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PACP Committee Report

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GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE TWENTY-THIRD REPORT OF THE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS: CHAPTER 7, ACQUISITION
OF LEASED OFFICE SPACE OF THE MAY 2006 REPORT OF THE AUDITOR
GENERAL OF CANADA (PLACE VICTORIA).


The Government of Canada is pleased to table its response to the Twenty-third Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, “Chapter 7, Acquisition of Leased Office Space of the May 2006 Report of the Auditor General of Canada (Place Victoria)”, that was tabled in the House of Commons on December 10, 2009.

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts considered the Place Victoria transaction portion of Chapter 7 of the Auditor General’s May 2006 Status Report and heard testimony from senior officials of the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), and the Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Quebec.  The Twenty-third Report of the Standing Committee reflects its consideration of the Place Victoria transaction-related items noted in that chapter.

The Government of Canada thanks the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for its Twenty-third Report and welcomes its continuing interest in strengthening real property management and the records of decisions related to the acquisition of leased space in the federal government.  This document provides the Government Response to each of the two recommendations from the Twenty-third Report.  The Government agrees with both of the recommendations made by the Committee and this Response demonstrates that the Government has acted and continues to act on these recommendations.

PWGSC has put in place policies and procedures to prevent a situation similar to the one that occurred at Place Victoria in 2001 from re-occurring today.  There are more numerous and rigorous controls in place which ensure that the rules are followed.  PWGSC has been working more closely with client departments and agencies to introduce the strengthened accommodation-related controls that are needed and to ensure that they are familiar with and fully understand the policies and tools that are in place.  Results to date indicate that this enhanced regime has been functioning as intended and that decisions are being made and documented effectively.  This has been corroborated by the internal audit survey report that was presented to the Audit and Evaluation Committee in February of this year.

RECOMMENDATION 1

That PWGSC use its authority to impose accommodation solutions when appropriate with the objective of enforcing the government’s accommodation standards and obtaining the best value.


PWGSC bases its authority to impose accommodation solutions on the Treasury Board (TB) Policy Framework for the Management of Assets and Acquired Services.  In order to better exercise its authority under this policy when appropriate, and to obtain best value, PWGSC has undertaken the following measures:

  1. An Accommodation Standards Committee (ASC) has been in place since 2005 to review all client requests that exceed the standards for accommodation and makes recommendations to the Assistant Deputy Minister, Real Property.  This detailed review ensures that PWGSC accommodation standards are consistent nationally, enforced and respected, and contribute to the containment of expenditures.


  2. A Lease Renewal Functional Review is underway on a national basis to ensure that there is adequate regional and national oversight and compliance in the lease renewal process.  It will also more accurately identify the sources and reasons for late lease renewal files.  This review will be completed by the end of March 2010.  This process is part of PWGSC’s key quality improvement commitments.


  3. An enhanced client requirements checklist has been developed which better determines the general accommodation requirements of clients, early in the process.  The checklist results in more rigour in the implementation of projects.


  4. Since 2007, the National Project Management System (NPMS) has brought new rigour to the project planning phase of every accommodation project.  It is largely due to the NPMS that PWGSC has met its target for having projects delivered on time, within the scope and budget; over ninety percent of projects have met these objectives.


  5. The Real Estate Financial Investment Toolkit (REFIT) is PWGSC's spreadsheet based investment analysis tool.  It provides a comprehensive financial analysis of accommodation alternatives (Crown-owned property and leases in privately owned (leased) property) and facilitates comparisons among mixed portfolios of Crown-Owned and leased properties.  Similarly, the Investment Analysis Report (IAR) guide was updated in 2009 to also strengthen the role of IARs as information, approval, accountability and performance measurement documents, for meeting client requirements and ensuring the integrity of real property assets.

RECOMMENDATION 2

That PWGSC follow the Treasury Board Policy on Information Management by documenting and archiving all management decisions related to leased accommodation for government departments and agencies.


To better document and archive all management decisions related to leasing, PWGSC has enhanced its business processes through the following measures:

  1. The Lease Savings Tracking System monitors progress against project savings and is a direct response to a recommendation of the Auditor General.  It tracks all significant leases before the Real Property Investment Board and is updated monthly, showing the status of every action and decision that is taken by the Board.  Results to date show that in every case that a project has been presented to the Real Property Investment Board, the accommodation option that provided best value has been adopted.


  2. The Planned Lease Action Report (PLAR) and associated directives and documentation, help to ensure that lease renewals are timely and well documented.  The PLAR also contributes to achieving value for money solutions through more advantageous rental rates that may result from negotiations.  The PLAR integrates several improvements for better and earlier monitoring of problematic files.


  3. The Investment Analysis Report and its risk management guide have been updated to ensure sound stewardship and diligent oversight in the leased portfolio of buildings and projects.  New and enhanced treatment of risks are being applied.


  4. Processes in support of the TB Policy on Information Management have been strengthened.  PWGSC uses an enhanced investment management framework to ensure that good management practices are followed and appropriate real estate decisions are made.  As part of the investment management framework, advisory boards are maintained that act as forums where real property strategies, projects, and business-related issues are discussed.  Records of decisions and recommendations are prepared after each Board meeting.


  5. As part of the National Project Management System noted above, compliance is monitored at each phase of lease projects and in cases where non-compliance occurs, a Compliance Monitoring Form is completed.  The form records the nature of the request, the costs, the recommendation of the project team, and the decision of the ADM.


  6. In addition, and to fully support these efforts, Information Systems have been considerably enhanced through such initiatives as: a) the NOVUS system solution currently being established as part of the Real Property Business and Systems Transformation Project; b) the Data Accountability and Responsibility Framework which establishes clear accountability for the stewardship of data and information; c) a sustainable learning environment which promotes efficient and effective use of information systems; and d) a robust data warehouse and suite of business intelligence tools that will provide enhanced reports to senior managers.