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Gomery Commission issues final report

The Gomery Commission issued its second and final report this week, laying out a series of recommendations designed to prevent abuses of federal government programs such as those which plagued the sponsorship program dating back to 1995. The commission's first report, released in November 2005, found evidence of political involvement in the administration of the program, insufficient oversight by senior public servants, lack of transparency in the contracting process, deliberate avoidance of federal legislation, and a "culture of entitlement" among the political officials and bureaucrats involved.
The 19 recommendations of the second report are intended to "rebalance the relationship between Parliament and Government" and to "assign clearer accountability to both politicians and public servants." Among the recommendations are: increased funding for parliamentary committees; increased funding for the Public Accounts Committee to pay for more research personnel, legal staff and other experts; a declaration by the government that Deputy Ministers and senior public servants who have statutory responsibility are accountable before the Public Accounts Committee; the removal of a provision that allows staff members to be appointed to the public service without competition under certain circumstances; and the adoption of an open and competitive process for the selection of Deputy Ministers, such as the method used in Alberta.
Another major recommendation is that the functions and titles of the Clerk of the Privy Council should be redefined. The report advises changing the title to Secretary to the Cabinet. This person's primary role would be to represent the public service to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The Privy Council Office would be renamed the Cabinet Secretariat. The Secretary of the Treasury Board would assume the function and title of Head of the Public Service.
According to the report, the government should also amend its definition of "advertising" to conform to accepted advertising industry standards. Public servants should be required by legislation to document decisions and recommendations. The report's final recommendation is that the government should table a report before Parliament within two years detailing how it has addressed each recommendation.
Outgoing Prime Minister Paul Martin yesterday urged his successor Stephen Harper to adopt the recommendations of the commission in full. Harper had previously stated that most of the recommendations would be covered in a proposed Accountability Act that will be introduced as the new government's first piece of legislation.

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