JAN 26, 2002
ST. JOHN'S TELEGRAM
Federal gun licensing system going private, documents show
For Southam Newspapers
OTTAWA - The federal government is handing over the administration and operation of its costly gun licensing and registration system to the private sector, documents show.
A spokeswoman for the Public Works Department confirmed Friday federal officials are now evaluating bids for a 15-year contract to take over processing applications for firearms licensing and registration, telephone call centres and the information technology systems involved in the program.
"I don't know if they are negotiating with anyone; I know they are evaluating the proposals," said Fran Gershberg, a Public Works communications officer.
The Canadian Firearms Centre, in conjunction with police forces and firearms officers, will retain control over the sensitive core functions of investigating, approving, denying or revoking firearms licences and registrations,
according to a copy of the detailed 300-page request for contract proposals.
All other work, including the processing of sensitive personal information contained in gun licence and registration applications and storing it, will be done by the successful bidder, according to the request for
proposals the government circulated last September through November with no public announcement of its plans.
[b]Bidding for the contract is open to companies from any country that is a member of the World TradeOrganization, as well as U.S. or Mexican companies under the North American Free Trade Agreement[/b], Gershberg said. Canadian Alliance MP Garry Breitkreuz obtained a copy of the request for proposals, and other documents concerning the plan, through the Access to Information Act.
An assistant to Breitkreuz, Dennis Young, said the decision to contract out the firearms program to the private sector demonstrates what a costly failure it has been for the federal government.
Young, who said handing the system over to a private firm poses significant risks to the privacy rights of two million gun owners who have applied for or received licences, added that sources within the firearms program
have privately said the contract value is at least $300 million.
Gershberg said she did not know the possible value of the contract and she could not disclose other details,such as the names of the bidders or even the number of bidders. David Austin, chief spokesman for the Canadian
Firearms Centre within the Department of Justice, did not return telephone calls on Friday.