Executive summary

The fight against corruption in public procurement, a particularly vulnerable sector, requires a framework and actors capable of responding to a multitude of risks affecting the entire public procurement cycle. Quebec has taken an ambitious step in response to the recommendations of the Charbonneau Commission. Optimal application of these measures could have a decisive impact on public confidence in its governmental institutions and in their management of public funds. In order to complement recent reforms and strengthen the efforts undertaken, Quebec could define a comprehensive and strategic approach that would enable it to anticipate the risk of corruption affecting the conduct of public procurement.

Quebec has invested undeniable efforts to prevent corruption in public procurement, and these efforts would benefit from being implemented through an integrated approach in a decentralised context. Several agencies are empowered to exercise extensive oversight powers over all public procurement in Quebec, but a proactive co-ordination strategy could increase the efficiency of these measures. Quebec has already laid the foundations for this strategy by developing a risk management methodology for the conduct of public procurement aligned with international best practices.

Although the work of the Independent Experts Committee (IEC) on increasing the transparency of the Ministry of Transportation's (MTQ) planning process was positively received, its mandate could be formalised. The decentralised planning processes of public and municipal agencies could be better supervised and co-ordinated in order to be integrated into a strategic approach.

The integrity of public procurement requires adequate procurement methods and transparency. Quebec has undertaken major efforts in this regard, but could strengthen consistency and coherence in the use of exceptions to calls for tenders (CFT). Moreover, despite the possibility of using several award criteria, the lowest price is still the one most frequently used. Transparency, particularly for the upstream phase and the performance of contracts, could be improved by adding features to the Quebec Electronic Tendering System (Le système électronique d'appel d'offres du gouvernement du Québec, SEAO).

Increased competition is an important element in the fight against corruption. Thus, measures governing relations between contracting authorities and the private sector or imposing regulatory requirements and controls on bidders must not be to the detriment of competition. In addition, Quebec could better adapt the bidding timelines to the complexity of the contracts, since approximately one-third of CFTs are subject to addenda delaying the closing of bids.

The contract performance phase in procurement is particularly vulnerable to integrity risks in public procurement. The majority of the economic consequences of corruption are concentrated at this stage of the public procurement cycle. Thus, the Government of Quebec has developed an extensive legislative and institutional arsenal that makes it possible to subject the performance of contracts to increased oversight. From the powers entrusted to the Autorité des marchés publics (AMP) to the control measures prior to the awarding of public contracts, all these initiatives seek to insulate public procurement from acts of corruption in the performance of public contracts.

Quebec can strengthen the co-ordination of its integrity actions by establishing more restrictive benchmarks for all public bodies, as well as increased support and evaluation measures for the municipal environment, all while maintaining decentralisation of enforcement responsibilities. Supervisory bodies with potentially overlapping mandates could co-ordinate their supervision activities based on a risk analysis and take account of the comparative advantages of each institution. By considering their unique expertise and perspective, supervisory bodies could significantly contribute to defining the strategic approach, support and knowledge sharing on integrity in public procurement and thus play a significant preventive role.

Quebec could build on the recent successes of the IEC by formalising it in a law or directive and considering extending its activities to all major infrastructure projects. The process of needs identification could also be solidified and harmonised in public and municipal agencies.

The Government of Quebec could further promote the use of competitive procedures and review the system of exceptions to CFTs, while strengthening their control. Multiple award criteria and “life cycle cost” could be more widely used to improve competition. The government would benefit from increased transparency in the upstream phase (procurement plans) and the contract performance phase. Given the key role of the SEAO in strengthening integrity, the government could continue its digitisation efforts by incorporating additional functionalities and setting clear deadlines for mandatory electronic submission of bids.

The operationalisation of the contract authorisation regime could be improved by defining measurable objectives in advance in order to assess its performance and its impact on the conduct of public procurement, and by adapting its scope according to the risks inherent in each tender. The Government of Quebec would benefit from taking greater account of the impact of regulatory requirements on competition and on the access of Canadian suppliers outside Quebec in its public procurement.

Given the importance of government contracts in Quebec in terms of number and value, an effective strategy to combat corruption at the contract performance stage requires the mobilisation of all stakeholders to achieve this objective. In this way, audit institutions could prioritise their controls on the basis of objective risk indicators and focus their efforts on the most vulnerable contracts. Additionally, the Government of Quebec could strengthen and harmonise the roles of those directly involved in the performance of public procurement contracts. Indeed, the latter, whether they are public, such as the officer responsible for enforcing contractual rules (RARC), or private, such as site auditors, have varying responsibilities and a degree of accountability depending on the contract and the contracting authority. Stronger and wider harmonisation of their responsibilities would allow the development of a contractual management framework that is resilient to corruption risks.


This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

Photo credits: Cover © R.M. Nunes/Shutterstock.com.

Corrigenda to publications may be found on line at: www.oecd.org/about/publishing/corrigenda.htm.

© OECD 2020

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at http://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.