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Dominic Barton says he had nothing to do with federal contracts awarded to McKinsey

OTTAWA — Dominic Barton, the former global chief executive of McKinsey & Company, says he has not been involved in federal contracts awarded to the firm in recent years.

“Since I moved to Asia in 1996, I have not been involved in any way with the federal government’s awarding of paid work to McKinsey,” Barton told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Barton was speaking at a session of the House of Commons Government Operations Committee investigating federal contracts awarded to McKinsey.

McKinsey has attracted attention in recent weeks after media reports highlighted a rapid increase in the company’s consulting work for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

Ottawa’s relationship with Barton had come under scrutiny over questions about the extent of the firm’s influence on public policy.

Barton chaired former Treasury Secretary Bill Morneau’s economic growth advisory board and later served as Canada’s ambassador to China.

In his opening speech, the former McKinsey executive said he was not partisan.

“I am not a partisan advisor. I am not a member or supporter of any political party or candidate,” Barton said.

He also stressed that he was no longer affiliated with the consulting firm and was not benefiting from McKinsey’s financial success.

“It’s been over three and a half years since I left McKinsey and sold all of my holdings,” he said.

In response to questions from deputies, he denied claims that he was friends with Trudeau, claiming the relationship was strictly professional.

“I’m not a friend,” Barton said.

While testifying, Barton also questioned his time as chairman of Morneau’s advisory board and McKinsey’s global track record.

The NDP hopes the committee will expand its investigation into federal contracts awarded to McKinsey & Company to include other consulting firms that have won large contracts.

New Democratic MP Gord Johns is introducing a motion to expand the scope of the study to include other companies such as Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, KPMG and Ernst & Young.

A researcher testifying before the committee Monday called the focus on McKinsey a distraction.

Amanda Clarke, associate professor of public administration at Carleton University, said the study should focus on the public service’s dependence on consulting firms overall.

“The focus on outsourcing and contracting in the federal government is broad enough to solve these problems and any company,” Clarke said.

Barton said organizations outside of government have deployed more consultants in recent years, including in the private and social sectors.

He said it made sense for the committee to investigate the federal government’s use of consultants, but he wasn’t sure why McKinsey was being singled out.

“I think this committee is good for looking at the impact and what people are doing,” he said. “I don’t know why McKinsey is the only focus.”

The Committee has asked the Auditor General to review the contracts awarded to the company on the basis of performance and value for money.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 1, 2023.

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

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