Public procurement is a critical sector for achieving various public policy objectives, but it is highly vulnerable to the risk of bribery or ethical abuses. In addition to the volume of transactions and the financial interests at stake, the risks of corruption are exacerbated by the complexity of the processes, the close interaction between public officials and businesses, and the multitude of stakeholders.

Sub-national authorities are particularly vulnerable to bribery in public procurement since the share of procurement at the sub-national level accounts for 63% of public procurement in OECD countries. In Canada, almost 90% of public procurement is administered by governments at the sub-national level. It is difficult to establish with certainty the exact cost of corruption in public procurement, given the hidden nature of corruption. However, in construction projects alone, estimates of losses of between 20% and 30% of project value due to bribery are relatively widespread.

In Quebec, the extent of the corruption schemes exposed before the Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry (the Charbonneau Commission) has greatly shaken the public’s confidence in its government institutions. The crisis of confidence caused by the use of public procurement for the benefit of private interests is still being felt today, which is why procurement integrity has become a major issue in Quebec. The government has put in place many robust measures in response to the recommendations of the Charbonneau Commission. Integrating them into a strategic approach to strengthen integrity and efficiency in all public procurement could make them even more effective.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, people's confidence in their government reached 55% in 2019, up 11 points from 2018 and 16 points from 2017. However, in 2018, 43% of the Quebec population estimated that government institutions are the most fragile.

Thus, a firm and unequivocal commitment to promoting the resilience of public procurement processes is needed to restore citizen trust. The Government of Quebec is fully aware of this situation, and it is in this context that it has reached out to the OECD to help it benchmark the scope of its efforts to strengthen integrity in public procurement against best practices implemented in OECD member countries. The first purpose of this integrity review is to take note of the efforts undertaken by the Government of Quebec. Second, this report discusses best practices implemented in OECD countries to strengthen integrity in public procurement that could be adapted to the Quebec context.

Despite the public outrage that the revelations of the Charbonneau Commission had caused, the Government of Quebec can seize this opportunity to mobilise all stakeholders towards achieving standards of transparency, accountability and integrity in the conduct of public procurement that compare favourably at the global level. By implementing the recommendations of this integrity review, Quebec could lay the groundwork for a strategic and proactive approach to strengthening integrity in public procurement. Ultimately, this approach could serve as a springboard for the development of a comprehensive strategy to combat corruption and strengthen integrity arrangements applicable to the civil service as a whole.

This document was approved by the OECD Working Party of Senior Public Integrity Officials (SPIO) on 6 July 2020 and the OECD Working Party of the Leading Practitioners on Public Procurement (LPP) on 31 October 2019.

This document [GOV/PGC/INT(2020)4/REV1] was approved by the Public Governance Committee on 24 September 2020 and prepared for publication by the OECD Secretariat.

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