(Ottawa) The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) will update its procurement practices following the internal review it conducted when it was revealed it had awarded a contract to a company linked to Chinese government. Although no major security problem has been revealed, certain points still need improvement.
Last December, the RCMP suspended a contract which provided for the company Sinclair Technologies to provide it with specialized radio frequency filtering equipment when it was revealed by media, notably Radio-Canada, that the company in question had links with China.
Sinclair’s parent company, Norsat International, has been owned by Chinese telecommunications company Hytera since 2017. The Chinese government holds a 10% stake in Hytera through an investment fund.
As part of the internal review, RCMP technical experts found that the equipment included in the tender won by Sinclair presented a low risk to national security, as it is not not able to access RCMP radio communications.
Additionally, the RCMP’s recently released internal review report indicates that the federal police force followed applicable policies and procedures in establishing the standing offer through the procurement department.
However, the review by the RCMP’s internal audit section identified “opportunities for improvement”, and the RCMP says it has increased the level of contract monitoring to ensure appropriate controls are in place.
The United States Federal Communications Commission banned the use of Hytera’s technology for public safety, government security, and critical infrastructure surveillance in 2021, when it was deemed a risk to national security.
The RCMP conducted an inspection and technical testing on a recently acquired Sinclair radio frequency filter system, revealing “no security issues,” the review report states.
The RCMP’s Departmental Security Branch also consulted with the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s cyber espionage agency, which said the filtering devices would not compromise RCMP encrypted communications.
Improvements to be made
The evaluators found that the RCMP had effectively considered security as part of the procurement process. However, they say improved guidance, and possibly controls, would be helpful to ensure RCMP-specific security requirements are included in contract documents.
Consultations between the RCMP and the purchasing department determined that there were no security requirements for the standing offer as none of the options on a checklist were applicable to the equipment filtration.
The checklist form “does not capture some of the intricacies of RCMP security processes, since it is used by all government departments,” says the report, which also notes that interviews noted that this form was obsolete.
Permits were granted to six Sinclair contractors in the event work was required on RCMP premises, the report states. However, the requirement that RCMP monitoring be in place was not included in the standing offer.
“This can increase the risk that appropriate security measures are not implemented. Including all security requirements in the contract documents would clarify security expectations for RCMP personnel and the vendor,” the report reads.
The document highlights that policies and processes related to public procurement and security involve various departments beyond the RCMP. “Therefore, broad government collaboration to modernize existing legislation, policies and tools is necessary to facilitate future acquisitions that could impact national security,” it is suggested.
In a management response included in the review, the RCMP says it will work with other government departments to improve security of supply.
In addition, the police force claims to have “increased the level of control over contracts” as an interim measure. The RCMP also plans to implement additional controls and guidance, as necessary, to address gaps in the existing checklist form.
An RCMP briefing note issued under the Access to Information Act indicates that Commissioner Mike Duheme approved the review report and management plan.
The RCMP had no immediate information Monday on the current status of the standing offer with Sinclair.