Is the provincial government thinking about cutting the big six-figure salaries being paid out at some public sectors institutions? That's what Canadian Taxpayers Federation British Columbia director Gregory Thomas is wondering after Public Eye discovered the government abruptly cancelled plans to hire a contractor who would have made recommendations on whether the present pay levels for "public sector CEOs" are "problematic."
Those CEOs include the heads of the province's Crown corporations and agencies, as well as its post-secondary institutions and health authorities. According to a document quietly posted on the government's procurement Website last week, the review would have also established "compensation ranges" for those CEOs and included comparators to justify those ranges.
That would have been in keeping with an August 2009 throne speech commitment to "maximize public effectiveness and to lower administrative and overhead costs" at Crown entities.
Timelines were laid out for the contract - which was to have been awarded by the end of January and completed by March 15, 2011. But on December 16, the request for proposals for that work was withdrawn - just a day after it was issued.
"The RFP was posted in error," a government spokesperson explained. "It is not one that's being considered at this time."
But Mr. Thomas suspects that might not be the whole story.
"It's clear that the CEOs of the quangos in British Columbia have been running riot over their boards, getting compensation packages for themselves and their crews that are, in some cases, way out of line," he explained. "Everybody who has got a board, basically, is getting a better deal than mainline, public sector executives who work for the government."
As such, the cancelled contract "seemed to me to be an imminently sensible way to get a handle on it - pull together an expert report, get the comparable, do the heavy-lifting as far as research and bring it forward. But the day after it goes up, it disappears!"
"I think the big question taxpayers need to be asking is why did it disappear?" he continued. "Is someone's political agenda at the head of the parade here while public interest and value for taxpayers are pulling up the rear?"
The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned request for proposals.