November 30, 2006

Nov. 30. 2006: Auditor General Denied Access ...

Treasury Board Secretariat has denied the Auditor General access to information from previous year(s), citing Cabinet secrecy, which "imposed a limitation on the scope of the Auditor General's examination". In other words, AG Sheila Fraser could not carry out the audit as planned. She reported that a satisfactory agreement for access has come into effect with the Conservative government since they came into office in Jan. 2006. Unfortunately, the previous government(s) have stymied access through "Cabinet secrecy." If you plan to attend the Liberal convention, you might want to ask ex-PM Paul Martin who will be there for the Liberal tribute to him for his contribution.

Bear in mind the problems the AG faced when you consider the statute of limitations on anyone being punished for what was revealed by the Gomery Report. Then there were the comments about CIDA-- what they were actually doing--access to information being the problem with CIDA, as well, when Senator Kenny's committee were trying to get to Afghanistan to find out what actually was being done -- projects involving CIDA and ... whoever, there. Check further.

Note in the following how often information was denied to the Auditor General.

Only one example: Auditor General: Report
Large Information Technology Projects


www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/domino/reports.nsf/
html/20061103ce.html


What we examined

The many large information technology projects now under way across the federal government are no longer only about introducing new computer hardware, software, or systems. They are meant to help departments change the way they do business—for example, by introducing new processes and modernizing work practices.

We examined a sample of seven large IT projects from four perspectives:

* Governance. [....]
* Business case. [....]
* Organizational capacity. [....]
* Project management. [....]

We also attempted to examine the role the Treasury Board Secretariat played in the challenge and oversight of these large information technology projects. However, we could not audit this role because we were denied access to most of the information and analysis it collects and prepares. The government has effectively imposed a limitation on the scope of the Auditor General's examination.

[....]

What we found

* ... limited progress since our last audit of IT projects in 1997 ...
* ... In four of the seven projects we found that governance responsibilities were not carried out adequately ...
* Five of the seven projects we looked at were allowed to proceed with a business case that was incomplete or out-of-date or contained information that could not be supported.
* Four of the projects were undertaken by departments that lacked the appropriate skills and experience to manage the projects or the capacity to use the system to improve the way they deliver their programs.
* Depending on the project, the quality of project management ranged from good to seriously flawed.
[....]
3.8 During this audit, we attempted to determine whether the Treasury Board Secretariat has adequately fulfilled its challenge and oversight responsibilities for the large IT projects in our sample. After consulting the Privy Council Office, the Treasury Board Secretariat has denied us access to most of the information and analysis it collects and prepares, citing Cabinet confidence of a type that cannot be disclosed to us. We met with the Privy Council Office in an attempt to resolve the issue but were unsuccessful. As a result, we are unable to conclude whether the Treasury Board Secretariat has carried out a proper challenge and oversight role for these projects.
3.9 The Auditor General's reporting obligations are set out in section 7 of the Auditor General Act. Among other things, we are required to report to Parliament when we observe that the government has not shown due regard for economy when it makes significant expenditures. Under section 13 of the Act, we have a right to the information and explanations we need to examine these significant expenditures. The extent to which the Treasury Board Secretariat has fulfilled its role in analyzing significant expenditures is an important element of the Auditor General's examination.
3.10 Since we have been denied access to most of the documents we need to complete this examination, we cannot complete this audit and provide Parliament with the assurance that the government has in fact shown due regard for economy in this case. Furthermore, we are required to report to Parliament when we do not receive all of the information and explanations we require. By denying us access to the required information, the government has effectively imposed a limitation on the scope of the Auditor General's examination that may diminish Parliament's fundamental role of holding the government to account. This could be viewed as an infringement of House of Commons privileges. However, only the House itself can determine whether such a breach has occurred.
3.11 The seven sample projects we audited are large IT projects that involve large amounts of money and offer service improvements to large sections of the community. The selected projects were not intended to be a representative sample, but to provide an insight into government management of large IT projects.
[....]
3.74 In April 2005, PWGSC asked the Treasury Board for $126 million to fund operations until 31 March 2006. PWGSC also requested approval in principle for $509 million to fund operations for the next 4.5 years. At that time, PWGSC made a commitment to send an updated request before December 2005, for approval to sign a contract with the Secure Channel service provider and for final approval of the funds. This updated request was actually made in June 2006. When PWGSC made the request in April 2005, it indicated that three departments that use the technology may receive $5.2 billion of indirect benefits—notably, HRSDC and PWGSC could each realize benefits of about $2.5 billion over five years. We asked to see the analysis that supported these projected benefits. However, because we were not given this analysis, we do not know how these amounts were determined.
[....]
3.81 The Global Case Management System (GCMS). In June 2000, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) presented a business case to the Treasury Board Secretariat for a Global Case Management System (GCMS).
[....]
3.85 We found that CIC received budget increases without submitting a revised business case to the Treasury Board. [....]
[....]
3.88 AgConnex. .... However, in the summer of 2002, the launch of the joint federal/provincial Agriculture Policy Framework significantly changed the scope and cost of the project, which was originally estimated at $60 million. By the summer of 2003, the estimated cost of the project had increased to over $177 million.

[Insert - Definition: Expenditure Management Sector—Primarily responsible for managing the reserves assigned to Treasury Board to support priority investments or provide interim funding for urgent program requirements.]

3.93 Expenditure Management Information System (EMIS). The Treasury Board Secretariat sponsored the EMIS project, and we found it lacked the organizational capacity for the new system. The Secretariat never assessed whether it had enough people with the appropriate skills and experience to complete the project. Specifically, the Secretariat never determined the resources it needed to meet the objectives of the EMIS project. In addition, we found no evidence of a formal mechanism to align human resources planning with technology planning. In November 2005, the Treasury Board Secretariat reported that 33 percent of its funded positions associated with the EMIS project were vacant.
3.94 High turnover in management positions has also been a major problem. Since 2001, the EMIS project has had six project managers and seven senior responsible officers.
3.95 Clearly, poor organizational capacity—not filling vacant positions with experienced and qualified people—prevented the Secretariat from achieving its goals.
[....]
3.106 Expenditure Management Information System (EMIS). The EMIS project, which began in 2000, is an example of ineffective project management.
[....]
3.114 With the exception of the 2006 Census Online project and the My Account, My Business Account project, we found that the proponents of large IT projects had not adequately explained the project's rationale or the results they expected to achieve in their business cases. In addition, they had not adequately assessed their capacity to take on high-risk IT projects that have long life spans and require large amounts of public funds to build and maintain.
3.115 Most projects we looked at suffered from the same shortage of experienced and qualified people and inadequate analysis of key business issues as before.
The lack of progress is worrisome, because large IT projects are becoming more and more complex and often involve a growing number of players across government.
[....]
3.117 One of the objectives of this audit was to determine whether the Treasury Board Secretariat has adequately fulfilled its challenge and oversight responsibilities as part of its role in the governance of large IT projects. Since we were denied access to most of the evidence of the Secretariat's review of project documents such as the business case, options analysis, project plan, and risk management plan for our sample of IT projects, we are unable to determine whether it followed a complete and rigorous process when it reviewed these IT projects.
[....]
We could not audit the review and oversight role played by the Treasury Board Secretariat because it has denied us access to most of the information and analysis it collects and prepares, citing Cabinet confidence. The government has effectively imposed a limitation on the scope of the Auditor General's examination.
[....]

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