If the average Canadian consumer feels he or she has been overbilled in a business dealing, chances are they will question the overcharge and seek a refund. Not so with the federal government, apparently. According to a newly released internal audit for Public Services and Procurement Canada, the government is routinely overcharged by its contractors, and has been for decades. As indicated in a Canadian Press story in Tuesday’s Herald, the team of 30 government auditors, as of the last budget year, examined $7.3 billion worth of contracts and uncovered $72 million in potential “over claims and excess profits.” Only a small portion of the amount – $2.8 million – has been recovered. A public services spokesman said the remainder “is presently subject to negotiations.” One might assume the government, once informed about this massive overcharge, would be motivated to do something about the problem – to at least endeavour to avoid such overbilling in the future, if not seek some repayment. But the report noted: “Our current experience is that, despite the basis of payment provisions in the signed contract, there is reluctance to enforce the terms and conditions of these contracts and ask contractors to repay Canada.” That reluctance is because government departments would rather ensure the sustainability of service delivery than have an assurance that a fair price is paid, the report goes on to say. The trouble with that approach is it essentially allows the government – and thus Canadian taxpayers – to be continually overcharged for contracted services. When Canadian consumers are faced with such situations, they at least have the option of continuing to deal with a company that charges more, or switch to a firm that will do the job for less. With the money Canadians have handed over to the government through taxes, however, citizens have no such control. And if the people in government departments don’t treat the money – taxpayers’ money – with the respect it deserves, and are willing to toss it around without due consideration, it’s not just a waste of money, but also a slap in the face to Canadians who worked hard for that money in the first place.