Archived - Government Response to the 15th Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts - Contributing to Safe and Efficient Marine Navigation

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The Government of Canada would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) for its 15th Report in which it considered Chapter 2 (Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Contributing to Safe and Efficient Marine Navigation) of the December 2002 Report of the Auditor General of Canada (AG). The Committee's hard work in this area, and on similar issues in the past few years, has resulted in actions that have contributed to much-needed improvements of many aspects of the operations of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

The Government of Canada has carefully considered the findings and recommendations as stated in the report, and firmly supports efforts to ensure that safe and efficient marine navigation services are delivered in the most cost effective manner possible. Currently there is much activity underway within the Department that directly supports the thrust of the findings. Consequently, the report adds impetus to these initiatives.

DFO recently initiated a Departmental Assessment and Alignment Project (DAAP) to align its funding with departmental priorities and determine what options are available to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of programs and services. DAAP is underpinned by a comprehensive review of the Department's current baseline resources and an integrated policy and program vision that brings together all of the policy work and program modernization efforts that have been undertaken across DFO over the last number of years.

The Department would also like to take the opportunity to underline that increased funding has been allocated to programs that will assist us in sustaining safe and efficient navigation. Namely, up to $27.5 million over five years has been allocated for the development of an Automatic Identification System, and up to $94.6 million has been allocated over two years for the repair and revitalization of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) fleet and shore-based infrastructure.

Additionally, a recent change was implemented in the Departmental management model that enhances the CCG as a national institution and addresses concerns related to the national management and operational integrity of the CCG. Regional Directors of the CCG will now report directly to the Commissioner of the CCG.

Finally, work is well underway on the prime recommendation - the production of a comprehensive action plan to respond to the findings contained in the AG's and SCOPA's report. This action plan will be influenced by the findings of the DAAP, and will be forwarded for consideration as soon as it is completed.

A detailed response to the recommendations is provided below.

RECOMMENDATION 1

That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans submit a detailed action plan in response to the recommendations contained in Chapter 2 of the December 2002 Report of the Auditor General of Canada. This action plan must take into account, as well, recommendations made by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts, include target implementation and completion dates for each action, and be tabled with the Committee no later than 30 September 2003.

Government Response

The Government of Canada fully agrees with the need to produce a comprehensive action plan and has initiated the necessary effort to ensure that this is produced as expeditiously as possible. Unfortunately, for reasons that are explained below, it will not be able to do so by 30 September 2003 as requested.

Several initiatives are well underway, both DFO-wide and internal to the CCG, that impact directly on the issues raised by the AG and SCOPA. An action plan that captures target implementation and completion dates for these various initiatives is presently being prepared.

These various initiatives are being brought under the umbrella of DFO's keystone project, the DAAP. This all-encompassing project is examining all activities involving every sector and region, and is exploring all options to transform the way the Department does business. DAAP aims to provide an integrated policy vision and priorities for DFO, link programs and expenditures to a renewed DFO strategic direction, and identify options to deliver DFO's mandate more effectively and efficiently. Consequently, the completion of the action plan is dependent on the final direction from DAAP. It is anticipated that the timing of DAAP will enable the action plan to be completed by the end of 2003. A copy of the requested action plan will be tabled with the Committee as soon as it is finalized.

RECOMMENDATION 2

That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans include the Auditor General's recommendations and its action plan in response in its departmental performance report for the period ending 31 March 2003.

Government Response

The Departmental Performance Report for the period ending 31 March 2003 focuses on performance up to the end of March 2003 and it is being produced concurrently with this response. As the focus of Departmental Performance Reports is on results achieved with respect to plans outlined in the 2002-03 Report on Plans and Priorities, it is not appropriate to include the action plan in this document. However, the Departmental Performance Report for the period ending 31 March 2003 will provide mention of both the AG recommendations and the action plan and will note that more information will be provided in subsequent reports.

It is anticipated that the action plan will be completed by 31 December 2003 and summary information on results to be achieved through this plan will be included in the Report on Plans and Priorities for 2004-2005 along with sources of more detailed information. Summary information on progress with respect to the action plan and the results achieved will be included in subsequent Departmental Performance Reports.

RECOMMENDATION 3

That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans develop a series of indicators to measure performance regarding implementation of its action plan for inclusion in its departmental performance report for the periods ending after 31 March 2003.

Government Response

Consistent with government-wide efforts and central agency guidance in furthering results-based management and modern comptrollership initiatives, the Department continues to refine its performance measurement frameworks. The goal is to better measure the performance of departmental initiatives to deliver results to Canadians and to better link financial and non-financial performance information. Indicators in support of the action plan will be developed concurrently with the plan and integrated into the overall departmental performance measurement framework as it is developed to support a renewed Planning, Reporting, and Accountability Structure. Use of this structure for parliamentary planning and reporting documents is anticipated to commence for the 2005-06 fiscal cycle given the one-year lead time associated with the government planning cycle.

RECOMMENDATION 4

That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans begin to report the outcomes achieved through implementation of its action plan beginning with its departmental performance report for the period ending 31 March 2004, and in each performance report thereafter until the identified shortcomings have been resolved.

Government Response

Summary information on progress with respect to the action plan and the results achieved will be included in the Departmental Performance Report for the period ending 31 March 2004 and in subsequent reports as appropriate.

RECOMMENDATION 5

That, for its activities in the area of marine navigation and boating safety, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans select a permanent set of performance indicators, provide a complete range of data and improve the quality of analysis, for its departmental performance reports, beginning with the report for the period ending 31 March 2003.

Government Response

As noted in the response to Recommendation 3 above, the Department continues to develop and refine its performance measurement frameworks. This is consistent with government-wide efforts and central agency guidance in furthering results-based management and modern comptrollership initiatives. The goal is to better measure the performance of departmental initiatives to deliver results to Canadians and to better link financial and non-financial performance information. Performance indicators for Marine Navigation and Boating Safety are integral to the overall departmental performance measurement framework and will be developed concurrently.

The departmental performance measurement framework will support a renewed Planning, Reporting, and Accountability Structure. Use of this structure for parliamentary planning and reporting documents is anticipated to commence with the 2005-06 cycle. Improved performance information will be included in Departmental Performance Reports, beginning with the report for the period ending 31 March 2004. The anticipated one-year delay in reporting is due to the need to ensure consistency with the action plan.

RECOMMENDATION 6

That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans assign a high priority to the timely resolution of problems identified by the Auditor General of Canada in her audit of its services in support of safe and efficient waterways.

Government Response

The Government agrees with this recommendation. All of the issues identified by the AG and SCOPA are being pursued with a high degree of urgency, and this urgency will be reflected in the timelines contained in the action plan as per Recommendation 1.

The completion of the action plan cannot prejudge the findings of DAAP. This project, DFO's keystone project, will look at all activities, involve every sector and region, and explore all options to transform the way the Department does business. DAAP seeks to provide an integrated policy vision and priorities for DFO, link programs and expenditures to a renewed strategic direction, and identify options to deliver DFO's mandate more effectively and efficiently.

RECOMMENDATION 7

That the Department of Fisheries and Oceans develop and implement the means to track and record the costs of delivering all of its services related to marine navigation and boating safety, that this information be linked to non-financial performance information and be made easily available to departmental managers, and that it be used in the preparation of the Department's Estimates documents and requests for appropriations.

Government Response

The Department continues to develop and refine its ability and means to track and record the costs of delivering all of its services. This is in accordance with Treasury Board policies and principles and consistent with Modern Comptrollership initiatives to better link financial and non-financial performance information. The Department is committed to continuing to make Estimates documents more accessible and relevant by including thorough explanations of financial information that are well integrated with other performance information.