A researcher testifying before a parliamentary committee on the rise in government contracts awarded to McKinsey & Company said the focus on that one consulting firm is a distraction.
Amanda Clarke, an associate professor of public administration at Carleton University, said the study should focus on the public service's reliance on consulting firms overall.
"The focus on outsourcing and contracting in the federal government is the broad enough umbrella to get at these issues and any given firm," Clarke said Monday.
Clarke says there are legitimate questions about McKinsey's ethical track record, but that would be a separate issue to consider from the outsourcing of public service work.
McKinsey has received attention in recent weeks after media reports highlighted the rapid growth of the company's work with the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
According to the most updated tally from the Procurement Department, McKinsey has been awarded at least $116.8 million in federal contracts since 2015.
Clarke said the reliance on management consulting firms within the public service "betrays" the principles of responsible public administration.
"My research suggested in a number of ways the federal public service breaches acceptable best practice in responsible public administration when it contracts with large management consulting firms," Clarke said.
Clarke offered several solutions to address the problem of ballooning contracts with consulting firms, including pursuing a reform of the public service.
The House of Commons government operations committee will review contracts awarded to the firm since 2011, which would also include those signed by the former Conservative government.
The consulting firm has also been scrutinized for its role in the opioid pandemic in the United States as well as working with autocratic governments globally.
Representatives from the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union representing public servants, also testified on Monday.
Jennifer Carr, the union president, slammed the outsourcing of public service work to private firms and said it was creating a "shadow public service."
"This shadow public service plays by an entirely different set of rules," Carr said.
The committee will hold its next meeting on the McKinsey contracts on Wednesday. MPs will hear from Dominic Barton, the former global managing director for McKinsey.
The Liberal government's relationship with Barton has come under scrutiny in the midst of questions about the extent of the firm's influence on public policy.
Barton served as the chair of an advisory council on economic growth for former finance minister Bill Morneau.
In 2019, he was appointed Canada's ambassador to China and held that post until 2021.
Trudeau has asked Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek and Treasury Board President Mona Fortier to look into the contracts with McKinsey and to ensure proper processes were followed.