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PACP Committee Report

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

Managing the Coast Guard Fleet and Marine Navigational Services – Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Preamble
Detailed Responses to the Recommendations

Preamble

The Government of Canada would like to thank the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for its latest report entitled Managing the Coast Guard Fleet and Marine Navigational Services – Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Government has thoroughly reviewed and given careful consideration to the findings and recommendations contained in this report, and hereby presents its response.

As the Committee points out in this report, the Auditor General found in 2007 that the Coast Guard had not made satisfactory progress in addressing recommendations from previous audits on the Management of the Fleet (2000) and on Marine Navigational Services (2002). The Auditor General noted that one of the contibuting factors to this situation was that the Coast Guard had tried to deal with all the previous recommendations simultaneously and, as a result, had not been able to succesfully bring any of them to completion.  The 2007 Auditor General Status Report presented only one recommendation: that the Coast Guard focus on “establishing priorities for improvement, set clear achievable goals for those priority areas, allocate sufficient, appropriate resources, and plan and implement the changes by holding managers and organizational units accountable for results”.

Taking the Auditor General’s recommendation very seriously, the Coast Guard has committed to using its business planning process to address the issues raised by the Auditor General in a realistic and incremental manner. In 2007, an integrated and comprehensive business plan was developed to cover all of the Coast Guard’s key activities. It established clear priorities, set clear accountabilities and timeframes and allocated resources required to ensure that the commitments that were being made could actually be implemented, including the issues noted by the Auditor General. To ensure progress against planned commitments, it also instituted a monitoring process to assess progress on a semi-annual basis, in the fall as part of a mid-year review and in the spring after the close of the fiscal year. Both the Business Plan and the monitoring reports are posted on the Coast Guard website.

The Government of Canada is pleased to see that both the Office of the Auditor General and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts have commended the Coast Guard’s approach to greater accountability and transparency through detailed business planning and credible progress reporting.

Please find below a detailed response to your recommendations.

Detailed Responses to the Recommendations

Recommendation 1
The Canadian Coast Guard continues preparing business plans and progress reports and making them publicly available, including an appendix cross-referencing the plan’s commitments with the Office of the Auditor General’s findings.
Response

The Canadian Coast Guard is committed to continuing to prepare business plans and progress reports. The first cycle of the new planning, monitoring and reporting process has recently been completed with the completion of the Coast Guard’s Year End Report for 2007-2008. The Business Plan for 2008-2011 has also been finalized. It includes, as suggested by the Committee, an appendix cross-referencing the plan’s commitments with the Auditor General’s 2000 and 2002 findings. The Business Plan, including the recommended appendix and progress reports will continue to be shared with this Committee on an on-going basis and will be made available to the public on the Coast Guard’s internet site.

Recommendation 2
The Office of the Auditor General conducts a follow-up audit of the Canadian Coast Guard by 2012 at the latest.
Response

The Government of Canada will fully cooperate in any follow-up audit that may be undertaken by the Auditor General. The Government of Canada anticipates that it will take three to four years to fully address issues that have been raised by the Auditor General in the 2007 follow-up audit. The Coast Guard's Business Plans, as well as Mid-year and Year End Progress Reports, will continue to be shared with the Auditor General as well as the Committee.

Recommendation 3
The Canadian Coast Guard provides the Public Accounts Committee with the results of its maintenance review when complete.
Response

The Auditor General’s 2007 Status Report identified a number of weaknesses in the Coast Guard’s approach to vessel maintenance, but the Auditor General had not undertaken an in-depth analysis of maintenance activities. As a result, there was no assessment of the underlying factors that led to the observations nor were there specific recommendations on corrective action that should be undertaken. To address these issues, the Coast Guard undertook an internal vessel maintenance management review. The approach and the terms of reference for the study were discussed with the Office of the Auditor General prior to proceeding.

The scope and objectives of the Vessel Maintenance Management Review were to:

  • Provide an assessment and validation of the Coast Guard’s life cycle management strategy for its ships, including supporting systems, procedures and operations;
  • Provide recommendations on means to facilitate the transition to and implementation of a corporate-wide, integrated life cycle management system;
  • Provide a practical evaluation of the Coast Guard’s organizational, structural and cultural capacity to achieve transition; and,
  • Survey Coast Guard employees and obtain a “snap shot” of current and required practices and make recommendations on vessel maintenance.

The findings and recommendations of the internal Vessel Maintenance Management Review were presented to the Coast Guard Management Board to: provide an in-depth assessment of the underlying factors that contributed to the Auditor General’s findings; identify best practices; assess internal capacity to do maintenance work; and, to provide a recommendation on a way forward. This report is an internal document and constitutes advice presented to the Coast Guard Management Board and, as such, does not represent government policy.

Overall, the findings of the review relate to accountability and direction, maintenance planning and prioritization; management and control of policies, procedures, directives and other documentation related to vessel maintenance; safety management certification and national maintenance information management and maintenance standards; as well as human resources issues related to technical and marine engineering capacity in shore based positions and overall composition of skill sets for shore-based engineers and technical staff.

In 2008-2009, Coast Guard will begin to address, within its existing reference levels, key recommendations of the Vessel Maintenance Management Review with an initial focus on clarifying roles, responsibilities and accountability, creating an accessible bank of all current maintenance policies and procedures, assessing options for increasing the number of marine engineers, both on vessels and on-shore, and beginning to develop a program management framework for maintenance activities. Specific commitments are included in the 2008-2011 Business Plan. Other recommendations will be considered as part of the business planning process in the context of existing resources.

A copy of the report and action plan has been provided to the Committee.

Recommendation 4
The Privy Council Office studies whether the Canadian Coast Guard should become a stand-alone organization and provide the results of this study to the Public Accounts Committee by 31 December 2008.
Response

As noted by the Committee, the Coast Guard has undergone significant organizational changes over the past number of years. In addition, the Coast Guard, through its robust response to the Auditor General’s 2007 recommendation and to the Committee with respect to recommendations 1 and 3, has committed to a course of action that will strengthen its performance and accountability. As a result, the Government does not consider this to be an appropriate time to study the possibility of making the Coast Guard a stand-alone organization as this may shift the organization’s efforts away from the crucial work it is undertaking on operational priorities.

In 2004, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans released a report recommending changes to the Coast Guard’s organizational structure.  In 2005, the Government created the Coast Guard as a Special Operating Agency (SOA) within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  The SOA status has provided the Coast Guard more flexibility to be more business-like and to deliver services more effectively to its clients while having greater control of its financial resources.  By making the Coast Guard an SOA, the government acknowledged its important role and distinct organizational needs.  At the same time, it recognized the key role the Coast Guard plays in support of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans mandate. This includes support of science as well conservation and protection activities. These important roles within the Department should continue.