Double-dipping uncovered

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HALIFAX, N.S. — Canada-wide monitoring of Public Works contracts is being demanded after auditors discovered several cases of forbidden “double-dipping” in the Atlantic region.

At least two former civil servants already receiving federal government pensions were improperly handed Public Works contracts, despite policy restricting the practice.

The construction-related contracts were each worth between $25,000 and $50,000, says an internal audit, completed in December.

The investigation, examining Atlantic region contracts signed between 1999 and 2001, found the same unidentified individuals received additional Public Works contracts in previous years.

Public Works does not maintain databases detailed enough to identify all civil-service pensioners who have been awarded contracts, making it impossible to gauge the extent of the problem.

The auditors urged the department to make staff across the country aware of the policy and to develop methods to ensure compliance in the future.

Treasury Board contracting rules do allow double-dipping for civil-service retirees who receive federal pension cheques, but there are complicated and comprehensive restrictions on the practice.

The rules strictly limit the amount that can be paid to any pension-collecting federal retiree who left the civil service less than one year prior.

The Treasury Board also forbids the awarding of non-competitive contracts to federal pensioners if the value is over $25,000 — the rule violation uncovered in the recent audit of Public Works.

Fran Gershberg, a spokeswoman for Public Works in Hull, Que., says the department is working on a plan to deal with the problem uncovered in the Atlantic audit. The strategy is expected in about a month.

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