Department and the RCMP. The provincial governments have counterparts to some of these entities.

There would appear to be a number of issues or steps that should be taken when it comes to structuring and tasking such a new and important body. Its responsibilities should include: being aware of all the current and incipient public policy issues and challenges that may face decision-makers; fully describing and delineating what the new programs or projects or new agencies are, what they are intended to do, whom they will effect, how much they will cost and how they will be paid for; who will be tasked with running it or overseeing them; and establishing metrics for the results and near-term milestones.

This organization, should it ever be created, should be staffed with an adequate and highly knowledgeable staff that would likely include lawyers, doctors, scientists, engineers, accountants, financial analysts, businesspeople, data and IT professionals; cultural and social anthropologists; or be able to call upon such specialists as needed for specific issues. This body must be independent of the formal or regular civil service and government. Its governance and senior executives must also be independent, likely chosen from a pool of voluntary applicants attracted by its mission and a highly competitive remuneration and command structure. Possibly, top officials should be voted in by the public. High prestige and power should be accorded to this institution, and high standards, too.

Citizens and taxpayers can no longer depend on traditional decision-making processes that have given us such horrendous messes. Strong, proactive and independent scrutiny, analysis and judgment must be applied by highly competent and informed outsiders. Otherwise, the disasters will continue.

Ian Madsen is a senior policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash.

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