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A trip by two high-ranking federal officials to Britain this summer to learn more about public private partnerships in government real estate has had Ottawa bureaucrats scrambling to invent some positive spin on a P3 public relations disaster.

David Rotor and Douglas Tipple are senior advisers to the scandal-plagued federal public works department, according to a Globe and Mail story (Federal advisers’ trip to Britain raises ire, Aug. 15, 2006). The pair’s trip to London in June apparently resulted in a string of cancelled meetings, skipped conferences and speeches, and a possibly plagiarized report.

The episode has the British government miffed because its officials went to great lengths to arrange a positive experience and “sell” their disastrous wholesale privatization of the United Kingdom’s public services.

Rotor and Tipple submitted a 10-page report entitled “U.K. Trip Notes – June 2006” upon their return to Ottawa. “The 4,500-word document provides a summary of the information gathered overseas by the two special advisers,” the Globe reports. “About 1,800 words of the document – or 40 per cent of the total trip report – consists of direct and edited excerpts from outside reports available at two British websites: www.amaresearch.co.uk and www.adamsmith.org.”

However,” the Globe states, “there is no indication in the report that some of the material comes directly from either website.” Officials of our “new government” countered rumours of plagiarism with statements about drafts and incomplete reports.

In addition, Rotor wrote that he attended a speech by Laura D. Tyson, Dean of the London Business School, “on the convergence of the Canadian, American and English economy.” Tyson has said she made no such speech.

Canadian officials have so far sent several letters of apology to soothe the anger of “a number of people in London who are important to Canada,” including, according to the newspaper’s sources, “the Ministry of Defence, the National Health Service and the National Audit Office.”

The wives of both men went on the trip to Britain. One couple stayed longer than the official trip for personal reasons. A federal official said the husbands paid for the extra expense, however, the official expense tab to taxpayers for the trip is still unknown.

Rotor and Tipple are products of the federal government’s much criticized practice of contracting out through private hiring firms (see P3 Alert, July 2006). The federal government paid a headhunting company $230,000 to find and hire the pair to help the federal government review how it obtained and held real estate properties. While the contracts are confidential, it is assumed Rotor and Tipple are each paid more than $100,000 a year, in line with private sector salaries.

- With files from the Globe and Mail