Transparently Concealed

November 5th, 2017

Here’s a fun one;

In 2012, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) published a “Scoping Document” on achieving transparency in government.  This document was the basis for the Governance and Financial Accountability Accord issued by the Federal Government in April, 2013.  The CSA, you see, is all about transparency.

We reported on CSA’s transparency document in July, 2013.  Shortly thereafter, the entire “Scoping Document” disappeared from their records.

Next, we reported on another of CSA’s transparency initiatives, this time covering “accountability and transparency [and] engagement of the community and local stakeholders.”  Basically, the CSA was lecturing on how to be transparent and accountable to the public.

Shortly after our report on this latest of CSA’s swanky new standards, the CSA deleted it from their website.

And it goes on like this.  A large number of links to evidence of CSA conduct are now dead links, not for lack of accuracy on our part, but for lack of transparency on CSA’s part.  With metronomic regularity, the CSA endeavours to delete evidence after we link to it.

That brings us to the sordid saga of CSA’s annual reporting.  In short, they don’t do any.

Most annual reports are pretty standard affairs, pardon the pun, and contain a bunch of bumf on how terrific the outfit is, followed by the meat of the matter; the years’ financials.  If the year was difficult, the bumf is where the outfit tries to soothe the stakeholders.  If the year was lovely, the bumf is a brag sheet.  Either way, the bumf is bilge relative to financial reporting.

The CSA’s financial reporting has been an absolute boon for us.  It’s where we discovered CSA’s $90,000 per day travel budget. It’s also where we found their meaningless expense reports, regularly featuring one-word descriptions for hundreds of millions of dollars in spending.  It’s where we found CSA’s classification of $13.5MM in spending as “other” and where $14,402,000.00 is described as “unrestricted.”  Unrestricted what?  We have no idea, the report didn’t say.  Unrestricted spending?

Our boon was their bumble.  Like many government Agencies, the CSA is only secure when nobody knows what they’re up to.  Naturally then, CSA sought to conceal their conduct and, in 2017, they went into full cover-up mode.

According to Crescent Group, the CSA “engaged Crescent to develop its 2015/16 Annual Report.”  So far, so good.  “Crescent undertook the work to create a visual look,” as opposed to a non-visual look, but I digress, “which was engaging and communicated the organizations values and goals. [sic]”  What values and goals?

Well, the resulting report was awash in bumf.  And bling.  Bumf and bling.  Indeed, Crescent waxed on at length of the splendour of the report, how they “utilized several leading trends” in its creation, how the CSA report used “a digital first philosophy” to “emphasize key messages [through] engaging animation and powerful interactive effects.”  Well, hurrah!

Then we come to the meat of the matter; the financials.  There aren’t any.  Amazingly, the CSA “annual report” does not include any financial statements whatsoever.

The CSA has solved the problem of people finding out what they’re up to by concealing what they’re up to.  The millions of taxation dollars spent on airfares, golf courses, yacht clubs, curious things like “other” and “selling” and “internally restricted for specific purposes” is now covered up.  You paid it, so naturally its none of your business what they did with it.

Ah, said CSA, but there is a way to access their financials.  You have to pay for them.  That’s right, you have to pay CSA money to find out how much of your money they’re spending.

Also, you now have no right to read any of their previous annual reports.  Their previous reports of course, contained their financials so, naturally, all previous annual reports are no longer retrievable.

Ironically, on their website the CSA recently boasted that they’ve become famous for their “exceptional customer service.”  Apparently, all stakeholders experience “efficiency and transparency” from CSA.

It’s hard to take them seriously, isn’t it?  On the one hand, CSA claims to be captain of transparency, boasting to the world of their dedication to openness, accountability and customer service.  At the same time however, they’re deleting evidence of their conduct and concealing their spending from the people who are paying for it.

Hypocrisy, what is thy name?