Office of the Procurement Ombudsman
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
Summer 2021 update
Dear Ms. Charette,
Since 2018, the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman (OPO) has heightened its focus on diversity and inclusion, both as it relates to the internal functioning of the office—through employee interactions, learning activities, hiring practices, and procurement—and external functions such as engagement with government procurement professionals, the supplier community, and non-government organizations providing services to diverse business owners. OPO is fully committed to supporting diversity and inclusion both in the workplace and the community.
Diversifying the Federal Supply Chain Summit
In 2019, OPO hosted its first Diversifying the Federal Supply Chain Summit and following its success, OPO hosted two more: in Toronto in 2020 and online in 2021. OPO has received positive feedback from both suppliers and public servants about the content and quality of the Summit. OPO is now planning its fourth Summit, scheduled for early 2022.
Geared toward underrepresented suppliers— Indigenous Peoples, all gender identities, racialized people, persons with disabilities, and other minority groups—the Summit seeks to share the tools and programs that are available to support an understanding of the federal procurement process and ultimately help underrepresented suppliers access federal contracting opportunities. Through presentations, panel discussions, and practical workshops, federal procurement is clarified and targeted programs, services, and initiatives are highlighted for the groups to which they apply. The Summit is also about bringing people together. Under one roof, both suppliers and buyers have the opportunity to hear and learn from each other.
Diversity and Inclusion Committee
In the spring of 2020, OPO created a Diversity and Inclusion Committee to support the Government of Canada’s goal of creating a space where diversity and inclusion are acknowledged, understood, and practiced.
To support its mandate and using the Call to Action as its guide, the Committee created goals and key performance indicators to track its progress. Diversity and inclusion goals have been included in the Office’s strategic plan with an accompanying business plan. The goals are:
- A diversity and inclusion lens is applied to all OPO’s business with third parties, including government departments, suppliers, and the general public.
- A more welcoming and inclusive work environment is fostered and maintained, where staff feel included and respected for what they bring in the workplace, and where differences enrich OPO’s workplace culture and maximize the success of its team.
- Improved education and raised awareness around the benefits of diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace.
At this time, progress has been made on a number of factors such as:
- Organizing all-staff learning opportunities; two of note were on the topics of unconscious bias and Reconciliation;
- Supporting internal learning, employees are required to add diversity and inclusion courses to their personal learning plans;
- Adopting the 50/30 challenge, which holds organizations to achieving 50% gender parity and 30% representation of under-represented groups;
- To support information gathering on social procurement practices and the Office’s understanding of the landscape, 83 federal government departments and agencies were asked about their related procurement initiatives. This survey enabled OPO to collect information on diversity initiatives to:
- Provide information to suppliers who might benefit from departmental procurement initiatives
- Share best practices with departments to encourage the broader adoption of diversity initiatives at departmental meetings
- Collaborating with TBS on approval of a standard “signature” for OPO employees that includes a territorial acknowledgement and their preferred pronoun;
- Actively participating in the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee of the Canadian Federation of Ombuds Offices, which is a forum for federal ombuds organizations across Canada to share information regarding programs, initiatives, and best practices that will foster a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace; and
- Developing a new method to support and promote employee self-identification. These data will create a baseline of where we are as an organization, where we need to be and what steps need to be undertaken to help create a diverse and inclusive environment that is representative of the populace we serve.
Knowledge Deepening and Sharing
In 2018, OPO launched the Knowledge Deepening and Sharing (KDS) initiative. In an effort to better understand various aspects or issues in the procurement process, KDS is the research, writing, and presenting of research papers. In 2019-2020, OPO finished a study on social procurement, which is the practice of using procurement to achieve strategic social, economic, and workforce development objectives. In a review of various jurisdictions, the study looked at the success factors for organizations looking to use social procurement. Some success factors were senior-level support, establishing an approach to certification, and implementing a robust data collection framework. OPO plans to release a follow-up study later this year.
Challenges and Barriers
We are hopeful that the progress and initiatives our office has undertaken contribute to change not only in the public service, but also the community. By improving our processes and researching the topic, we have come across the following items that we would like to share as areas for improvement:
- Standardization of template for territorial acknowledgement and employees’ preferred pronoun on email “signature” contingent on geographical location;
- Standardization of the definition of underrepresented groups; there are some departments that refer to the Equity Group’s definition while others use the same definition as PSPC;
- A repository of the various programs and initiatives offered by government departments and agencies which are geared towards diverse groups;
- Simplification and transparency of commitments made by government departments and agencies on the allocation of their procurement to underrepresented groups as well as disclosing key performance indicators;
- Broader wording for essential qualifications on HR posters as well as opening more posters to the public.
OPO is committed to meeting and exceeding its goals and performance indicators. From HR, employment, career development, personal learning, support networks, and combatting all forms of racism and discrimination, OPO is committed to each of the factors in the Call to Action. In the coming year OPO hopes to have a measurable impact within the office, the federal procurement community, and supplier community.
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