Government hid CEBA outsourcing contract with Accenture

23 February 2023 2 min. read
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The federal government did not disclose it outsourced administration of the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) pandemic loan program to consulting firm Accenture for at least $61 million, according to a report from The Globe and Mail.

The federal proactive-disclosure database lists over $67 million in contracts for Accenture, but it doesn’t mention its single largest contract – for CEBA – which had to be obtained under an access-to-information law by Globe reporters.

The federal government created CEBA in April 2020, sending more $49 billion to Canadian businesses struggling through the Covid-19 pandemic. Loans were worth up to $60,000 and interest-free and partially forgivable if repaid by the end of 2023.

The government punted responsibility for CEBA to Export Development Canada (EDC), a crown corporation that typically focuses on helping Canadian businesses finance deals internationally. As such, EDC outsourced the bulk of work on CEBA to Accenture. EDC and Accenture never publicly acknowledged the deal.

Government hid CEBA outsourcing contract with Accenture

Of the $78.4 million in costs incurred for the CEBA program up until August 31, 2021, $61.2 million went to Accenture. The Dublin, Ireland-based company provided services including website building, running a call centre for applicants, signing up financial institutions, running investigations, and collecting data.

At the program’s height, Accenture worked with more than 230 financial institutions and deployed 50+ call centre agents, the consultancy told the Globe when reached for comment.

The EDC said Accenture continues to work on the day-to-day operations of CEBA and on the buildout of collections infrastructure.

A parliamentary committee is currently investigating the heavy increase in consulting contracts handed out by the federal government in recent years.

The committee, which initially focused on contracts given to McKinsey, has now expanded its scope to include the Big Four accountancies (PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG) and Accenture.

Gord Johns, an NDP MP on the operations committee who introduced the motion to expand the investigation to more consultancies, told the Globe it was alarming to hear about Accenture’s work on CEBA.

“We assumed it was running through the public service,” he said. “We didn’t know this until now.”

Johns – who noted the six companies in the probe have seen their government contracts balloon from $50 million a decade ago to $500 million today – said increased outsourcing leads to higher costs for taxpayers and diminishes the capacity of the public service, which leads to even more reliance on expensive consultants.