Public-private cooperation is good business sense
A perennial battle for the consulting engineering industry has been to eliminate competition from the public sector, that is, from government departments that mistakenly believe they can do what we do...
A perennial battle for the consulting engineering industry has been to eliminate competition from the public sector, that is, from government departments that mistakenly believe they can do what we do, but either better or at lower cost. We know this to be false and, fortunately, many administrations in recent years have recognized that fact and moved toward increased privatization and contracting out of non-core services. Nevertheless, there are holdouts, which many of us can name.
Some years ago, ACEC and Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) undertook to jointly address this matter. The result was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 1996 recognizing each organization’s role and formalizing PWGSC’s commitment not to compete with the consulting engineering industry, thus contracting out all but the core elements of its engineering work. Last December, an updated MOU was signed specifying the core activities of PWGSC and establishing a commitment to contract out 85% of its non-core engineering work.
The renewed MOU also opens the possibility of seconding personnel from the public to the private sector, a key dimension of the agreement that ACEC and PWGSC continue to discuss, with considerable progress having been made thus far. This can provide comfort to government employees who may fear job loss due to outsourcing. Conversely, our industry can benefit considerably from an incoming flow of expertise from the government’s talent pool.
Let’s go back to those holdouts mentioned earlier. They should know that there is now a national precedent and model for ACEC’s provincial and territorial member organizations to establish similar working agreements with regional and even municipal administrations.
I offer this MOU as an example of the benefits of ACEC membership, and I encourage you to take advantage of it. I also encourage you to contact your national, provincial or territorial association with any example of public competition in your markets.
Visit also the ACEC web site to view the MOU or download ACEC position papers presented to various government departments and commissions.
BOB LORIMER, P.ENG., CHAIR ASSOCIATION OF CONSULTING ENGINEERS OF CANADA