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Is the system the scandal?

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Section: Letters

April 19, 2005

Is the system the scandal?

"The System is the Scandal" published on the website of The Dominion on April 16, 2005, Duff Conacher inaccurately states that EDC and other organizations operate "without legal accountability" in areas including the access-to-information law, ethics rules, hiring and spending rules, and auditor general oversight. In fact, EDC is subject to a variety of oversight and accountability regimes that ensure it remains an organization that serves the best interest of Canadians.

EDC operates according to the law by which it was established, the Export Development Act, and is accountable to Canadians through Parliament and reports to the Minister of International Trade. As stated in the Act, the Auditor General of Canada is EDC's auditor. The Auditor General's oversight of EDC includes annual financial audits and special examinations at least once every five years of EDC's environmental review practices and management controls and processes, including those related to resources and expenditures. EDC's employees are required annually to review and sign-off on our Code of Business Ethics and Code of Conduct, policies which hold our employees to the level of conduct expected of them by Canadians and that equal the most stringent global standards for such policies. These policies and the Auditor General's reports on EDC are available from www.edc.ca. The applicability of the Access to Information Act to EDC and a variety of other Crown corporations and government agencies is currently under review by the Government.

We trust that you will take these facts into consideration in any future articles referencing EDC.

Yours truly,

Glen Nichols
Director of Public Affairs
Export Development Canada

Duff Conacher Reponds:

The letter from Glen Nichols of the EDC only confirms exactly what I wrote in my op-ed, despite his claim that my points about the EDC were incorrect.

In my op-ed I wrote that many government organizations operate "without legal accountability in one or more of the areas of "access-to-information law, ethics rules, hiring and spending rules, and auditor general oversight." I made it clear in the op-ed that by accountability I meant loophole-free rules enforced by an independent watchdog with high penalties for violators.

So, yes, the Auditor General has oversight over the EDC. However, the EDC does not have independently enforced ethics rules or hiring rules, and is not (as Mr. Nichols' acknowledges) covered by the federal access-to-information law.

Similar the EDC, as again I wrote in my op-ed, many other government organizations lack accountability in one or more of these key areas. In addition, there is no general, effective whistleblower protection law so that people in these organizations (and in any government organization) that learn of wrongdoing can blow the whistle without fear of retaliation.

Mr. Nichols, and many other public servants (and politicians) seem to believe that Canadians should just trust them to act properly, even though the history of every country in the world proves clearly that a secrecy, rules with loopholes, lack of effective enforcement, and lack of effective penalties in key areas are a collective recipe for government corruption.

This is not to say that all public servants and politicians are unethical. The point is that the current system is the scandal because it, in effect, legalizes dishonest, unethical, secretive, wasteful, and irresponsible activities. No country can afford to have government organizations so vulnerable to being exploited by corruption.

Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Democracy Watch

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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