OTTAWA — The RCMP says it is updating procurement practices after an internal review of dealings with a company that has ties to China found no serious security concerns, but some areas for improvement.
A standing offer with Sinclair Technologies to provide the RCMP with radio-frequency filtration equipment was suspended in December after media coverage focusing on national security implications.
Sinclair’s parent company, Norsat International, has been owned by Chinese telecommunications firm Hytera since 2017, and the Chinese government has a 10 per cent stake in Hytera through an investment fund.
Word of the RCMP arrangement prompted Conservative MPs to call for an explanation from the government.
Technical experts concluded that the equipment provided through the standing offer is low risk and does not compromise secure communications.
In addition, the RCMP’s newly released internal review report says the Mounties complied with applicable policies and procedures to establish the standing offer through the Procurement Department.
However, the review by the force’s internal audit section identified “opportunities for improvement,” and the RCMP says it has increased the level of scrutiny on contracts to ensure appropriate controls are in place.
The United States Federal Communications Commission banned the use of Hytera technology for the purpose of public safety, government security and surveillance of critical infrastructure in 2021 when it was deemed a risk to national security.
The RCMP review, which assessed the processes leading up to the standing offer, says radio-frequency filtration equipment is not capable of accessing RCMP radio communications and poses no security concerns.
The RCMP conducted an inspection and technical testing of a recently acquired Sinclair radio-frequency filter system, turning up “no security concerns,” the review report says.
The RCMP’s Departmental Security Branch also consulted the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s cyberspy agency, which said the filtering devices would not compromise encrypted Mountie communications, the report adds.
The reviewers found the RCMP did consider security as part of the procurement process. However, they say improved guidance, and possibly controls, would be helpful to ensure security requirements specific to the RCMP are included in contracting documents.
Consultations between the RCMP and the Procurement Department determined there were no security requirements for the standing offer as none of the options on a checklist were applicable for the filtration equipment.
The checklist form “may not capture some intricacies of RCMP security processes, as it is used for all government departments,” the report says. “Interviews also indicated that the form is outdated.”
Clearances were granted to six Sinclair contractors in the event that work may be required on RCMP premises, the report says. However, a requirement for RCMP screening to be in place was not included in the standing offer.
“This may increase the risk that intended security controls will not be applied,” the report says. “Including all security requirements in the contractual documents would clarify expectations of security to both RCMP staff and the vendor.”
The report notes that policies and processes related to government procurement and security involve a variety of departments beyond the RCMP.
“As such, broader government engagement to modernize existing legislation, policies and tools is required to address future procurements that may have national security implications.”
In a management response included with the review, the RCMP says it will work with other government departments on improving security related to procurement.
In addition, the force says it has “increased the level of scrutiny on contracts” as an interim measure. The RCMP also plans to develop and implement additional controls and guidance as needed to address gaps in the existing checklist form.
An RCMP briefing note released under the Access to Information Act indicates Commissioner Mike Duheme has approved the review report and management plan.
The RCMP had no immediate information Monday about the current status of the standing offer with Sinclair.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2023.