OTTAWA — Months before a mini-war of words over the F-35 stealth fighter, the federal government and Lockheed Martin quietly inked a deal for the U.S. aerospace giant to provide maintenance support and training for one of the military’s transport plane fleets.
The $500-million agreement, which extended an earlier contract to 2021, was never publicly announced or put to a competition. This was despite Defence Department auditors flagging a lack of transparency and raising questions about value for money in the original contract.
The government has cited national security to justify why other companies were not allowed to compete. It also says the new contract addresses the auditors’ concerns.
One former Defence Department official says it’s no surprise Lockheed and the government have continued to do business while wrangling over the F-35. “There are only so many big players out there,” said Alan Williams, former head of procurement at National Defence.
However, Williams said the way the deal was concluded doesn’t pass the smell test, and that it raises fresh concerns about waste.
“National security exemptions should be used in really exceptional cases where there really is a national security risk to Canada,” he said. “You shouldn’t use it to get around poor planning.”
The new deal was signed the same month Defence Department auditors raised concerns with the original contract. In particular, Lockheed received full payment but only did half the work originally expected because a shortage of pilots and mechanics meant the Hercules were only flown half as much as planned. (end of excerpt)
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