When an Albertan in apparent good health dies unexpectedly, or in a violent or unexplained way, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) investigates the death. Sometimes, the investigation requires an examination of the body. In that case, the body is transported to medical examiners in Edmonton or Calgary. The OCME uses independent third-party service providers to transport bodies to these locations. We refer to any such company as a “transporter” in this report. In 2012 the OCME wanted to ensure consistent service standards and payment practices for all transporters it used to transport bodies from rural Alberta. The OCME decided to pre-qualify rural transporters and enter into contracts with them to accomplish this, similar to the contract the department had with the transporter it used for these services in Edmonton and Calgary. Before then, there had only been contracts between the department and a few individual transporters to provide service for specifically defined rural areas.
What we examined
We examined whether the Department of Justice and Solicitor General had adequate systems to:
- develop the pre-qualification request and contracts for rural transporters
- enforce the terms and conditions of these contracts
The department’s contracting process does not have clear and effective guidelines on:
- what information a program area, such as the OCME, must provide in a business case for an external services contract
- when a program area must create such a business case
Current guidelines on preparing business cases are undocumented and ambiguous. Without being given all the pertinent information, the department cannot properly evaluate whether the requesting program area has satisfactorily done all necessary due diligence in developing the best terms and conditions of service for a contract it wants prospective vendors to meet.
If the OCME continues to use non-contracted rural transporters in the normal course of business, it is compromising the department’s decision that all transporters be contracted. By not identifying circumstances in which the OCME may still need to use non-contracted vendors, the department may be putting itself at increased risk.