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The government of any given country forms the integral part in the growth and development of the country. Public and security services provision is the work of the government. Licensing and control of businesses as well as ensuring a suitable business environment is provided is also the mandate of the government in many nations (Roy, 2007).
The government is thus faced with an enormous task of ensuring that its departments are not overwhelmed by the very diverse tasks. Efficient and reliable public administration is thus very important in the running of a successful government.
Public supervision becomes the epitome of easing and implementing the various government guidelines; it has also the studious discipline that studies the execution process and the preparation of civil servants in carrying out the assigned duties.
For government to function, public administration must advance the management skills and formulated policies. If the policies are poorly formulated, various scandals and malpractices are witnessed like the Sponsorship Scandal.
The Sponsorship Scandal
The sponsorship scandal arose as a result of the sponsorship program by the Federal Government of Canada headed by the Liberal Party of Canada, which ruled the country from 1993 up to 2006. The program was implemented in the Quebec province, which was calling for its independence from the main government.
The main aim was to create awareness of the federal government’s massive efforts in developing the Quebec province especially through industrialization. The Government of Canada in this awareness program had the motive of countering the rising endeavors of the province’s government in promoting independence of the region.
This sponsorship program was run from 1996 to 2004. Although the federal government had motives toward unification and deterrence of secession, the program’s administration was poorly executed leading to massive corruption cases, illegal and illicit activities within the administration of this government program.
It was eventually discontinued in 2004 after the malpractices were unearthed. This program involved the misappropriation, misuse and misdirection of public funds which the government had mainly set aside for advertisement and mass sensitization in the province of Quebec.
In the misdirection of the funds, the large sums intended for sponsorship was awarded to advertisement firms that did little or no work. Instead, the money was used in the maintenance of Liberal organizers and at other times the fundraisers who were weirdly maintained on payroll. At other times part of this advertisement money was returned or donated to the ruling party.
When thorough investigation was conducted, the entire ruling party was negatively affected and many government officials were also affected including Paul Martin the then prime minister. The scandal had thrived for years without being detected and was only detected after close analysis, scrutiny, and examination by the Federal Auditor General, Sheila Fraser.
Her shocking investigations and revelations led to the Gomery Commission which was set up by the government to organize a public inquiry to shed more light into the issue so as to compile a comprehensive report showing and explaining how public funds was used and how much was lost due to the lackluster and irresponsible administration.
High Profile Officials Involved
The compiled report found out that indeed money was lost in the program. The investigation affected the Liberal party and largely influenced the 2006 elections. After more than a decade in power, the liberals were ousted by the conservatives who consequently owing to their victory, formed the government (although a minority one). Some of the high profile individuals implicated in the scandal include Jean Chretien.
At the time of the establishment of the program, Chretien was the then incumbent prime minister. The inquiry leveled much on the blame on the misused and misspent public funds and fraud on him and his staff especially those directly in his office, that is, the Prime Minister’s Office. However, Chretien was cleared of any direct wrongdoing as he himself did not participate in the embezzling of funds.
The Prime Minister’s chief of staff at the time was also accused of getting involved in affairs not under his docket and also for mishandling the sponsorship deals. Some of Chretien’s cabinet members and close allies were also accused in the scandal. Some admitted to crimes such as fraud and consequently sentenced to jail terms. Paul Martin, who was also a former prime minister, was at the time of the initiation of the program, the Minister of Finance and also held the seat of the Senior Minister from Quebec.
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Although he was the one who set up the Gomery Commission, he was accused of setting up the fiscal framework; however both the commission and the Auditor General’s reports cleared him of direct involvement since he never had the oversight of the money once it entered Chretien’s office. Experts argue that the commission of inquiry was biased as its hands were tied as Gomery had been appointed by Martin, so there was no way he could have found Martin guilty.
Chronology of Events
As early as 1995 Allan Cutler had without much success raised the alarm and concerns about the political interference in the program’s financial unit. He was also hard pressed by what he termed as bid-rigging interfering with the process of competitive bidding. In 1996 due to the rising concerns, an audit was conducted in the departments where contracting and tendering was exercised. However, the report forwarded was doctored and references removed something the auditor said she did not do.
In 2000 an audit by another firm showed that, the recommendation made in 1996 had not been effected, this later, in the same year, resulted in the suspension of the Sponsorship Program prompting investigations to be launched by the office of the Auditor General (Surhone, Timpledon, & Marseken, 2010).
In 2004 a comprehensive report compiled by the Auditor General showed and proved that almost half of the tenders for the program had been awarded to the ruling party’s friendly firms and Crown Corporations yet the work done was little or none at all. This consequently led to the setting up of the Gomery commission to probe the matter and compile a report.
Martin then suspended high ranked officials ordering them to file their defense or face disciplinary measures; the president of Business Development Bank of Canada was one such person to be suspended. It also emerges that those who had questioned the billing process had either been fired or transferred such persons included Berdard, a past Olympic gold medalist; this was however vehemently opposed by the top executives.
A leaked dossier revealed that members from the Prime Minister’s office had secretly met with the members from the branch of Public Works, which the Sponsorship program was under. An official in charge of awarding contracts admitted he bent the rules in the contract awarding, but defended himself by saying they were at war trying to save the country from splitting up and thus national interest took first priority (Milke, 2006).
In 2005, the conservative party organized a vote of no confidence in parliament to call for early election a move that was suspended. He said he was committed to cleaning up the mess brought by the poor administration, he further stated that elections would be held a month after the commission of inquiry finished its findings.
In the House of Commons the opposition won a voting battle terming it as an equivalent of a vote of no confidence hence pressurizing the government to respect the decision of the majority and resign to pave way for fresh election. However, a conservative MP crossed over to the Liberals government and immediately appointed a cabinet minister; in addition she was mandated to implement the Gomery Commission’s report once ready.
This cast a doubt on the opposition side on whether the prime minister was really committed to achieving reforms and accountability and whether he would honor his earlier promise of an election after thirty days, on the completion of the Gomery Inquiry (Kozalanka, 2006).
When the preliminary Gomery report was released in 2005, much criticism was levied on the former regime of Chretien mainly for setting up the Sponsorship program without elaborate administration plan hence were responsible for inviting abuse.
Martin, the Prime Minister was cleared of any responsibility or wrongdoing. Some of the opposition parties tried to strike a deal with the government but was turned down by the liberals consequently the government was dissolved after a no confidence vote in November, resulting in a January elections.
In 2006 Due to this scandal, which had been brought about by poor administration, the Liberal party lost the election to the Conservative party. Martin stepped down as party leader in the same year and some of the top Liberal party leaders and friendly managers were imprisoned, these included Brault and Guite who were found guilty of deception and fraud.
Consequences of Poor Public Administration
After the Sponsorship scandal was revealed in 2004 there emerged more hostility between the Chretien and Martin camp creating a rift in the then ruling party (Marvey54, 2010). Such wrangles are not preferred for any country’s development, especially when it is witnessed from the party in power.
This scandal gave Martin the reason to remove from power, those officials who were strong supporters of Chretien, irrespective of their positive production towards development. Political wrangles divert attention from the most important issues to political issues. Poor administration results in a blame game as no camp wants to take responsibility of wrongdoings.
This scandal was used by those advocating for the separatism of Quebec to highlight the failures of the federal government and claim there is organized corruption in the federal government. However, it is worth noting that before the election, brought about by the scandal, polls showed that those in support of separatism of Quebec were above fifty percent but dropped significantly after the 2006 elections (Healey & Prus, 2009).
Poor public administration led to a no confidence vote. This consequently resulted in early elections which were unprecedented and called for further allocation of money for the election process. A countrywide election in Canada uses millions of dollars which could have otherwise been used for development projects.
Political instability is not healthy for any country as investors are scared or loses trust with the government. Awarding of contracts on merit was also overlooked deterring the delivery of quality services and products. This discourages innovation and healthy competition in turn hampering development.
The Sponsorship scandal also resulted in loss of millions of dollars of public money further delivering a draw back on the economy. Corruption is one of the major drawbacks to ensuring world class delivery of public services. The careers of decorated public figures who had greatly contributed to the country’s development were also greatly damaged.
Such scandals results in lack of faith in the government by the people, a case that leads to less cooperation between the two blocs, of which cooperation between the people and the government of the day is very important in all sectors as the prime mandate of the government, is to serve the people.
The scandal also illustrated oppression and going against freedom of expression. Bedard a national heroine was disgracefully pushed from her job for raising issues about the billing practices. More critics have lost faith in public administration and advocate for privatization and creation of more bureaus.
Crown Corporations versus New Public Management
Crown corporations, which are owned by the federal government, have been delegated to perform most of the duties in the country. They have a long history and closely connected with the running of the state and are technically owned by the monarch.
During the Sponsorship scandal, heads of various crown corporations like, Via Rail and Business Development Bank of Canada were involved of which some were suspended. Crown Corporations have been at the centre of running the government institutions; however globalization has adversely affected them.
Since the 1980s various world governments adopted the philosophy of new public management aiming at modernizing the public sector. This has led to the advocacy of privatization of the Crown Corporations as the new public management in the world is intended for the market orientation in public sector and more cost efficiency governments. This has led to the decline of Crown Corporations.
Public administration has evolved over time, the 21st Century governments are now moving towards the digital era governance due to the high improvement in the IT sector. Efficient public administration is the key to a successful government and consequently key to the development of a country’s economy. Poor public management leads to abuse of office and creates loopholes for malpractices like nepotism and corruption to thrive.
This in turn leads to poor service delivery, poor amenities consequently leading to economic and political crisis. Scandals like the Sponsorship scandal are as a result of poor public management. Scandals have been witnessed all over the world and many lead to loss of public funds in dubious contracts and schemes.
Privatization as a tool of development is important in the efficient learning of public institutions, as advocated for by the new public management. This ensures managers are recruited and hired on merit rather than on political appointment.
The new public management also ensures that public service delivery is not affected by political turmoil or change of regimes as the organizations are free from political interference. Technological advancement has also digitalized public management globally making delivery of services faster, orderly, and efficient enhancing accountability in the process (Roy, 2006).
Healey, J,. & Prus, S. (2009). Statistics: A tool for Social Research. Toronto: A Tool for Social Research.
Kozolanka, K. (2006). The Sponsorship Scandal As Communication: The Rise Of Politicized And Strategic Communications In The Federal Government. Ottawa: Canadian Journal of Communication.
Marvey54, (2010). Sponsorship Scandal: Who’s To Blame. Montreal: Allvoices.
Milke, M. (2006). A Nation of Serfs? How Canada’s Political Culture Corrupts Canadian Values. Vancouver: John Wiley& Sons.
Roy J. (2007). Business and Government in Canada. Ottawa: University of Ottawa.
Roy, J. (2006). E-Government in Canada: Transformation for the Digital Age. Ottawa: University of Ottawa.
Surhone, L,. Timpledon, T,. & Marseken, S. (2010). Sponsorship Scandal. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en