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HUMA Committee Report

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GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE SIXTH REPORT OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES, SKILLS DEVELOPMENT, SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE STATUS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

AN EXAMINATION OF NEW DIRECTIVES GOVERNING CONTRIBUTION AGREEMENTS FOR SELECTED PROGRAMS DELIVERED ON BEHALF OF HUMAN RESOURCES AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT CANADA

INTRODUCTION

On 16 February 2004, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) introduced four national policy directives designed to meet the highest standards of transparency, accountability, fairness, management and administration of HRSDC-funded employment programs.

Stakeholders who deliver these specific Employment programs in Ontario (where the Government is responsible for the delivery) as well as those provinces with co-managed Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) were heavily affected by the changes. Organizations from British Columbia and Ontario in particular were adversely impacted by the changes and, in particular, the introduction of Call for Proposals (CFP) . This seemed especially true of organizations who deliver Employment Assistance Services (EAS).

In light of concerns expressed by such groups to the Minister of HRSD and other parliamentarians, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) reviewed the implementation and impact of the new directives, and tabled a report on May 18, 2005.

The Standing Committee on HUMA made 20 recommendations. The issues raised in the Report relate to the implementation of four national directives applicable to the delivery of specified Employment programs and more specifically the directive on the Call for Proposals (CFP) process. The Employment programs affected by the directives are Employment Assistance Services, Labour Market Partnerships (excluding Sector Council agreements), Career Focus, Skills Link, and Community Coordinator agreements. Other issues raised, not related solely to the CFP process, include: administrative burden; duration of funding agreements; results-based performance; and HRSDC's management and personnel. HUMA also indicated that HRSDC did not meaningfully consult the voluntary sector on the implementation of its new directives and CFP process and heard testimony that HRSDC did not take account of the Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector.

In this Response, the Government recognizes the voluntary sector as a key partner in achieving better social outcomes for Canadians by providing fair, transparent, responsive and accountable programming delivered in a seamless and integrated manner. It is clear that government alone cannot help facilitate the full participation of Canadians in the community and the workplace. To ensure success, it must partner in a meaningful way having full respect for the work the sector does. The Government is demonstrating through this Response that it is committed to this relationship and to rebuilding trust. It is moving to a culture where stakeholders can focus on the most important factor – the best possible service to Canadians.

The Government and the voluntary sector have jointly established a Working Group which is co-chaired by Heather McGregor, Executive Director YWCA of the Greater Toronto Area, Maryantonett Flumian, Deputy Minister of Service Canada and the Honourable Peter Adams, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of HRSD and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal. This is a clear demonstration of the Government's commitment to working jointly to address concerns. The initial work of this group will focus on identifying immediate changes that will reduce the administrative burden placed on organizations. It will report within a month. In addition, longer-term collaborative solutions will be sought.

The Government is reaffirming its commitment to be responsive to Canadians through the creation of Service Canada (ServCan). This Response also provides an opportunity to enhance service delivery within the broader ServCan context. The goals of ServCan are to: deliver seamless citizen-centered service; enhance the integrity of programs; work together as a collaborative and networked government; and demonstrate accountable and responsible government. ServCan will develop cooperative relationships through ongoing dialogue with the VS to make services more accessible to citizens and communities while reducing administrative burden and as a result achieve better outcomes for citizens. Through ServCan, the Government will reach out to stakeholders to build awareness, improve service and achieve better social outcomes for Canadians. ServCan commits to engaging stakeholders in improving the planning process and seeking solutions to administrative burden concerns through ongoing consultations at the national, regional and local levels. ServCan will also work with other departments with a view to continuously improve by sharing best practices and lessons learned. Strengthening partnerships with the voluntary sector and other stakeholders is a priority for ServCan.

CONSULTATIONS WITH STAKEHOLDERS

In the last few months, a number of consultations with the voluntary sector and other stakeholders have taken place. In March 2005, HRSDC officials met with representatives of national voluntary sector umbrella groups to better understand what concerns were being expressed by their members and to ascertain the best approach to undertake consultations with the sector.

On April 6, 2005, in Toronto, the United Way and the Government jointly hosted a meeting that included representatives from the ACCES, Community MicroSkills, COSTI, JobStart, Jobs Vision Success (formerly Jewish Vocational Services), Ontario March of Dimes, Senior Link, Skills for Change, WoodGreen Community Services, YMCA, YWCA, and the City of Toronto's Business Development Centre. Organizations represented a mix of those that had secured funding through the CFP process and those that had not.

On May 27, 2005, the Government chaired a meeting with Ontario umbrella groups including the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, the Ontario Network of Employment Skills Training Project, the Ontario Association of Youth Employment Centres, A Commitment to Employment and Training for Women, and the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario, to discuss plans and priorities for the coming year.

In Vancouver on June 17, 2005, the Government met with organizations from the voluntary, private and public sectors (Bowman Employment Services, Douglas College, Mission Community Skills Centre, MOSAIC, the Association of Service Providers for Employability and Career Training, Myert Corps Inc., North Vancouver Continuing Education, Sante Services Ltd., United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society, BC Society of Training for Health and Employment Opportunities, and the YMCA).

Overall stakeholders agreed with the objective of delivering Employment grant and contribution programs that provide a balance between Canadians' expectations for service excellence and strengthened accountability. They indicated support for the CFP process as a transparent, fair, and accountable approach to make funding decisions. Concerns expressed related to the manner in which it was implemented. Timeframes in which to submit an application were too short and organizations wanted the weights and marks assigned to each criterion to be known at the time of application. Stakeholders were supportive of the three initial enhancements made to the CFP process and appreciated being engaged in the development of further enhancements. The three enhancements are: allowing more time for applicants to prepare and submit their applications (from a minimum of 10 business days to 30 calendar days); providing a detailed assessment grid which includes the marks and weights of each selection criterion with the application package; and extending the time frame to conduct a CFP process from 90 days to 120 days (if required).

Some of the other suggestions from organizations included: sharing information in advance on CFPs planned for the year including expected launch dates; enhancing the value attributed to past project delivery experience and results achieved; providing clear responses to questions raised during the application period in a manner in which information is accessible to all; developing a standardized approach for feedback with sponsors following a CFP process; lessening the requirement for lengthy agreement negotiations; and, minimizing the number of CFPs launched in July and August (although accessibility to information on planned CFPs would help organizations better prepare for CFPs held during that time if required ). As demonstrated in actions taken below, a number of these suggestions have already been actioned or are in development.

There have been many consultations with stakeholders over the years. For example, during consultations in 2001 on the Youth Employment Strategy, the concept of a CFP was initially discussed with organizations such as YMCA Canada, Big Brothers & Sisters of Canada , Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Boys & Girls Club of Canada, Junior Achievement, Career Edge, Career Circuit partners, Ontario Association of Youth Employment Centres,Volunteer Canada, NYSA, NEEDS, Canadian Film and Television Production Association, and the Cultural Human Resource Council. Feedback at that time was that such a process would be acceptable.

Organizations adversely affected by CFP funding decisions and administrative burden have voiced their distress as well as concerns about the process creating a climate of competition within the voluntary sector. However, stakeholders have expressed support for a process that is transparent, fair, responsive and accountable to make funding decisions, a process that the directives were designed to support. In this vein, as part of the ServCan engagement strategy, the Government is open to consulting stakeholders to explore alternate means to achieving these objectives and further improving the process of awarding grant and contribution agreements.

Consultations will continue with stakeholders of all sizes and all sectors into the fall. ServCan has been and will continue to work with Social Development Canada which leads the implementation within the Government of Canada of An Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector and the two Codes, and acts as the federal interlocutor between the non-profit and voluntary sector and federal departments and agencies with mandates directly affecting the sector.

GOVERNMENT ACTIONS ON FEEDBACK FROM CONSULTATIONS

The Government has already taken demonstrable action as a result of suggestions put forward directly by stakeholders. There were three enhancements to the CFP process that are outlined above. As well, the additional following improvements are being implemented: a modified CFP assessment grid that assigns greater weight to prior program delivery experience which now accounts significantly in the overall assessment; CFPs planned for the year will be posted to provide organizations with advance notice and help them in their planning; and, regular CFP information sessions will be offered to stakeholders. Employment Programs application forms have been posted to the internet in a fillable PDF format to enable applicants to complete application forms using their computers instead of having to handwrite on to printed paper application forms. Furthermore, a standardized feedback approach to all applicants has been put in place. Existing sponsors that are not successful in a CFP process are advised personally by telephone followed by a letter. All applicants are advised in writing and offered feedback sessions to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their proposal which helps them to better prepare for future CFPs. They will also be provided with a copy of their respective assessment grid showing the marks assigned through the assessment process. These enhancements and others will continue to be vetted with stakeholders.

Based on the advice of a Blue Ribbon Panel and feedback from stakeholders, new administrative approaches are being piloted in partnership with stakeholders in order to reduce administrative burden and address the issue of excessive financial micro-management felt by organizations. The approaches being piloted, are concrete steps to consider various methodologies to develop a formula for fair funding of administrative expenses and reimbursement of costs based on a number of possibilities: indirect project costing (e.g. flat rate for overhead costs); activity based costing; and, payment based on results. These funding practices will support an approach focused on achieving objectives and outcomes and provide accountability for public funds.

In addition to feedback sessions provided to applicants, there is a need for a mechanism for organizations to voice their concerns and complaints concerning the processes related to grants and contributions. In recognition of this need, an internal Fairness Advisor will be appointed. The position will report directly to the Deputy Minister of Service Canada and will be responsible to ensure that the practices related to the administration of grants and contributions are implemented in a fair, open and transparent way. The Fairness Advisor will be complemented by the Office of Client Satisfaction for Service Canada.

DISSENTING OPINIONS

The NDP made a number of recommendations of which many are addressed in this Response. In addition, the NDP alleges that witnesses who raised concerns about the directives were intimidated and lost funding as a result of their appearance at the Committee.

The assessment of proposals from organizations appearing before the Standing Committee was in no way influenced by their appearance before the Committee. The Public Service is bound by a Code of Values and Ethics which form part of each public servant's conditions of employment and which guides them in all their professional activities and conduct. It is to be noted that some witnesses have sent apologies further to their appearance at the Committee. These apologies were read into the record including one to correct the impression left that public servants were personally intimidating them. The witness later indicated in writing that it was in fact the process of implementing the directives that was intimidating and as a result, they felt their programs were are at risk. The witness indicated their appreciation in working with public servants to reach solutions. Another apology indicated that they [the witness] were too emotionally involved and lost their sense of professionalism in front of the Committee.

The Bloc Québécois' dissenting opinion suggests the Government is infringing on provincial jurisdiction.

Programs devolved to the province of Quebec through the Labour Market Agreement are not subject to the CFP process. The CFP does not apply to programs devolved to provinces and territories through Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs).

CONCLUSION

The Government recognizes the need to better engage stakeholders and communities and acknowledges that the pace at which the national directives were implemented has impaired its relationship with the voluntary sector and other stakeholders. The Government is committed to enhancing these relationships, promoting awareness, and working collaboratively to meet the needs of citizens. As such, the Government welcomes the opportunity to respond to the recommendations and to convey to stakeholders and committee members that strengthening its partnership with stakeholders is a priority. The Government's commitment to service transformation through the establishment of ServCan is another concrete example of the desire to be responsive to the needs of citizens and to better connect with communities.

Voluntary, public, and private sector organizations are all partners in assisting the Government to support unemployed individuals to find and obtain employment. In comparing the number of projects delivered in the Greater Toronto area pre- and post-CFP as at March 2005, the overall number remained stable (62). The number of projects delivered by the voluntary sector remained the same; there were, however, shifts amongst the service providers. In terms of number of projects delivered by the private and the public sectors, there was a slight increase in the number of projects delivered by the private sector (from 0 to 4) with a corresponding decrease (-4) in the public sector.

The Government is committed to achieving better social outcomes by providing, fair, transparent, responsive and accountable programming delivered in a seamless and integrated manner. In this way, it can truly facilitate the full participation of Canadians in the community and the workplace. The national directives were developed to support these objectives. Engagement and consultation with stakeholders are prerequisites to ensuring objectives are met, as well as to promote awareness and work collaboratively to meet the needs of citizens. A key aspect of these consultations will be exploring possible alternatives to a CFP process that would respect the awarding of taxpayers funds in a fair, objective, and transparent manner.

The Minister of HRSD and Minister responsible for Service Canada will report to the HUMA Standing Committee in the fall in respect to the outcomes of the working group on reducing administrative burden as well as the consultations related to suggestions for an improved process to award grant and contribution agreements.

RECOMMENDATION 1

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada engage in meaningful consultations with both large and small organizations and that it develop a comprehensive communication strategy regarding all elements of the Specialization and Concentration Initiative.

Four national directives were implemented in support of the objectives of facilitating better social outcomes and, a fair, transparent, responsive and accountable grants and contributions process.

The Government acknowledges that the pace with which the new directives were implemented did not provide an opportunity to meaningfully engage stakeholders prior to implementing the directives. However, in recognition that enhancements to the directive were necessary and that stakeholder input and experience would be instrumental in enhancing the directives, the Government did consult since the introduction of the directives and took action based on feedback received. These consultations occurred with national organizations, umbrella groups and numerous contribution agreement recipients as part of an engagement and consultation strategy. Consultations with both large and small stakeholders are extremely important and the consultation process is ongoing. A detailed communications plan has been developed to set a framework on which to broaden the consultative process.

In recognition of recommendations coming directly from stakeholders, enhancements that could be put into effect quickly and benefit all applicants were implemented on March 29, 2005. The three enhancements to the CFP process were: allowing more time for applicants to prepare and submit their applications (from a minimum of 10 business days to 30 calendar days); providing a detailed assessment grid which includes the marks and weights of each selection criterion with the application package; and, extending the time frame to conduct a CFP process from 90 days to 120 days (if required). As well, the additional following improvements are being implemented: a modified CFP assessment grid that assigns greater weight to prior program delivery experience which now accounts significantly in the overall assessment; CFPs planned for the year will be posted to provide organizations with advance notice and help them in their planning; and, regular CFP information sessions will be offered to stakeholders. Furthermore, a standardized feedback approach to all applicants has been put in place. Existing sponsors that are not successful in a CFP process are advised personally by telephone followed by a letter. All applicants are advised in writing and offered feedback sessions to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their proposal which helps them to better prepare for future CFPs. They are also be provided with a copy of their respective assessment grid showing the marks assigned through the assessment process.

Engagement and consultation are prerequisites to ensuring objectives are met and to promote awareness and facilitate accountabilities. Service Canada (ServCan) is working closely with Social Development Canada, which provides leadership with federal departments and agencies to embed The Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector and the two Codes of Good Practice on Funding and on Policy Dialogue as the way of doing business with non-profit and voluntary sector. The Government wants to strengthen the partnership and collaboration with the voluntary sector and with other stakeholders. Through ServCan, the Government will reach out to stakeholders to build awareness and better connections to service and to ensure fairness and equity. ServCan commits to engage stakeholders in improving the process and seeking solutions to administrative burden concerns through ongoing consultations at the national, regional and local levels. Strengthening partnerships with the voluntary sector and other stakeholders is a priority.

RECOMMENDATION 2

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada fully inform all organizations that provide Employment Assistance Services about the November 2004 directives pertaining to this initiative. As required by law, Employment Assistance Services are available to all unemployed individuals, irrespective of their current or past relationship with the Employment Insurance program.

The terms and conditions of the Employment Assistance Services (EAS) program are available to the public on the HRSDC website. The EAS Policy Directives are available on the HRSDC intranet website to ensure consistent application by staff across the country. The website also provides staff with tools such as “speaking points to sponsors” and a fact sheet on the EAS directives which is to be used as a communications tool.

EAS are available to all unemployed Canadians. The EAS support measure funds sponsors who deliver employment assistance to unemployed persons in Canada who are seeking employment. Activities covered under this measure include needs assessments, employment counseling, job search and résumé assistance, case management, and referrals to other community resources. EAS can be targeted to specific client groups as determined in the community planning process. However, the directives reiterate that EAS offers short-term interventions – and that those interventions must address employment-related needs and barriers to employment. As mentioned in the Standing Committee Report, although some witnesses claimed that the Government's EAS directives were restricting access to EAS by requiring clients to be “insured participants”, there is no such requirement that an EAS client must be an insured participant, as section 60(4)(a) of Employment Insurance Act clearly states, “the Commission must provide a National Employment Service to all unemployed Canadians” and “the Commission may do so by contributing funds to organizations that provide EAS services”. HRSDC's external website clearly states that EAS is a support for all unemployed persons.

Communication products providing information and updates on EAS to organizations will continue to be developed.

RECOMMENDATION 3

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada adhere to the Code of Good Practice on Policy Dialogue and Code of Good Practice on Funding, both of which build on the accord signed in December 2001 between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector.

The Government is committed to enhancing the relationship with the voluntary sector to better serve Canadians and will continue to promote awareness of the Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector. Through the implementation of Service Canada, the Government will reinforce its commitment to An Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector by holding joint workshops between regional and community groups to foster dialogue.

The Government acknowledges that the pace with which the new directives were implemented did not provide an opportunity to meaningfully engage sponsors prior to implementing the directives and did not fully respect the Code of Good Practice on Funding and the Code on Good Practice on Policy Dialogue.

The Government builds upon consultations and actions already taken to strengthen its partnership and collaboration with the voluntary sector and other stakeholders involved in the delivery of Employment Programs. To that end, an engagement and consultation strategy and a detailed communications plan were developed to set a framework to continue the consultative process through the fall. ServCan is working closely with Social Development Canada, which provides leadership with federal departments and agencies to embed The Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector and the two Codes of Good Practice on Funding and on Policy Dialogue as the way of doing business with the non-profit and voluntary sector.

RECOMMENDATION 4

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada provide the public with current and accessible information on projects being funded and the organizations delivering these funds.

A number of witnesses expressed that it is quite difficult to find current information regarding projects funded such as Employment Assistance Services (EAS).

The list of Grants and Contributions by program will be made available on departmental websites. Treasury Board Secretariat is currently leading an initiative that will result in the quarterly posting on individual departmental websites of all grants and contributions with commitment values of $10,000 or more. The first report is scheduled to be available by January 31, 2006. Furthermore, yearly expenditure data for grants and contributions over $100,000 are made available in the Public Accounts of Canada.

As part of the Service Canada Initiative, ways to make program information more accessible and timely to the public will be explored. Also once an agreement with a contribution recipient is in place following a CFP, the name of the sponsor will be posted on the website.

The Government agrees that the process of keeping the public informed could be made more timely and user friendly. In this respect, as per the local planning process, a listing of future CFPs will be posted on the Government's website.

RECOMMENDATION 5

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada suspend its call for proposals process until it has engaged in meaningful consultation with community organizations in order to determine an appropriate amount of time for organizations to prepare and submit their applications. Although Human Resources and Skills Development Canada now provides 30 days to prepare and submit a proposal, the Department must consult organizations on this matter and consider their input before a decision is made on a new time period. If necessary, funding extensions should be granted to existing program providers until a more acceptable timeframe for responding to a call for proposals is established.

Suspension of the CFP process would impede Government's ability to ensure the best service to the unemployed and would, in some instances result in interruption in client service. Furthermore, this action would cause instability and result in unintended increases in administrative burden on organizations. Furthermore, the majority of planned CFPs have already been completed and/or started. For these reasons, the Government cannot support suspension of the CFP process. However, the Government is committed to continue its efforts to enhance the CFP process, and continue with the ongoing consultations with stakeholders to seek feedback and advice. The Government is open and commits to consult stakeholders to explore alternate means to achieve the objectives of a fair, transparent, responsive and accountable process to award grant and contribution agreements.

Stakeholders were as concerned about the instability resulting from successive short-term extensions as the CFP timeframes themselves. It was reported that these extensions placed an enormous administrative burden on the sponsors, often resulting in a loss of skilled and experienced staff, difficulties in leasing arrangements and confusion in the community. Current extensions were negotiated taking into consideration the anticipated timing of launching new CFPs. If a suspension occurs, these organizations would once again require extensions and in some cases new agreements.

As indicated in the response to Recommendation 1, in recognition of the recommendations coming directly from stakeholders, enhancements to the timeframes were implemented on March 29, 2005. Through the ongoing consultations, suggestions for additional changes as well as further validation of the changes to date will be sought.

RECOMMENDATION 6

The Committee recommends that when the call for proposals process resumes, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada take the necessary steps to stagger the opening dates for a call for proposals, and that the Department avoid announcing a call for proposals during the summer months, when organizations are least prepared to respond.

The departmental business planning process will endeavour to stagger CFPs wherever possible recognizing that there may be instances where this may not be feasible. However, sharing information in advance on CFPs planned for the year including the expected launch dates, will provide organizations with advance notice. The impact of launching CFPs during the summer period has been assessed and every attempt will be made to minimize the number of new CFPs during this time period; however, analysis demonstrates that some CFPs will be required during the summer to ensure client service is maintained. Efforts will be made to keep organizations informed to facilitate the process.

RECOMMENDATION 7

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, in consultation with third-party delivery organizations, develop standardized, user-friendly forms and computer software to assist organizations that apply for project funding under the call for proposals process, and to facilitate the reporting of financial requirements and program results. This recommendation is consistent with the Code of Good Practice on Funding, which builds on the accord signed in December 2001 between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector.

The Government acknowledges these concerns and is working towards a more user-friendly solution for transactions between third party delivery organizations and the Government.

Recently, the various Employment Programs applications forms have been posted to the internet in a fillable PDF format. This enables applicants to complete application forms using their computers instead of having to handwrite on to printed paper application forms.

As part of Service Canada there is work on a number of fronts to simplify and improve access to program applications and provide a means for the federal government and third-party delivery organizations as well as citizens to transact online or electronically. The intent is to involve stakeholders in the design and development of this streamlined approach.

RECOMMENDATION 8

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada work with organizations in small communities to build the required capacity to deliver employment interventions that are needed in the community. In so doing, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada should provide special support to organizations that develop innovative approaches to address local employment and skills development needs.

Community-based planning forms an integral part of HRSDC's employment programs and Service Canada's (ServCan) objective of delivering services and programming that are designed with the needs of citizens and communities in mind. They are especially important in rural areas of the country. Community planning brings together key stakeholders in the community from all sectors. Through this collaborative approach, stakeholders review and assess employment needs, identify gaps, determine priorities, and establish goals to address local community requirements. In areas where organizational capacity is lacking to meet employment and skills development needs, this concern will be addressed through available programming authorities. Moreover, ServCan staff will be working with communities to offer sessions on Government of Canada programming that are relevant, including sessions on preparing proposals.

RECOMMENDATION 9

The Committee recommends that when an organization is not successful in renewing an existing contribution agreement or obtaining a new agreement, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada shall provide full and comprehensive reasons to the applicant within 14 days.

As part of Service Canada, service standards will be developed to address timeframes to advise applicants that were successful and those that were not, including the provision of timely feedback on performance in order that organizations can learn and better prepare for the next CFP process for which they will apply. As part of a standardized feedback approach, current sponsors that are not successful in a CFP process are now advised personally by telephone followed by a letter. All applicants are advised in writing and offered feedback sessions to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their proposal which helps them to better prepare for future CFPs. They are also provided with a copy of their respective assessment grid showing the marks assigned through the assessment process. Such standards will be discussed further as part of the engagement strategy and the ongoing consultation process with stakeholders.

In addition to feedback sessions provided to applicants, there is a need for a mechanism for organizations to voice their concerns and complaints concerning the processes related to grants and contributions. In recognition of this need, an internal Fairness Advisor will be appointed. The position will report directly to the Deputy Minister of Service Canada and will be responsible to ensure that the practices related to the administration of grants and contributions are implemented in a fair, open and transparent way. The Fairness Advisor will be complemented by the Office of Client Satisfaction for Service Canada.

RECOMMENDATION 10

The Committee recommends that the call for proposals process be restricted to individual projects valued at $500,000 and more.

The Government agrees with this recommendation; a CFP generally only applies to higher value agreements (at or over $500,000). However, there may be a need to allow for exceptions. One such exception would be a community's expectation that a CFP type of approach, which has been in place for some time, continues to be applied. In all cases, communication with the community and stakeholders will be key in such determination.

RECOMMENDATIONS 11 AND 12

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada provide all applicants participating in the call-for-proposals process with a detailed outline of the selection criteria and associated maximum scores used to rank proposals. This should include a rationale of the weighting of scores.

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada engage in meaningful consultations with organizations that deliver contribution programs on behalf of the Department in order to review and re-evaluate the selection criteria used to rank applicants participating in the call-for-proposals process. Selection criteria should recognize and attribute value to organizations that can demonstrate an ability to provide high-quality, results-oriented programming. Where applicable, the capacity to serve special-needs clients should also be recognized and scored. Further to Recommendation 5, the call for proposals process should be suspended until the selection criteria review is completed and the revised selection criteria are in place. During this period, organizations with active contribution agreements negotiated under the old system should have their funding extended.

The Government reacted promptly to the concerns raised directly by stakeholders and the Committee relative to applicants wanting to receive the selection criteria. As of March 29, 2005, applicants receive an assessment grid that includes the marks and the weights assigned to each criterion for evaluating proposals, in the application package for all CFP processes.

Stakeholders indicated that selection criteria did not afford enough value to an organization's experience. An interim modified assessment grid that assigns greater weight to prior program delivery experience which now accounts significantly in the overall assessment has been implemented. Furthermore, a standardized feedback approach to all applicants has been implemented. Existing sponsors that are not successful in a CFP process are advised personally by telephone followed by a letter. All applicants are advised in writing and are offered feedback sessions to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their proposal which helps them to better prepare for future CFPs. They are also be provided with a copy of their respective assessment grid showing marks assigned through the assessment process. These enhancements and others will be vetted with stakeholders as part of the ongoing consultation process.

For reasons outlined in the response to Recommendation 5 above, the Government does not support suspension of the CFP process.

RECOMMENDATION 13

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada develop, in conjunction with input from voluntary and other private sector organizations, speed-of-delivery targets that require the Department to respond to applicants following a call for proposals and to negotiate contribution agreements with successful applicants within a given period of time. These targets must be mutually agreed to by all parties and be shorter than the combined timeframe currently followed by the Department. The Department's performance in this regard should be reported annually in Human Resources and Skills Development Canada's Performance Report.

As part of Service Canada, a number of service standards are being developed as per the Government's response to Recommendation 9 above. This will be discussed further as part of the ongoing consultation process with stakeholders.

In the interim, the commitment is that the CFP process be completed within 120 days from the closing date to submit proposals to the signing of a contribution agreement. The intent, however, is to complete the process in the shortest time possible. Experience has shown that 90 days to complete the entire CFP process from the issuance of the public notice to submit proposals, to the negotiation of an agreement, was often not possible thereby resulting in short-term extensions of agreements.

RECOMMENDATIONS 14 AND 15

The Committee recommends that, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, organizations be subject to no more than one audit in a 12-month period. The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada adopt a more risk-based approach to auditing contribution agreements, especially in terms of those agreements involving funding below the $500,000 threshold.

During the course of the committee hearings a number of proponents expressed concern over the program directive that requires organizations to undergo one or more audits for every project over $350,000. Witnesses that appeared before the committee and some committee members supported the intent of the audits, but felt that a more risk-based approach should be used and that the current system for determining the number of audits was excessive. Stakeholders have indicated that the majority of them are already subject to yearly audits (for instance to maintain their not-for-profit status) and that these separate audits of the HRSD-funded projects were excessive, burdensome, and a waste of taxpayer funds.

The Government understands the extent to which the requirement to perform audits up to twice a year in some cases places a burden on voluntary sector organization's human, financial, and administrative resources. It is exploring a number of options including increasing the threshold and reducing the number of audits required and will consult with stakeholders on these options.

RECOMMENDATION 16

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada move quickly to a three-year funding agreement with the project sponsors, subject to continued good performance in accordance with the terms and conditions of the agreement signed with the Department.

The Government agrees with the intent of entering into multi-year funding agreements. However, in Ontario the question of agreement durations will be subject to the outcome of discussions with the province in respect to concluding a Labour Market Development Agreement (LMDA).

RECOMMENDATION 17

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada be given the authority to extend, for an additional three years, multi-year contribution agreements without proceeding to a call for proposals in circumstances where service providers have met all the terms and conditions of the agreement, including all performance targets.

The Government does not support renewal of multi-year agreements without proceeding to a new CFP as this would, in many instances, remove opportunities for other organizations to deliver employment services and have access to federal funding for a period of six years. This time span is considered too long. The Government recognizes the need to support organizations and communities in the transition when changes occur in service providers.

RECOMMENDATION 18

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada establish meaningful results-based accountability measures and an evaluation framework for programs delivered under Employment Benefits and Support Measures. Results-based accountability measures must be developed in partnership with the organizations that deliver contribution projects, and these measures must become an important part of the Department's accountability framework. Every five years, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada should conduct a summative evaluation of Employment Benefits and Support Measures.

As per program terms and conditions, the following is currently in place:

Accountability:
Employment Benefits and Support Measures (EBSM) are delivered within an accountability framework that requires establishing annual targets and reporting on three short-term key indicators: returns to work (i.e., clients obtaining work following an EBSM intervention), unpaid benefits (i.e., Employment Insurance (EI) unpaid benefits resulting from the client's return to work before the end of their benefit period) and clients served. These results are reported to Parliament annually through the Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report and in the Departmental Performance Report.
The Youth Employment Strategy is subject to an umbrella Results-based Management and Accountability Framework (RMAF) which outlines ongoing performance measurement, evaluation and reporting strategies. The Youth Employment Strategy accountability framework includes performance measures on Clients employed, Clients returning to school and Clients served. A new performance measure was introduced this year: Clients employed as a proportion of action plans closed. This new measure will add supplementary context and perspective to the existing Clients employed indicator. Significant progress has been made over the past year to provide additional information to managers to assist them in managing for results. This information includes new reports on applications, agreements, participants, interventions, action plans, funds leveraged, and budgets (expenditures and commitments). Managers are now better equipped with the tools to achieve optimal results.
Evaluations:
The Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) include provisions for the summative evaluations, which take place every five years, and are designed and managed through federal-provincial/territorial joint committees. This is the case in all jurisdictions except for Quebec where the province has sole responsibility for the EBSM summative evaluation, and for Ontario where the evaluation is done federally. Three summative evaluations have been completed to date: British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Additional evaluations are underway in Nunavut, Alberta, and Ontario and others are planned to start during 2005-06 and 2006-07 fiscal years.
The Youth Employment Strategy umbrella RMAF includes a high level evaluation strategy that focuses on the common objectives that are consistent throughout all its component programs and relevant to stated desired outcomes in accordance with the Youth Employment Strategy logic model. A detailed evaluation framework, in consultation with the inter-departmental evaluation committee, is being prepared. To date, there has been a formative evaluation of the Youth Employment Strategy which is in draft form and currently being circulated for approval with other government departments. An omnibus Summative Evaluation will be led by HRSDC for 2006 in order to inform renewal and/or modifications to the Terms and Conditions. The summative evaluation will address the continued relevance of the Youth Employment Strategy, its cost effectiveness, its overall success in achieving intended outcomes, and will canvass in depth for impacts and its effects on both participants and in terms of its broader potential reach.

This will be discussed further as part of the ongoing consultation process.

RECOMMENDATION 19

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada provide project sponsors with assistance, including training and funding, to collect the data required to measure and report meaningful program results attributed to Departmental program spending.

This is currently addressed by the specifics outlined in the CFP posting and the contribution agreement signed with the sponsor. Negotiated costs take into account the administrative support required to capture the data required by the Department and, as such, already addresses the issue as recommended by the Committee. Furthermore, training is provided in the use of Contact IV, the system used to capture and transfer specific information and report on specific project outcomes.

RECOMMENDATION 20

The Committee recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada ensure that its employees receive the required support to provide a stable, high-quality, consistent service to third-party project sponsors. Staffing needs and skills should be one of the key priorities underlying improvements to the administration, management and accountability of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada contribution programs.

Public Servants are the cornerstone of the relationship between the Government and the sponsor. During the course of the hearings the Committee heard from a number of witnesses that the implementation of the four directives has had a detrimental effect on Public Servants and that they may not have been properly trained to deal with the requirements of the directives. Fundamentally, the Committee has expressed to the Government that in order to provide stable, high-quality, consistent service to project sponsors, Public Servants must have the skills and competencies to effectively deal with stakeholders.

The role of the project officer is key to ensure good management of grant and contribution agreements. For this reason, there is a learning policy in place which recognizes learning as one of the key components of change, progress, and service excellence.

A National Training Strategy was implemented to ensure that operational training needs of staff are identified and that courses are being developed and delivered that are in line with the organizational goals and objectives and identified training needs. A number of other initiatives have also been undertaken to strengthen training capacity these include:

  • The National Training Certification initiative to ensure a pool of qualified instructors to deliver courses;
  • The creation of National Training Coordinators to ensure that the training function is strategic and is supportive of organizational goals and objectives and of the role of front line staff in supporting continuous dialogue with various stakeholders in the community.
  • A thorough analysis of course curricula to ensure that the existing courses are in line with organizational priorities and objectives; and
  • Use of online delivery of courses to ensure timely delivery schedule and a greater flexibility.

The Government remains committed to a continuous learning culture where the responsibility for learning is shared by managers and employees.