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GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE REPORT OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS: CHAPTER 5, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENTS - CANADA BORDER SERVICES AGENCY OF THE SPRING 2015 REPORT OF THE AUDITOR GENERAL OF CANADA

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

Dear Mr. Sorenson:

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to respond to the Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts entitled “Chapter 5 - Information Technology Investments - Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) of the Spring 2015 Auditor General Report.”                                

I would like to thank the Committee for its diligent work on the review of this Chapter of the Auditor General’s Spring 2015 Report and the resulting recommendations. The CBSA has considered the Committee’s recommendation and welcomes the opportunity to inform the Committee of its progress. The Committee’s report contained one recommendation which is addressed in the following paragraphs. 

Recommendation: That, by 31 March 2016, the Canada Border Services Agency provide the Standing Committee on Public Accounts with a report outlining its progress in addressing the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s recommendations contained in Report 5 of the Spring 2015 Reports.

The Government of Canada fully supports the recommendation to provide the Standing Committee on Public Accounts with a report that outlines the progress it has made in addressing the findings of the audit. This Government Response will also provide a status report on the CBSA’s progress in addressing the findings of the audit and thus fulfills the Committee’s sole recommendation for a progress report by March 31, 2016.

The CBSA relies on a number of Information Technology (IT) systems to provide integrated border services that support national security and public safety priorities while facilitating legitimate trade and travel. The CBSA’s portfolio of IT investments is budgeted at over

$1 billion in total and supports various border modernization efforts. The CBSA’s current IT portfolio also includes projects that support Canada’s commitment to the Beyond the Border Action Plan with the United States that aims to enhance border security while also improving the flow of legitimate trade and travel.

Prior to the commencement of the audit work, the CBSA recognized that its IT project portfolio was increasingly important to transforming border management and realizing administrative efficiencies. A Project Portfolio Management Framework, that outlines the CBSA’s processes and controls for effectively managing projects, was developed and being implemented to ensure that the delivery of these IT projects was aligned with strategic objectives. The CBSA welcomed the audit’s finding that the Agency had developed the necessary corporate and management practices to deliver on its IT projects through the Project Portfolio Management Framework. Dedicated effort across the Agency has been undertaken to strengthen project reporting; ensure the identification and measurement of benefits throughout the project lifecycle; and ensure that governance committees make evidence-based project decisions. As a result, I am pleased to inform you that the CBSA has completed all of the commitments made in the Management Response Action Plan shared with your Committee on May 27, 2015.

Managing Information Technology Investments

The CBSA has continued to build on its foundational project management frameworks, and has further enhanced its project management and governance controls. These efforts, as detailed below, have improved alignment of project management and project portfolio management frameworks with the Agency’s IT services, benefits management, and investment plans. Furthermore, these improvements ensure that relevant and critical project information is

provided in a timely fashion, so that decisions favouring improved project and business outcomes can be made. The CBSA’s Project Portfolio Management Framework is now fully implemented and all major projects are now operating under this Framework.

In addition to updating its Investment and Annual IT plans, the CBSA is updating its investment planning process to ensure that project investment decisions are aligned with business priorities. Under the new process, all CBSA funding proposals would fall within an annual, integrated planning process. All funding proposals will be assessed and prioritized based on their ability to best meet strategic outcomes. The new process will be embedded into the front-end of the current Project Management Framework (PMF) within the project planning stages. The CBSA has also completed its target enterprise architecture that is aligned with Shared Services Canada direction, has ensured that the target enterprise architecture is aligned with the Beyond the Border Modernization projects, and has updated the 2012 Beyond the Border Risk Profile to incorporate all relevant IT projects.

The CBSA implemented the Service Lifecycle Management Framework (SLMF) to strengthen the processes and controls around the management of the Agency’s IT enabled projects. SLMF governance is aligned to the Project Portfolio Management Framework and Project Management Framework and aligns IT services to business needs and clearly defines governance, accountability and decision-making related to IT-enabled services.

Benefits Management and Realization

The CBSA has also strengthened benefits management practices to ensure that its projects support Agency priorities, focus on desired benefits and outcomes, and take impacts into account. In particular, the CBSA has created a set of performance benefits indicators and has created an internal oversight function to oversee the benefits management process throughout the project management cycle.

All IT projects are now under the Project Portfolio Management and Project Management Frameworks, and are evaluated and approved by a series of oversight committees. The CBSA’s Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) challenges the information contained in project dashboards on behalf of senior management oversight committees. Due to improved oversight by the EPMO, senior management committees are now provided with assessment reports, benefits assessments, and project dashboard enterprise summaries to ensure that senior management have useful and accurate information to make informed decisions.

The Project Management Framework has seven gates (from project planning to implementation) and approval by senior management is required in order for a project to progress from one gate to the next. These decisions are based on a ‘readiness assessments’, and projects must demonstrate that specific requirements such as the development of a sound project management plan, risk assessment, communication plan, measurable benefits, and that key issues and risks have been identified. Any significant variance from the approved project parameters must be reviewed and supported by a senior management oversight committee.

Improved Project Reporting

The CBSA has enhanced and clarified procedures and practices on how information for project dashboards are collected, reported and enforced. As a result, project teams have improved reporting to IT governance committees and present better quality and validated financial data, costs, schedules, risks, key issues and benefit assessments. These improvements provide a comprehensive project overview and enable senior management to make better informed and timely decisions as part of their on-going horizontal project portfolio oversight. 

To further support evidence-based governance, the CBSA has introduced Earned Value Reporting to monitor project schedule progress, financial performance and emerging issues. This monthly performance report complements and supports the monthly Executive Project Dashboard, and is integral to the Agency’s project tracking. 

IT Project Management Outcomes

Addressing the Auditor General’s findings has improved IT project management outcomes.  For example, benefits management is now consistently applied to the entire IT project portfolio. 

Continually Improving IT Project Management

The CBSA also recognizes that it must continue to invest in its project management practices by further improving financial reporting systems, investing in project management capacity and capturing lessons learned. The CBSA continues to promote learning, innovation and best practices through project management training, the Project Managers Practitioners Forum, project management competency development, and interdepartmental acceleration workshops.

I would like to thank the Members of the Committee for your thorough review of this Chapter of the Auditor General’s Spring 2015 Report.

Sincerely,

 

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P.