11/02/2011 05:13 EDT | Updated 01/02/2012 05:12 EST

Liberal Senator Percy Downe Questions Use Of Headhunting Firm To Find Auditor General Nominee


Liberal Senator Percy Downe wants to know why the feds hired a headhunting firm to find the next AG -- and how much the decision cost taxpayers.

"The Government keeps repeating how they are so careful in spending the taxpayers' money," Downe said. "So why did they incur the additional and unnecessary cost of a headhunting firm?"

Downe told The Huffington Post he was surprised to learn Tuesday that the Government had hired a headhunting firm to find the next auditor general -- something they had never done before.

Ten years ago, the Privy Council Office (PCO) had struck a "consultative committee that, in effect, acted as the search firm," Patricia Hassard, the deputy secretary to the cabinet responsible for senior personnel and public service renewal, told senators Tuesday. That committee included people in the field as well as from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. This time, Hassard said, the selection committee felt that "using a search firm would be much more efficient and get us a more comprehensive and exhaustive result."

Downe disputed the claim the process was more efficient.

"In the past, the PCO officials co-ordinating the search for the auditor general with finance, and other departments of government came up with outstanding auditor generals, the most recent, Sheila Fraser. This time we ended up with a candidate for the position, who did not meet the advertised criteria in the newspaper ads the government actually ran."

What's more, Downe noted, is that employment in the PCO since the last auditor general was hired is up 35 per cent. "So they obviously have the staff to do the job," he said. The question is why did they hire a headhunting firm and end up with that additional cost to taxpayers at the same time that the government is telling us that it is a time of restraint."

Headhunting firms are often used to find and hire most cabinet appointees, Downe pointed out, and he's not against banning all headhunting firms.

"Depending what the cost is it might be useful, but given that the number of staff at the PCO is up by 35 per cent. I would question that they do not have the staff to do what they did in the past with fewer people."

Liberal Senator Percy Downe