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PACP Committee Report

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The Honourable Kevin Sorenson, P.C., M.P.
Chair
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Sorenson,

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to provide the Government Response to the Fourth Report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts entitled “Chapter 2, Required Reporting by Federal Organizations, of the Spring 2015 Report of the Auditor General of Canada.”

I appreciate the important, non-partisan work undertaken by this Standing Committee and the fact that the Committee continues to monitor progress on issues identified in a previous Parliament. 

To that end, the Government agrees with your recommendation to provide the Standing Committee with reports outlining the progress in addressing the Auditor General’s recommendations contained in Chapter 2 of the Spring 2015 Report.

The actions annexed to this letter detail the specific activities that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has undertaken in response to the findings identified by the Auditor General, building on current progress. Given its arm’s-length nature and based on past practice, the Public Service Commission is providing its progress report separately in the form of a letter to you.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you and the members of the Standing Committee again for your important work.

Yours sincerely,

                                                                              The Honourable Scott Brison, P.C., M.P.

Enclosure

 

Annex to the government response:

TBS Progress against Action Plan

Office of the Auditor General (OAG) Recommendation

OAG Recommendation 2.43: The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) and the Public Service Commission of Canada, as they review existing policies or introduce new policies, should systematically adjust required reporting on the basis of its effort, cost, and value.

Response from the Treasury Board  of Canada Secretariat to the OAG recommendation

Agreed. Currently, the Treasury Board’s Foundation Framework states that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will adhere to the following principles when designing reporting requirements:

  • Reporting requirements should respect the oversight responsibilities and accountabilities of deputy heads.
  • Reporting requirements should have a clear purpose.
  • Reporting requirements should seek timely and meaningful information to meet the purpose.
  • Reporting requirements should be efficient – the cost to create and submit information should be minimal.
  • Reporting requirements should leverage existing data sources and should not duplicate other requirements.

When reviewing existing policies or introducing new policies, the Secretariat will develop additional guidance clarifying that effort, incremental costs, and value are also to be taken into consideration during the design of reporting requirements.

The guidance will be in place by March 31, 2016.

Actions and Timelines

Related actions to be taken by TBS further to the response to the OAG:

  • The Secretariat will review the policy development tools and templates that are available to policy centres and ensure they contain tools that will ensure policy centres take into consideration the effort, incremental costs, and value when designing reporting requirements.
  • As noted in the response to the recommendation, these updated resources will be in place by March 31, 2016.

Responsible Individual: Assistant Secretary of Priorities and Planning Sector (TBS).

Progress

By March 31, 2016, TBS made changes to the policy development tools and templates so that policy centres take into consideration effort, incremental costs, and value when designing reporting requirements.

 

Office of the Auditor General Recommendation

OAG Recommendation 2.44: The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, as it reviews existing policies or introduces new policies, should adjust required reporting on the basis of the sizes and mandates of reporting organizations.

Response from the Treasury Board  of Canada Secretariat to the OAG recommendation

Agreed. Further to the Management Response for recommendation 2.43, the Secretariat will also include in the guidance that will be developed on reporting that the size and mandate of a reporting organization are also to be taken into consideration.

 

Actions and Timelines

Related actions to be taken by TBS further to the response to the OAG:

  • The Secretariat will review the policy development tools and templates that are available to policy centres and ensure they contain tools that will ensure policy centres take into consideration the size and mandate of reporting organizations.
  • As noted in the response to recommendation 2.43, updated guidance will be in place by March 31, 2016.

Responsible Individual: Assistant Secretary of Priorities and Planning Sector (TBS).

Progress

By March 31, 2016, TBS made updates and changes to the policy development tools and templates that are available to policy centres so that they take into consideration the size and mandate of reporting organizations.

These efforts involved the development of lines of inquiry for Treasury Board requirements, helping policy centres demonstrate that special accommodations or customization to increase compliance have been considered in relation to Small Departments and Agencies.

 



Office of the Auditor General Recommendation

OAG Recommendation 2.53: The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat should develop and make publicly available a comprehensive and up-to-date inventory and schedule of Treasury Board reporting requirements.

Response from the Treasury Board  of Canada Secretariat to the OAG recommendation

Agreed. Through this audit, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Office of the Auditor General of Canada developed an inventory of the recurring reports that departments and agencies are required to provide. The Secretariat will make this inventory publicly available on its website by spring 2016, including a schedule of any corresponding deadlines. The inventory will be continually updated.

Actions and Timelines

Related actions to be taken by TBS further to the response to the OAG:

  • As noted in the response, the inventory and schedule of reporting requirements developed by the Secretariat and the Office of the Auditor General of Canada will be publicly available by March 31, 2016. Updates to the inventory will then be made on an as needed basis (i.e., when policy requirements are revised).

Responsible Individual: Assistant Secretary of Priorities and Planning Sector (TBS).

Progress

An inventory and schedule of reporting requirements was published on March 31, 2016 on the TBS website. The inventory will be updated to remain current with any future changes to TB policy requirements.

The inventory can be accessed at: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ip-pi/trans/cal-eng.asp

 



Office of the Auditor General Recommendation

OAG Recommendation 2.68: The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat should monitor compliance of federal organizations with the Treasury Board’s reporting requirements on a risk basis and should follow up on non-compliance where warranted.

Response from the Treasury Board  of Canada Secretariat to the OAG recommendation

Agreed. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will continue to monitor compliance with Treasury Board requirements, including reporting requirements, on a risk basis, following up where warranted in a manner consistent with the Treasury Board Framework on the Management of Compliance, which respects the primary responsibility of deputy heads to ensure compliance with Treasury Board policies.

In terms of the Office of the Auditor General’s findings related to Departmental Security Plans (DSPs), the Secretariat will strengthen efforts to support organizations to achieve full compliance with the Treasury Board policy requirement to have an approved DSP in place. The Policy on Government Security monitoring framework will be enhanced, and the Secretariat will examine risk-based processes, through which departments will be asked to provide an annual confirmation that the DSP has been reviewed and determined to be up-to-date.

The revised monitoring framework will be in place by April 1, 2016.

Actions and Timelines

With respect to strengthening policy implementation support efforts:

  • Over the coming year, the TBS Security and Identity Management Policy Division will review existing DSP guidelines and tools to ensure these remain current and effectively support departments and agencies in developing, maintaining, and reporting on their DSP. The review will be completed by March 31, 2016, in parallel with the review of the overarching Policy on Government Security (PGS). TBS will continue to offer individual assistance to departments and agencies on an ongoing basis, including conducting, upon request, informal reviews of draft DSPs. 
  • In the short term, the TBS Security and Identity Management Division is offering a session at the May 2015 TBS/Privy Council Office Security Summit on updating and reporting on the DSP. This session is a follow-up to a session offered at the last Security Summit on developing DSPs.

With respect to enhancing policy monitoring framework:

  • TBS’s Security and Identity Management Division will continue to assess compliance with DSP-related requirements through the Management Accountability Framework (MAF) and other policy monitoring activities. A process is being established to provide an annual confirmation regarding the status of the DSP to verify that the plan was approved and is being reviewed annually. An initial request for a status update was sent to all Departmental Security Officers (DSOs) on         May 5, 2015. The process will be fully in place by March 31, 2016, and will include follow-up to address issues of non-compliance. 

Responsible Individual: Chief Information Officer of Canada.

Progress

With respect to strengthening policy implementation support efforts:

The PGS outlines the requirement to develop a DSP that sets out strategies for meeting departmental security requirements and government-wide security priorities.

The DSP is intended to enhance decision-making, effectiveness and accountability by setting department-wide risk mitigation strategies and priorities, and establishing a framework for monitoring and reporting on the achievement of security objectives. 

A DSP is approved at the Deputy Head level in each department. Of note in the OAG audit on “Required Reporting by Federal Organizations”: "of all the reports we examined, departmental security plans were rated by the respondents to our questionnaire as the most useful for internal decision making" (Paragraph 2.61, page 15).

TBS reviewed existing DSP guidelines and tools to ensure these remain current and effectively support departments and agencies in developing, maintaining, and reporting on their DSP.

TBS continues to offer individual assistance to departments and agencies on an ongoing basis, including conducting, upon request, informal reviews of draft DSPs. On an ongoing basis, TBS reviews draft DSPs and provides direct feedback to departments and agencies. TBS continues to provide active policy support and guidance related to the development and maintenance of DSPs. Of note, TBS also supported key organizations, such as the Department of National Defence and the RCMP, in the completion of their DSPs.

With respect to enhancing policy monitoring framework:

TBS recently initiated its annual follow-up to the 2015 DSP status update request, seeking to determine the extent to which departments and agencies have an up-to-date and approved DSP. To date, 92% of departments and agencies that provided a response indicated that they have an approved DSP. TBS is waiting for responses from 14 of the 99 institutions that have been canvassed. It should be noted the 14 remaining institutions are categorized as small and micro institutions.

TBS has implemented an annual survey of departments to which the PGS applies regarding the DSP status. Currently, 100% of the large departments and agencies have a DSP in place.

TBS continues to assess compliance with DSP-related requirements through the Management Accountability Framework (MAF) and other monitoring activities. MAF is used to assess Security Management in twenty (20) departments (the PGS applies to 99 Government of Canada departments and agencies). An assessment of DSP progress is a component of the Security Area of management within the MAF exercise. 

To this end, questions specifically related to compliance with policy requirements for completion and Deputy Head approval of DSPs were included in the MAF assessments for 2015-2016. 80% of the 20 departments reviewed have updated their DSP on an annual basis.

During the last MAF cycle some of the 20 departments assessed indicated they were waiting for the impending TBS PGS review and related DSP guidance before updating their current DSP. 

In addition to these efforts, TBS has developed a comprehensive draft Performance Measurement Framework (PMF) for policy implementation. It includes specific performance measures related to DSPs.

 



      Office of the Auditor General Recommendation

OAG Recommendation 2.85: The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat should follow up on its 2014 review of quarterly financial reports by reviewing the reports specific form and manner of preparation to assess whether there are more efficient ways of meeting the quarterly accountability requirements established in the Financial Administration Act.

Response from the Treasury Board  of Canada Secretariat to the OAG recommendation

Agreed. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will undertake a review of the usefulness of the departmental quarterly financial reports, in their current form, in conjunction with new reporting mechanisms that have been implemented since the requirement was enacted in the Financial Administration Act (for example, the TBS InfoBase), to ensure that the accountability requirements are achieved in the most efficient and effective means possible.

Actions and Timelines

With respect to the Departmental Quarterly Financial reports:

  • The Office of the Comptroller General will complete the review by Spring 2016.
  • The Office of the Comptroller General, in collaboration with the Expenditure Management Sector Branch of TBS, will assess the feasibility of utilizing new reporting mechanisms (e.g., TBS InfoBase) to more efficiently meet the quarterly reporting requirements established in the Financial Administration Act.
  • The Office of the Comptroller General will incorporate identified efficiencies into guidance by Fall 2016, effective for the quarterly reporting of 2017-18.

Responsible Individual: Comptroller General of Canada.

Progress

Since the legislation requiring departments to make public quarterly financial reports was passed, there have been significant advancements in openness, transparency, and financial reporting. In line with the Government’s commitments to strengthening the clarity and consistency of financial reporting and to improving access to government information in digital formats, TBS has completed an initial assessment of the feasibility of utilizing new reporting mechanisms and transparency initiatives (e.g., TBS InfoBase) to more efficiently meet the departmental quarterly reporting requirements established in the Financial Administration Act.

While further study and consultation is required, TBS believes that the TBS InfoBase would be an improved reporting mechanism to present departmental quarterly financial information. Since its initial launch, the TBS InfoBase has been leveraged by many parties as a source of government in-year financial information and has been highlighted by academia and international organizations as a key government resource. In addition, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has discontinued its own database of government spending in favour of utilizing the TBS InfoBase. The TBS InfoBase provides Canadians, Parliamentarians, academia, and media with user-friendly access to information on government spending in a format that facilitates analysis by incorporating quantitative and contextual information. Improvements to the TBS InfoBase are ongoing and will provide more granular information including new data, graphics and analytics. This reporting mechanism would provide users with more comprehensive information compared to the current format of quarterly financial reports.

Parliamentarians’ views will be sought in regard to discontinuing departmental quarterly financial reports and on steps to be undertaken by TBS to ensure that there is no reduction in transparency in financial reporting as a result of this proposal. Officials from TBS are available for further consultation with the Committee.

The TBS InfoBase can be accessed at: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/edb-bdd/index-eng.html#start

 

                                     

Office of the Auditor General Recommendation

OAG Recommendation 2.100: The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Public Service Commission of Canada should enhance their identification of opportunities to increase the use of information provided in response to reporting requirements and should act on these opportunities.

Response from the Treasury Board  of Canada Secretariat to the OAG recommendation

Agreed. Further to the responses to the recommendations in paragraphs 2.43 and 2.44, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will also include in the guidance that departments and agencies are to be consulted on the design of reporting requirements, to identify opportunities to increase the usefulness of the information to the organizations themselves.

Actions and Timelines

  • As noted in the response to recommendations 2.43 and 2.44, updated guidance will be in place by March 31, 2016.

Responsible Individual: Assistant Secretary of Priorities and Planning Sector (TBS).

Progress

As noted in the response to recommendations 2.43 and 2.44, updated guidance is now in place.