Party on, dude

The provincial government was living it up as the economy was crashing, spending more than half-a-million dollars on parties celebrating civil service excellence. But the government has said those celebrations were necessary to maintain a "high performing workforce" - something that's "even more important during these challenging times."

And it has no plans to be a party pooper by discontinuing the annual premier's innovation and excellence awards, which are meant to recognize the "positive impact the BC Public Service's work is having across the province." According to records exclusively obtained by Public Eye via a freedom of information request, this year's awards cost $562,741.52.

They included four regional parties and one provincial party, taking place between January 21 and March 26. The biggest ticket item was the $137,414.29 spent on videos showcasing nominees and their accomplishments. But catering and facility costs came in a close second at $125,511.70.

That money bought the ceremonies' 1,864 attendees some yummy-sounding food.
In Vancouver, for example, civil servants dined on "wedge of romaine hearts with grape tomatoes" featuring "baked pancetta anchovy toasted brioche" and "Parmigiano-Reggiano buttermilk Caesar dressing."

And that was just the first course.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, bureaucrats were treated to an entrée of "tender breast of chicken stuffed with sliced pear and Brie cheese" served with "asparagus spears, stuffed Roma tomatoes, baby carrots and Gruyere potatoes gratin."

A government spokesperson stated efforts were made to manage the costs of the ceremonies "as responsibly as possible." In fact, they came in $25,058.48 under their $587,800 budget.

That's principally because of decision not to spend $30,000 on post-ceremony newspaper advertisements announcing the award winners. The reason: according budget records, it was a "cost-saver due to [the] economic downturn."

The spokesperson stated it's "too early" to determine the cost of next year's awards ceremonies because the "provincial budget is yet to be tabled." But Maureen Bader, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's British Columbia director, said there shouldn't be any cost to be determined.

Instead, according to her, the ceremonies should just be cancelled.

"We've got families cutting back - people with low-incomes eating Kraft dinner - and we've got bureaucrats dining on romaine hearts. It's nice to know we have gourmet bureaucrats. However, perhaps it's time to make a few cutbacks."

After all, when the government programasked civil servants last year "what was the most valuable recognition for a job well done" 26 percent of respondents to the online survey choose a personal note from their supervisor.

By comparison, the least popular choice was the premier's innovation and excellence awards at just two percent.

***

2008/09 premier's innovation and excellence awards budget forecast

Audio-visual requirements - $95,000.00
Award material - $30,000.00
Bus charters for Nanaimo event - $5,600.00
Business expenses for adjudication/judging sessions - $2,500.00
Catering/facilities, etc - $110,00.00
Photographer contract - $8,200.00
Writer contract - $8,500.00
Video production contract - $145,000.00
Decorations - $4,000.00
Judges/adjudicators expenses - $8,000.00
Miscellaneous - $14,000.00
Newspaper ads - $30,000.00
Printing (including program guides) - $18,000.00
Staff travel - $22,000.00
Staff salary and benefits - $77,000.00
Table chocolates - $10,000.00
Total expenses - $587,800.00

2008/09 premier's innovation and excellence awards actuals

Audio-visual requirements - $92,336.06 ("includes crew's travel time & expenses; enhancements for 08/09")
Award material - $33,904.47 ("glass trophies, framed certificates")
Bus charters for Nanaimo event - $4,068.88 ("new requirement for 08/09")
Business expenses for adjudication/judging sessions - $1,964.05 ("venue, lunch provided - 3 session in Victoria 1 session in Vancouver")
Catering/facilities, etc - $125,511.70 ("includes room rental charges; includes Nanaimo, Kamloops, Vancouver, Prince George, and provincial event in Victoria")
Photographer contract - $7,500.00 ("includes contractor's travel expenses")
Writer contract - $8,840.00 ("writing nomination summaries for program guides")
Video production contract - $137,414.29 ("includes crew's travel time @ expenses; enhancements for 08/09")
Decorations - $1,700.00 ("includes all five ceremonies")
Judges/adjudicators expenses - $5,564.30 ("travel claims, thank you gifts")
Miscellaneous - $15,220.54 ("includes procurement services @ $10,000, Shipping costs @ $1,500; Office Supplies @ $500")
Newspaper ads - $0.00 ("post-ceremony ads announcing Premier's Award recipients in local newspapers. Decision was made not to provide post-ceremony newspaper ads, as a cost-saver due t economic downturn")
Printing (including program guides) - $22,618.20 ("includes program guides, photo holders, poster boards, pop-up banners")
Staff travel - $23,293.18 ("Six internal staff members travelling to Vancouver, Prince George, Kamloops and Nanaimo NOTE: travel costs for Aboriginals interns were added after budget forecasting")
Staff salary and benefits - $77,000.00
Table chocolates - $5,805.85 ("rogers' chocolate squares with gold foil P/A label and dvd's for ceremonies")
Total expenses - $562,741.52

2 Comments

$587,800 budgeted for lavish parties for a handful of (typically) senior public servants?

I guess CANCELLING this event was not an option? Due that little thing known as the ECONOMIC DOWNTURN?

I think if anyone asked the recipients if they'd rather the money were spent on keeping libraries staffed and open, foodbanks stocked, homeless shelters funded etc etc old gordo would get a shock.

The government isn't disclosing how many recipients there were for the awards this year. Last year it was Six Premier’s Awards, three Special Achievement Premier’s Awards, and ten Finalist Awards were presented. That's 19 people out of 30,000. OR $30,936.84 spent on each recipient. How many people working for $8 an hour does it take to generate that amount of tax dollars?

How can they justify spending $30,936.84 on 19 people by stating that "those celebrations were necessary to maintain a "high performing workforce". Sure maybe for those 19 people. What about the other 29,981 employees who were snubbed? Are they more motivated now?

Employee recognition in government isn't about employee recognition. It's about mgrs and senior executives being able to report out that they are recognizing and motivating a horribly demoralized workforce. If they said they took time out to write a personal note of thanks for a job well done, or that they spoke individually to each team member to let them know how much their efforts were appreciated ... well.... that doesn't pack the same punch as putting a dollar figure next to a line item in a mgr's performance review stating they spent X number of $'s on employee recognition. (plus most of them don't have clue one on how to speak to employees to motivate them)


Nice work Sean. Nice work.

I bet next year they'll be sure to come in under budget again - just to show how much they care about being fiscally responsible. (eyeroll)

As gross as this is, and as much as it takes resources from people in need of health care or other legitimate services, it isn't the worst example of BC government waste. For that Sean, I think you'd need to FOI all international travel in all BC ministries and crowns. I fear the price of little staff parties pales in comparison to the obscene waste involved in flying government staff around the world.

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