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PACP Committee Report

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Government Response to the Tenth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Chapter 7, Management Of Forensic Laboratory Services Royal Canadian Mounted Police Of The May 2007 Report Of The Auditor General Of Canada

Detailed Responses to the Recommendations Appendix: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Response To The May 2007 Report Of The Auditor General Of Canada

On March 5, 2008, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts submitted a report to Parliament.  The focus of the Committee’s report was Chapter 7, Management of Forensic Laboratory Services – Royal Canadian Mounted Police, of the May 2007 Report of the Auditor General of Canada.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the Government must provide a comprehensive response within 120 days, or by July 3, 2008. The following provides the Government’s Response.

Detailed Responses to the Recommendations

Recommendation 1
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police provide a status report to the Public Accounts Committee by 30 September 2008 on the implementation of the Forensic Laboratory Services Action Plan.
Response

The Forensic Laboratory Services (FLS) Action Plan consisted of over forty unique action items, of which over one-half have been concluded and the remaining are ongoing, with actions being taken to complete them. The following provides a summary of actions taken and results achieved in addressing the four areas identified by the Auditor General as needing attention, namely, the timeliness of service, quality of laboratory results, client consultation and performance reporting.

Timeliness of Service

The Priority Rating of Operational Files (PROOF) system was introduced nationally on January 28, 2008, and replaced the practice of processing cases on a first-in, first-out basis.  PROOF prioritizes casework based on the seriousness of the case and the urgency of the request based on a set of objective criteria which have been developed in consultation with FLS clients.

In conjunction with funding to be received from Treasury Board, $27.2M over 4 years, for Bill C-13 (An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act) and Bill C-18 (An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA Identification), the RCMP has allocated $5M in additional funds to FLS to enhance its Biology Services to meet current capacity challenges.  Work began in spring 2007 with anticipated completion in spring 2009. Three areas are being addressed: increased staffing in Biology Services at the existing Vancouver and Ottawa laboratories; capacity expansion by establishing evidence recovery and analytical functions at the Edmonton site to complement the reporting capacity already in place; performance management and reporting functions are being strengthened to provide FLS management with better information to support service delivery. In May 2008, a Biology Systems Review by an independent contractor will assist in improving workflow within Biology Services.

Performance management has been strengthened by the implementation of individual and unit performance metrics at all sites and the establishment of Operation Managers whose function is to ensure compliance with the performance metrics and to coordinate casework activities among laboratory sites. Laboratory performance standards and staff availability guidelines have been established to enable weekly target capacity determinations in Biology. When compared to actual outputs, this information allows a more reliable prioritization of client requests and sound management decision-making.

Quality of Laboratory Results

FLS reviewed its quality assurance program and has taken the following actions to better identify and resolve quality issues: a standard and expanded “quality issue” definition has been established and published to provide clearer guidance to all employees; the procedures for identifying, investigating, resolving and communicating information regarding quality incidents have been standardized and published and are being used to inform senior management; a quality incidents-specific data base has been evaluated and purchased for documentation and communication of quality incidents; a senior National Quality Assurance Manager has been selected and has assumed his position in Ottawa.

FLS commissioned and has received the results of a peer review of Biology automated protocols, quality assurance system and workflows. The review report indicated that the science utilized by FLS was sound and that validation studies conducted were complete.

Client Consultation

Regional Client Consultation Committees (RCCC) were established in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada to allow clients to participate in FLS decision-making processes. Members represent municipal police services, RCMP Criminal Operations Branches, Provincial Crown Counsel, Provincial Justice Departments, FLS managers and other stakeholders with special interest in the forensic laboratory operations. RCCCs have agreed that two meetings per year (spring and fall) are appropriate. Meetings were held twice in 2007 and once in the spring of 2008. The results of the consultations and performance information are provided to the RCCCs in reports following the meetings.

Future consultations with the RCCC will include an evaluation and prioritization of forensic laboratory services to determine best fit with client needs. Client input will be used in internal reviews to allocate resources to the highest priority services.

Formal client engagement continues through established groups such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police National Police Services Committee, provincial chiefs of police associations, and the Heads of Prosecution. Other stakeholders (e.g. Assistant Deputy Ministers responsible for Justice; provincial Justice Departments) are consulted when appropriate. FLS discusses issues raised, matters of concern and appropriate actions and communicates its response to the groups or individuals raising the concerns.

FLS continues to establish Crime Scene Liaison Officers (CSLO) positions, whose primary function is to ensure effective communication between front line policing and justice, and the forensic services.  They provide dedicated support and specialized expertise in the coordination and management of client interaction with downstream forensic services.  CSLOs will also apply PROOF, assist with exhibit selection and submission and facilitate the reduction and/or removal of obstacles to effective service delivery.  CSLOs are strategically located in large urban centers where the volume of casework is high and necessity for tactical interaction with clients is frequent.  At present, CSLO positions have been staffed in Winnipeg and Halifax and others are being created in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Regina. Client feedback on this CSLO undertaking has been very positive.

Performance Reporting

Performance information on the RCMP FLS, including service request processing times against set turnaround times, has been included in the  2006/2007 Departmental Performance Report.  Performance information will continue to be included in all future departmental reports.

The RCMP has also undertaken to report to the Office of the Auditor General on progress made and results achieved on the implementation of the FLS Action Plan bi-annually. To date, two reports have been produced in November 2007 and May 2008 (Appendix 1).

Recommendation 2
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Departmental Performance Reports contain the necessary information to inform parliamentarians of the performance of the Forensic Laboratory Services, beginning with the 2007-2008 Departmental Performance Report.
Response

FLS performance information was included in the 2006/2007 RCMP Departmental Performance Reports and will be included in future Reports.

The RCMP DPR currently provides information on the number of services requests received and completed, as well as the average turnaround times work performed by the FLS. Significant improvements have been made when comparing metrics from Q4 FY 2006/07 to Q4 FY 2007/08. Despite a 42% increase in service requests received, there was a 35% increase in the number of service requests completed and a reduction in turnaround times for murders (13%) and sexual assaults (3%). The RCMP will hire an additional 81 FTE’s before 2009, with 21 of these already in place and 36 new Biology Services scientists currently in training. Significant increases in capacity and reductions in turnaround times are expected by the fall of 2008.

Recommendation 3
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police define “turnaround time” as the amount of time taken to process a request from when it is received by the client until the request is reported back to the client.
Response

The RCMP FLS historical and current definition of “turnaround time” has been, and is, the amount of time taken to process a request from when it is received from the client until the request is reported back to the client. This definition has been recommended by the Auditor General and has been approved by FLS clients. It should be noted that FLS has no control over the interval of time between which a client receives physical evidence and when that evidence is submitted to the laboratory.

Recommendation 4
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police validate the turnaround times for each stream in the Priority Rating of Operation Files (PROOF) and provide the Public Accounts Committee with the final validated target turnaround times by 30 September 2008.
Response

The RCMP has validated appropriate turnaround times with clients. The following times have been established as a consensus based on consultation with clients through the five Regional Client Consultation Committees.

CASEWORK STREAM

Category
PRIORITY CASES

Category
ROUTINE CASES

Murder

A1 - 25 days

A2  - 75 days

Sexual Assault

B1 - 25 days

B2  - 90 days

Crimes Against Persons

C1 - 60 days

C2  - 195 days

Crimes Against Property

D1 - 105 days

D2  - 245 days

All Biology Services case turnaround metrics, i.e. actual performance will be reported against the PROOF diary dates as shown in the table above. Turnaround times will be continuously monitored to ensure that they meet client needs and are consistent with current capacity. The RCMP has made a commitment to review the consensus based

turnaround times with the Regional Client Consultation Committees in the fall of 2008. Performance reports will be provided externally to stakeholders on a semi-annual basis.

Recommendation 5
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police provide detailed updates on the Forensic Laboratory Services’ actual service request processing times against their target turnaround times in its Departmental Performance Report, beginning with the 2007-2008 Report.
Response

FLS performance information including service request processing times against set turnaround times was included in the 2006/2007 RCMP Departmental Performance Report and will be included in future Reports.

The RCMP DPR currently provides information on the number of services requests received and completed, as well as the average turnaround times work performed by the FLS. Significant improvements have been made when comparing metrics from Q4 FY 2006/07 to Q4 FY 2007/08. Despite a 42% increase in service requests received, there was a 35% increase in the number of service requests completed and a reduction in turnaround times for murders (13%) and sexual assaults (3%). The RCMP will hire an additional 81 FTE’s before 2009, with 21 of these already in place and 36 new Biology Services scientists currently in training. Significant increases in capacity and reductions in turnaround times are expected by the fall of 2008.

Appendix: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Response To The May 2007 Report Of The Auditor General Of Canada

This document summarizes progress on the action items arising from the report recommendations.

Recommendation 7.28
The RCMP should ensure that the Forensic Laboratory Services’ prioritization system and turnaround targets meet the operational needs of clients.  Turnaround targets should be implemented before service requests increase, as they are expected to do once amendments to the Criminal Code and the DNA Identification Act come into force.  The targets should be used to measure and report FLS performance.
May 2008:
  • Forensic Science and Identification Services (FS&IS) is committed to meet client needs for timely and relevant forensic laboratory services. The Priority Rating of Operational Files (PROOF) system was introduced nationally on January 28, 2008, and replaced the practice of processing cases on a first-in, first-out basis. With PROOF, investigators are provided with an expected completion date based on the seriousness of the case and the urgency of the request based on a set of objective criteria which were developed in consultation with FS&IS clients.
  • FS&IS processes “Urgent” cases within 15 working days. PROOF prioritizes routine requests into one of four streams according to the following decreasing order of seriousness: Murder; Sexual Assault; Crimes Against Persons; Crimes Against Property. Within any stream, service requests are rated as “Priority” or “Routine” and are given turnaround times established in conjunction with clients. Priority Murder and Sexual Assault service requests are assigned due dates of 25 days. Routine Murders and Sexual Assaults (e.g. suspect is in custody) and other crime streams are assigned discipline-specific diary dates, which will be adjusted to the targets developed with clients as FS&IS capacity increases. Because PROOF was implemented in late January, little PROOF performance data is available at this time and will be reported on later in 2008.
  • Bill C-18: An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA Identification, was proclaimed and came into force January 1, 2008. All new designated offences are being PROOF-rated and processed accordingly.
  • Regional Client Consultation Committees (RCCC) were established in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada. RCCCs allow clients to participate in FS&IS decision-making processes.  Members represent municipal police services, RCMP Criminal Operations Branches, Provincial Crown Counsel, Provincial Justice Departments, FS&IS managers and other stakeholders with special interest in the forensic laboratory operations. RCCCs have agreed that two meeting per year (spring and fall) are appropriate. Meetings were held twice in 2007 and in the spring of 2008. The results of the consultations and performance information are provided to the RCCCs in reports following the meetings.
Recommendation 7.34
The RCMP should develop measures of service efficiency and effectiveness in consultation with clients.  In addition to existing tools for measuring client satisfaction, it should use client surveys conducted by an independent, external organization.
May 2008
  • The RCMP is contracting with an external company to conduct independent surveys of the efficiency and effectiveness of its forensic services.  A qualified company has been provided with a Statement of Work requesting anonymous, arms-length gathering of information from clients regarding FS&IS effectiveness in meeting client needs, and the impact of FS&IS services on investigative and judicial needs. Because the surveys are considered public relations research by Canadian policy centres, Public Works and Government Services Canada have reviewed and critiqued the proposed contract and have informed that newly-instituted expenditure control measures require approvals from the department heads. The Commissioner’s approval is being obtained and the surveys will be conducted in 2008-2009.
  • The results of the independent surveys will be used to evaluate the validity of client responses to the FS&IS’ Quality of Service Questionnaire.
  • Regional Client Consultative Committees (RCCCs) function as a primary means of engaging clients in discussions concerning measures of efficiency and effectiveness.  As well as being engaged in the development of PROOF, RCCCs participated in discussions on the establishment of Crime Scene Liaison Officers (CSLO).  CSLOs will apply PROOF, assist with exhibit selection and submission and facilitate the reduction and/or removal of obstacles to effective service delivery. CSLO positions have been staffed in the Atlantic region and in Manitoba and positions in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Regina will be filled.
  • FS&IS uses several client survey tools and fora for soliciting information on the efficiency and effectiveness of services including the Quality of Service Questionnaire, General Manager and Director General meetings with clients and participation in meetings such as those of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and provincial police associations.
Recommendation 7.43
The RCMP should develop mechanisms for identifying bottlenecks in the process and should determine the systems, procedures, and resources required to eliminate the backlog.
May 2008
  • A  Request for Proposals (RFP) to obtain the services of a company with industrial engineering/business transformation expertise was posted. Bids were evaluated and the best proposal was identified. The proposal of the Forensic Science Service of the U.K., a leading  forensic laboratory with a prominent international reputation, was chosen and a contract with the winning bidder company has been signed. The company will undertake a full system review of Biology Services to assist in identifying bottlenecks and constraints.  This will result in recommendations to address the Program’s ability to provide timely responses. The review is scheduled to begin the first week of May, 2008.
  • In the interim, the RCMP has formed a team to formulate and implement a strategic roadmap for Biology Services. A professionally-facilitated summit of Biology  and FS&IS leaders was held, an executive roadmap team was established and meets weekly, and working Biology members have contributed through a number of work planning meeting. The roadmap will evaluate and incorporate recommendations of the systems review as well as key elements identified by all levels of employees to strengthen and improve client relationships, ensure scientific excellence and to ensure efficient and effective use of resources.
  • Beginning in December 2007, FS&IS members have visited other North American laboratories to discuss casework processes, means of dealing with backlogs and to share best practices. To date laboratories in Georgia, Florida, Illinois and Minnesota as well the FBI laboratory in Washington, DC have been visited. Best practices being evaluated for applicability to FS&IS laboratory operations. As well, during April 2008 the Director General FS&IS visited the National Policing Improvement Agency in the UK to view best practices with regard to the interface between frontline police officers and forensic support services.
  • The RCMP has allocated additional funds to FS&IS to enhance its Biology Services to meet current capacity challenges.  Work began in spring 2007 with anticipated completion in fall 2008. Three areas are being addressed;
    • Increased staffing in Biology Services at the existing Vancouver and Ottawa laboratories;
    • Capacity expansion by establishing evidence recovery and analytical functions at the Edmonton site to complement the reporting capacity already in place;
    • Performance management and reporting functions are being strengthened to provide FS&IS management with better information to support service delivery.
  • Up to 81 additional laboratory and support staff will be hired (which may be adjusted based on the Biology review).  To date, 57 new employees have been engaged, 8 have completed their training and are processing casework and the remainder is in training. Another 12 staffing actions in progress.
  • The Edmonton Evidence Recovery Unit became operational in September 2007; renovations to the Analytical Unit were completed, equipment has been installed and calibrated and validation is about to begin.
  •  A Biology new-hire alternate training delivery model Request for Proposal (RFP) was completed and tendered on MERX.  One bid from Trent University was received on the tender and was successfully evaluated.  Contract negotiations and security clearances are underway. Course content will be finalized and a pilot project is being planned to test course content and determine candidate proficiency upon completion of the course. Once fully satisfactory and when trainee numbers warrant, this model will be used to train new-hires.
  • Performance management has been strengthened by the implementation of individual and unit performance metrics at all sites and the establishment of Operations Officers whose function is to ensure compliance with the performance metrics and to coordinate casework activities among laboratory sites.  Biology Services has two operations officers; in Vancouver and Ottawa to coordinate the activities among the eleven Biology ERU, Analytical and Reporting sections.
Recommendation 7.50
The RCMP should conduct a review of the Forensic Laboratory Services to examine internal efficiencies, perform a cost/benefit analysis of various services, and examine the need for additional resources.
May 2008
  • The RCMP has contracted with a business transformation company for professional assistance in reviewing internal efficiencies in Biology Services (reference response to Recommendation 7.43).
  • A review of FS&IS Forensic Imaging Services in conjunction with the RCMP Internal Audit Branch, was completed in February 2008. Approved recommendations being acted on include use of digital photography only at crime scenes by Forensic Identification Services within the RCMP; workload measurement and alignment; client satisfaction and needs determination, and; closer working partnerships with peer police organizations.
  • FS&IS created and staffed a review, evaluation and compliance position within its Integrated Support Services directorate. This function will be integrated with the RCMP Internal Audit, Evaluation and Review Branch and will, along with other duties, evaluate the efficient use of all FS&IS resources on a five year cycle.
  • Future consultations with the Regional Client Consultation Committees will include an evaluation and prioritization of forensic laboratory services to determine best fit with client needs. Client input will be used in internal reviews to allocate resources to the highest priority services.
Recommendation 7.51
The RCMP should develop a capability for management of the Forensic Laboratory Services to analyze capacity and efficiency (including comparing performance with that of other forensic labs) in order to handle future demands.
May 2008
  • Laboratory performance standards and staff availability guidelines have been established to enable weekly target capacity determinations in Biology and monthly or quarterly targets in other laboratory programs. When compared to actual outputs, this information allows a more reliable prioritization of client requests and sound management decision-making.
  • During 2007, FS&IS participated in Project Foresight, a business-guided, self-evaluation of forensic science laboratories across North America, co-sponsored by the US Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice. The Project goal was to develop and implement processes for the collection of data which would be useful for FS&IS in benchmarking its performance against other forensic laboratories. Data definition and work practice variation among jurisdictions has made direct comparisons of participating laboratories difficult. More stringent data definitions have been agreed to and data resubmissions have been requested by early June 2008 by the organizers. Valid benchmarking information is expected to be available later in 2008.
Recommendation 7.68
The RCMP should take measures to ensure identification of all quality issues.  The RCMP should ensure that quality issues, once identified, are systematically tracked and resolved, and made available in a consolidated form, and that actions are communicated to senior management
May 2008
  • FS&IS reviewed its quality assurance program and has taken the following actions to better identify and resolve quality issues:
    • a standard and expanded “quality issue” definition has been established and published, to provide clearer guidance to all employees;
    • the procedures for  identifying, investigating, resolving and communicating information regarding quality incidents have been standardized and published and are inclusive of senior management;
    • a quality incidents-specific data base was evaluated and purchased for documentation and communication of quality incidents;
    • A senior National Quality Assurance Manager has been selected and has assumed his position in Ottawa. The Manager has full autonomy and authority in quality matters.

As part of its regular process, FS&IS laboratories will require re-accreditation to the current ISO17025 standard in 2008.  Verbal confirmation has been received that the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is willing and able to audit National Forensic Services in the fall 2008 with the goal of Corporate Accreditation.

Recommendation 7.73
The RCMP should develop standard procedures for project planning and implementation, including documentation of decisions and sign-off by senior management.
May 2008
  • In October 2007, FS&IS received the results of a peer review of forensic laboratory services. The review report indicated that the science was sound and that the validation studies complete. It made some recommendations towards improving the implementation of major changes to the technology in the future.
  • A comprehensive FS&IS policy has been established and published to ensure that all aspects of new scientific processes (research and development, validation and implementation) are assessed in a complete and accountable manner. The policy assigns accountability through formal sign-offs and approvals by appropriate officials.
  • The involvement of the National Quality Assurance Manager, or delegate, in this process, to ensure proactive oversight, has been established.
Recommendation 7.79
The RCMP should establish a mechanism for consulting with clients so that they have an opportunity to influence lab services, priorities, and servicestandards.
May 2008
  • Regional Client Consultation Committees (RCCC) have been established to allow clients to participate in FS&IS decision-making processes (see Recommendation 7.28)
  • Formal client engagement continues through established groups such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police National Police Services Committee, provincial chiefs of police associations, and the Heads of Prosecution. Other stakeholders (e.g. Assistant Deputy Ministers responsible for Justice; provincial Justice Departments) are consulted when appropriate. FS&IS discusses issues raised, matters of concern and appropriate actions and communicates its response to the groups or individuals raising the concerns.
  • FS&IS is amalgamating the functions of the six regional Case Receipt Units with the Canadian Police Services Information Centre (CPSIC) which provides criminal record and identification services to all accredited users. Benefits of this undertaking include service provision 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; national standardization of case authorization and receipt processes; efficient case leveling, and; “one stop shopping” for clients in submitting cases. This initiative is largely complete.
  • FS&IS Client Services has created and maintains a Client Issues data base which records, tracks and reports on the resolution of client issues for FS&IS. The data base facilitates the sharing of issues encountered, performs trend analysis and assists in client engagement activities.
  • FS&IS continues to  establish Crime Scene Liaison Officers (CSLO) positions, whose primary function is to ensure effective communication between front line policing and justice, and the forensic services.  They provide dedicated support and specialized expertise in the coordination and management of client interaction with downstream forensic services.  CSLOs will also apply PROOF, assist with exhibit selection and submission and facilitate the reduction and/or removal of obstacles to effective service delivery.  CSLOs are strategically located in large urban centers where the volume of casework is high and necessity for tactical interaction with clients is frequent.  At present, CSLO positions have been staffed in Winnipeg and Halifax and others are being created in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Regina. Client feedback on this CSLO undertaking has been very positive.
  • Laboratory site managers continue to visit clients throughout the year. Matters raised are documented in a report to FS&IS senior management, consolidated and presented in an annual client visits report. In 2007, 83 municipal and 202 RCMP client sites were visited and over 2000 clients were consulted. A client visit report summarizing issues raised and discussed was written and approved.
Recommendation 7.87
The RCMP should ensure that parliamentarians receive the information needed to hold the government to account for the performance of all activities related to the Forensic Laboratory Services, including information on turnaround times and the extent to which performance targets are being met.
May 2008
  • Performance information on FS&IS’ forensic laboratory services was included in the  2006/2007 Departmental Performance Report.  Performance information will be included in future departmental reports, when appropriate.
  • In response to the March 2008 Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts: Chapter 7, Management of Forensic Laboratory Services – Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) of the May 2007 Report of the Auditor General of Canada, FS&IS has actively contributed to the Government Response which is expected to be tabled in spring, 2008.