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ARCHIVED - Audit of the Refugee Reform Initiative

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June 19, 2013

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Table of Contents




1.0 Introduction

The Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act (PCISA) received Royal Assent on
June 28, 2012. The PCISA builds on reforms passed in June 2010 as part of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act (BRRA). The changes to the immigration and refugee protection system under these two Acts came into force on December 15, 2012.

These two Acts introduce major reforms that are intended to deliver faster decisions, deter abuse and quickly remove failed refugee claimants. These reforms also include measures that accelerate the processing of asylum claims for nationals from designated countries of origin (DCO), and individuals whose claims are unfounded. In addition, the legislation reduces the options available to failed claimants to delay their removal from Canada. These measures will streamline the process for faster decisions, enhance system integrity and ensure timely removals.

A number of government departments and agencies have shared authority and/or responsibility for the various components of the Refugee Reform Initiative (RRI). Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has the responsibility for the overall coordination of the RRI among the various departments and agencies.

The CBSA is responsible for the enforcement component of the RRI – primarily the security screening, hearings and the removals program. Major activities within the CBSA will support the timely removals of failed refugee claimants, reducing the backlog of removal cases and introducing an Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) pilot project to facilitate the return of low-risk failed refugee claimants. The CBSA is also responsible for the removal of failed refugee claimants within one year of the Immigration and Refugee Board's (IRB) final negative refugee determination. This objective is supported by a one-year bar on post-claim recourses, including pre-removal risk assessments, humanitarian and compassionate claims and temporary resident permits.

Within the CBSA, the Vice-President (VP), Programs Branch is the project sponsor for RRI. The Enforcement and Intelligence Programs Directorate, formerly the Post-Border Programs Directorate, is responsible for the development and delivery of the project. Within that Directorate, the Refugee Reform Project Management Office (RRPMO) of the Refugee Reform Division, develops and implements programs, policies and procedures and provides functional direction to the regions with regard to the implementation of the RRI. The National Security Screening Division (NSSD), Operations Branch, is responsible for screening all adult refugee claimants under the RRI. The Business Systems Support-Enforcement (BSS-E) Division, Programs Branch, is responsible for the RRI System Enhancements.

The Operations and Programs branches recently aligned the Intelligence, Inland Enforcement and Criminal Investigations in headquarters (HQ) and the Regions. The new structure is intended to facilitate improvement in the exchange of information and expand working relationships between HQ and the Regions. The CBSA's Inland Enforcement offices and ports of entry (POEs) in the Regions are responsible for referring eligible refugee claimants to the IRB, representing the Minister at IRB hearings and removing failed refugee claimants.

2.0 Significance of the Audit

This audit is of interest to management because the RRI is a key part of the Government of Canada's commitment to address systemic challenges and concerns within the refugee determination system. The overall objective of the RRI is to enhance the long-term integrity and efficiency of Canada's refugee determination system and focus resources on claimants in genuine need of protection. The CBSA is responsible for managing the enforcement aspect of the changes required by refugee reform.

The audit objective was to assess the adequacy of the Agency's plan and its implementation progress in order to meet the CBSA's commitments under the Refugee Reform Initiative, prior to the coming-into-force date of December 15, 2012.

3.0 Statement of Conformance

This audit conforms to the Internal Auditing Standards for the Government of Canada, as supported by the results of the quality assurance and improvement program. The audit approach and methodology followed the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing as defined by the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Internal Auditing Standards for the Government of Canada as required by the Treasury Board Internal Audit Policy.

4.0 Audit Opinion

The audit found that the CBSA has an adequate plan in place to meet its commitments under the RRI, prior to the coming-into-force date of December 15, 2012. The CBSA has implemented the necessary processes, policies, procedures and regulatory changes necessary to support its enforcement deliverables. It has also achieved the critical case management system updates; however, additional effort is needed to address the Agency's financial tracking and human resource needs for the RRI. As a result, this translates into a medium-low risk exposure for the Agency.

5.0 Key Findings

Management has developed an adequate plan that details program activities in support of the achievement of the RRI deliverables for the Agency, including a risk assessment and mitigation process. The CBSA Refugee Reform Project Charter (the Charter) defines the scope, objectives and expectations of all stakeholders for the RRI at the divisional level. The Charter identifies the Vice-President (VP), Programs Branch as the project sponsor and assigns responsibility to the Director General, Enforcement and Intelligence Programs Directorate, for the development and delivery of the project. The Project Management Plan was developed by the RRPMO and approved by the Director of the Refugee Reform Division.

Performance measures were sufficient to enable management to provide guidance and operational advice and to make informed decisions and course corrections as required. The RRPMO was able to keep senior management apprised of the project's implementation progress, including key risks. However, program management were not fully aware of the amounts approved for carry forward for 2011-12 and expressed concern with the lack of control over the treatment of the projected surplus for 2012-13. Further effort is also required to address the adequacy of staffing levels of inland enforcement officers and hearings officers in the Regions.

6.0 Summary of Recommendations

The audit makes two recommendations:

  • Ensure that all program areas are accountable for reporting back to the project sponsor on the status of funding and the treatment of surpluses for the RRI; and
  • Review the staffing requirements for inland enforcement officers and hearings officers and implement a plan to address any gaps.

7.0 Management Response

The Agency agrees with the recommendations of this audit. Programs Branch, in collaboration with the Operations and Comptrollership Branches, will direct all program areas to properly record and track expenditures related to the Refugee Reform Initiative (RRI). Existing financial management tools and the Program Management Table (PMT) for Enforcement and Intelligence Programs will be used to ensure regular reporting on expenditures and to identify potential lapses earlier in the fiscal year. Further measures to ensure greater accountability and improve reporting will be implemented, including: the assignment of dedicated financial officers for major projects; the implementation of an Agency Project Financial Status Report; and the requirement for all re-profile and carry-forward requests to be solicited during the Annual Reference Level Update time frame.

Programs Branch, in collaboration with the Human Resources and Comptrollership branches, will implement measures to review future staffing needs for hearings and inland enforcement officers in relation to Refugee Reform. These measures include: further discussion on staffing requirements and a review of best practices; the implementation of updated HR staffing plans for Refugee Reform initiatives; as well as the presentation of staffing plans and a recruitment strategy to PMT for validation and to ensure that any staffing increase is managed within the PMT budget. These improvements to the CBSA's financial and staffing controls will be completed by April 2014.

8.0 Audit Findings

8.1 Planning and Priority Setting

Audit Criterion:

  • Management has developed an adequate plan that details program activities in support of the achievement of the RRI deliverables and includes a risk assessment and mitigation process.

The accountability for the RRI falls under the authority of the VP, Programs Branch. The Programs Branch, in collaboration with the Operations Branch, has the responsibility to ensure effective project management and adherence to the CBSA Project Management and Governance Framework. This framework follows the Treasury Board Policy on the Management of Projects and its two supporting standards: the Standard for Organizational Project Management Capacity and the Standard for Project Complexity and Risk.

The CBSA Project Management and Governance Framework establishes how projects are governed throughout the project management life cycle. The framework assigns responsibility to the Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) for providing the Agency with project management expertise and ensuring that standardized project management tools, processes and procedures are being followed with respect to project management. The EPMO manages the EPMO Dashboards to report key project metrics, such as scope, schedule and costs and provides a review and challenge function.

The Refugee Reform Division was accountable for monitoring the implementation progress of all RRI deliverables, tracking project risks, managing the allocation of funds, and providing this information to CIC. The RRPMO followed the CBSA Project Management and Governance Framework to develop the Charter and the Project Management Plan for the RRI. The Charter provides a high-level overview of the overall approach for the RRI and represents a formal agreement between the Programs Branch and the Operations Branch for the implementation of RRI deliverables. The Project Management Plan provides additional details in terms of governance, roles and responsibilities, scope management and project management procedures. The Charter and Project Management Plan were reviewed against the guidance provided by the EPMO and it was determined that both documents met the CBSA Project Management and Governance Framework requirements. [ 1 ]

The RRI Governance Structure provides clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for the delivery of the RRI and an overview of the committee oversight for the project. The RRI Governance Structure is further supported by working groups for the main project areas. Finally, it provides an escalation process to bring issues, such as risks, change requests or scheduling changes to the appropriate committee for timely resolution. The main committees responsible for oversight of the RRI are the VP Major Projects Steering Committee, the Corporate Management Committee, and the Executive Committee.

The Communications Directorate developed a Communications Plan to provide a comprehensive and coordinated communications approach, to ensure accurate, consistent and timely communications with key audiences. Various communication materials, such as the Agency`s RRI intranet Web page and operational bulletins, were used to provide information and updates.

The Project Management Plan also included a Refugee Reform Risk and Issue Management process to set out a consistent and logical means by which risks and issues could be proactively identified and effectively managed, as per the EPMO's Project Risk Management guidance. Risks were monitored and reported through the usage of the EPMO Dashboard, the bi-weekly Vice-President's Status Report and the CIC Refugee Reform Program Status Report.

Overall, management has developed adequate plans and strategies that detail program activities in support of the achievement of the deliverables for the RRI. A documented risk management approach has been put in place and is being used in the management of the RRI.

8.2 Performance Measurement, Monitoring and Reporting

Audit Criterion:

  • A performance measurement framework (PMF) exists to monitor the achievement of the CBSA's RRI objectives, which ensures adequate reporting practices at all stages toward implementation. The measures are sufficiently robust to enable management to provide guidance, management direction and operational advice.

A performance measurement framework (PMF) is a key tool in the project management life cycle, as it provides ongoing performance data to management with the information it needs to ensure the project stays on track. The Agency is using the government-wide Refugee Reform PMF developed by CIC to define the performance indicators and anticipated outcomes for the RRI.

The PMF includes performance indicators related to the CBSA objectives such as the number and percentage of failed claimants removed within one year of a negative IRB decision, number of days to complete admissibility screening, and the effectiveness of the AVRR pilot. The CBSA developed a Metrics of Success Appendix to the Information Sharing Annex of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CIC in support of the PMF for the RRI. The Metrics of Success provide CIC with access to additional immigration information collected by the CBSA, such as security screening results, DCO indicators and removal dates.

Pre-implementation deliverables were monitored and reported through the use of the EPMO Dashboard, the bi-weekly Vice-President's Status Report and the CIC Refugee Reform Program Status Report and Detailed Project Schedule. The CBSA also provided this information to the CIC via monthly status reports that list the CBSA deliverables and key accomplishments for the current reporting period, and the milestones and deliverables for the next period. The RRPMO also produced bi-weekly RRI status reports and briefing notes for senior management to provide updates on RRI-related issues.

Under the new refugee determination system, the CBSA is responsible for completing Front-End Security Screening (FESS) on all adult refugee claimants. To prepare for the implementation of the FESS requirements, the National Security Screening Division (NSSD) conducted a Tabletop Exercise. The Tabletop Exercise identified potential efficiencies in the screening process, risks to be mitigated, and staffing requirements. It provided operational performance information related to the FESS process. As a result of the Tabletop Exercise, the NSSD created Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to clearly describe the FESS process, establish service standards and identify the roles and responsibilities of the officers conducting the FESS of refugee claimants.

Although NSSD was not given significant coverage in the Project Charter, the Tabletop Exercise enabled NSSD to assess its operational needs and to determine what steps would be required to meet the established CBSA screening requirements. The NSSD has been doing due diligence, given their timelines for implementing the FESS processes and procedures, and it has established NSSD standard service times in its SOPs.

Overall, management has developed an adequate PMF with sufficient measures and adequate reporting practices to support the implementation of the RRI.

8.3 Resource Management

Audit Criteria:

  • The RRI includes financial tracking that enables management to make informed decisions and course corrections as required.
  • Management has identified and addressed Human Resources needs in terms of recruitment, training and funding in support of the achievement of the RRI deliverables

8.3.1 Financial Tracking

Under Treasury Board Policy on the Management of Projects, projects are expected to achieve value for money and demonstrate sound stewardship of project funds. Furthermore, the Agency's Functional Management Model requires that projects employ performance reporting to explain the extent to which intended goals and objectives were achieved and at what cost. This enables management to make informed decisions regarding priorities, activities and budget allocations.

As per CBSA project management processes, cost management involves the processes for planning, estimating, budgeting and controlling costs to ensure project completion within the approved budget. The EPMO is responsible for reviewing and validating the project management information reported on the monthly dashboard reports, while the Comptrollership Branch is responsible for reviewing the financial information.

The Comptrollership Branch is also responsible for providing and completing the project financial information and for providing assurance for the project's financial information. Comptrollership does review, monitor and discuss with project management the cost information to ensure the financial information aligns with the Corporate Administrative System (CAS) and the Compliance Measurement, Profiling and Assessment System (COMPASS).

In accordance with the Project Management Plan, the RRPMO developed the costing and financial management procedure for the RRI. This process formalizes fiscal relationships between the RRPMO and the entities to which project funding has been allocated and describes how the associated project expenditures should be accounted for. The objective is to ensure that all funds are spent on activities directly linked to the RRI. However, a formal change request is only required when project costs are projected to exceed budgeted amounts.

The overall budget for the RRI for fiscal year 2011-12 was $42.4M and each project area was aware of its individual budget. In 2011-12, there was a total lapse of $12.8M which was carried forward to 2012-13 via the RRI corporate reserve account. There is also a projected budget lapse for 2012-13, due to the delay of the coming-into-force of the legislation, as well as budget reduction and staffing measures. Program management was not fully aware of the amounts approved for carry-forward for 2011-12 and expressed concern over the treatment of the projected surplus for 2012-13. While there was no adverse effect on the implementation of the RRI, the carry-forward amounts were not clearly communicated to the RRPMO.

Recommendation 1: The Vice-President of the Programs Branch, in collaboration with Operations and Comptrollership branches, should ensure that all Refugee Reform Initiative financial information is clearly communicated back to program management, including the treatment of any surpluses.

Management Response

Agreed. Programs Branch, in collaboration with Operations and Comptrollership branches, will ensure that all program areas are accountable to report back to the project sponsor on the status of funding for the Refugee Reform Initiative (RRI) and that potential lapses are identified as early as possible in the financial management cycle. This will be undertaken by directing all program areas to properly record and track expenditures related to the RRI. The Enforcement and Intelligence Program Management Table (PMT) will receive regular reporting on RRI expenditures and will be responsible for identifying potential lapses earlier in the fiscal year.

In addition, the Comptrollership Branch will work with all relevant partners to ensure that improvements are made regarding the planning, budgeting and forecasting processes. It will implement an Agency Project Financial Status Report that will be signed off by Vice-Presidents and presented to the Executive Committee. This report will include requested and approved re-profiles/carry-forwards, and will ensure that senior management is aware of any project surpluses. In addition, a comprehensive Planning, Budgeting, Forecasting review will be undertaken, and related changes will be made to the CBSA's financial systems. These measures will be implemented by April 2014.

8.3.2 Human Resources

The Charter aligned human resources planning with the RRI requirements to achieve the Agency's resource management commitments. It identified the development and/or updating of new and existing operational manuals and training materials based on the new business process resulting from refugee reform, as well as the recruitment and training of personnel in affected operational areas.

The RRI Staffing Strategy addressed staffing and retention requirements and was developed by the RRPMO in collaboration with the Human Resources Branch. This strategy identified the immediate staffing requirements to meet the expectations of the Backlog Reduction component of the RRI, through the creation of temporary Inland Enforcement Officer positions, which expired on March 31, 2013. Reporting was achieved through the use of the Human Resources Staffing Status Report and Refugee Reform Initiative Updates on Staffing and Training.

The RRI Learning Strategy addressed training, tools and resources and was developed by the Human Resources Branch in collaboration with the RRPMO. This strategy provides a description of the new training product requirements, proposed timelines, proposed course calendar for 2011-12, and cost and resources for 2011-12. Two new online training products were developed and subsequently released: the AVRR and the RRI Awareness courses, launched in June and November 2012 respectively. In addition, several classroom courses for different employee groups including hearings officers and border services officers were updated to reflect necessary changes in response to the RRI.

The RRPMO also developed and maintained an intranet Web page with active links to training, operational manuals and bulletins, contact information for assistance, and background material on the RRI. The RRPMO also organized a national training session for hearings officers in September 2012. Regional feedback from this session lead to the development of a hearings officer Wiki page to increase communication within the hearings officer community.

Retention of inland enforcement officers and hearings officers is an ongoing concern. The departures of regional hearings officers may result in fewer successful interventions before the Immigration and Refugee Board. The departure of inland enforcement officers hired as part of the Backlog Reduction Strategy may also affect the Agency's ability to maintain current removals volumes.

Recommendation 2: The Vice-President of the Programs Branch, in collaboration with the Human Resources and Operations branches, should review the future staffing requirements of inland enforcement officers and hearings officers for the Refugee Reform Initiative, and implement a plan to address any gaps.

Management Response

Agreed. Programs Branch, in collaboration with the Human Resources and Operations branches, will continue to review staffing requirements for inland enforcement officers and hearings officers, and will implement a plan to address any gaps with respect to the Refugee Reform Initiative.

In consultation with the National Inland Enforcement Committee, Programs Branch will review current processes and best practices to identify future staffing requirements and gaps. It will then develop a staffing plan and recruitment strategy for approval by the Enforcement and Intelligence Program Management Table. The updated staffing plan and recruitment strategy will be implemented by October 2013.

Overall, management has implemented adequate financial tracking; however, further work is required to ensure project areas are accountable for reporting back to the project sponsor on the treatment of fund surpluses. Project management has also identified human resources needs in terms of recruitment and training; however, this needs to remain a priority for implementation to ensure the achievement of the RRI deliverables.


Appendix A – About the Audit

Audit Objective

The audit objective was to assess the adequacy of the Agency's plan and its implementation progress in order to meet the CBSA's commitments under the Refugee Reform Initiative, prior to the coming-into-force date of December 15, 2012.

Audit Scope

The scope of the audit included the tools, policies, regulations and procedures in place to meet the Agency's commitments under the RRI and the progress being made in accordance with the plan. The audit examination phase covered the period from October to December 2012.

Activities within the scope of this audit are:

  • Identification of regulatory changes and the development of a plan to have them in place by the coming-into-force date.
  • Development of new business processes to support the RRI deliverables are progressing in accordance with the plan;
  • Development of Standard Operating Procedures and/or manuals to support the new business processes;
  • Coordinated communications and outreach with internal stakeholders and other government departments;
  • Implementation of an effective process to recruit additional staff; and
  • Development of a performance monitoring and assessment framework capable of reporting on progress toward implementation and the impact of the RRI.

Activities outside the scope of this audit are the Removals Backlog Reduction Strategy and the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) pilot. This AVRR pilot has been operational since June 29, 2012 and is scheduled to be evaluated by the Internal Audit and Program Evaluation Directorate in 2014-15.

Risk Assessment

The preliminary risk assessment was developed based on a series of interviews with CBSA program management involved in the RRI and a review of documentation. The development of the preliminary risk assessment included a review of the Enterprise Risk Profile which identified Immigration Enforcement and Irregular Migration as having high risk exposure.

The preliminary risk assessment identified the following high-risk areas for the RRI:

  • There is a risk that the removals and pre-screening programs will be unable to process the increased volume of claimants within the legislated one-year removal timeline.
  • There is a risk that management will be unable to adequately measure, monitor, and report on the RRI's financial and performance criteria to make timely decisions and course corrections.

Approach and Methodology

The audit was planned and conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Internal Auditing Standards for the Government of Canada. The audit team gathered evidence through interviews and documentation reviews, and analyzed and evaluated the governance and project performance frameworks against the selected criteria.

The examination phase of this audit was performed using the following approach:

  • Analyzed and assessed the adequacy of management controls in place in the removals and pre-screening programs to prepare for implementation of the RRI deliverables;
  • Reviewed and assessed risk assessments, risk mitigation procedures and reporting;
  • Reviewed staffing and training needs against anticipated work volumes;
  • Interviewed various stakeholders within the Programs and Operations branches on their roles and responsibilities in relation to their RRI deliverables;
  • Collected, reviewed and analyzed documents relating to performance measurement and financial tracking to assess progress relative to established performance expectations.

Audit Criteria

The following lines of enquiry and criteria were selected. The audit criteria were derived from the Office of the Comptroller General's Audit Criteria Related to the Management Accountability Framework: A Tool for Internal Auditors, as well as the CBSA Management Excellence Functional Management Toolkit:

Lines of Enquiry Audit Criteria
Planning and Priority Setting
  • 1.1 Management has developed an adequate plan that details program activities in support of the achievement of the RRI deliverables, and includes a risk assessment and mitigation process.
Performance Measurement, Monitoring and Reporting
  • 2.1 A performance measurement framework exists to monitor the achievement of the CBSA's RRI objectives, which ensures adequate reporting practices at all stages toward implementation. The measurements are sufficiently robust to enable management to provide guidance, management direction and operational advice.
Resource Management
  • 3.1 The RRI includes financial tracking that enables management to make informed decisions and course corrections as required.
  • 3.2 Management has identified and addressed human resources needs in terms of recruitment, training and funding in support of the achievement of the RRI deliverables.


Appendix B – List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

AVRR
Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration
BRRA
Balanced Refugee Reform Act
BSS-E
Business Systems Support-Enforcement Division
CAS
Corporate Administrative System
CBSA/the Agency
Canada Border Services Agency
CIC
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
COMPASS
Compliance Measurement, Profiling and Assessment System
DCO
Designated Country of Origin
EPMO
Enterprise Project Management Office
FESS
Front-End Security Screening
HQ
CBSA Headquarters
IM
Information Management
IRB
Immigration and Refugee Board
IT
Information Technology
MOU
Memorandum of Understanding
NSSD
National Security Screening Division
PCISA
Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
PMF
Performance Measurement Framework
PMT
Program Management Table
POEs
Ports of Entry
Regions
The Regions of the Operations Branch of the Canada Border Services Agency
RRI
Refugee Reform Initiative
RRPMO
Refugee Reform Project Management Office
SOPs
Standard Operating Procedures
The Charter
The CBSA Refugee Reform Initiative Project Charter
VP
Vice-President

Notes

  1. Consistent with Information Management (IM)/Information Technology (IT) accountability to the Treasury Board, the BSS-E Division, Programs Branch, developed a separate Project Charter for the RRI IT System Enhancements. This Charter was developed in 2010-11 for the changes under the BRRA and was not subsequently updated for the changes introduced by the PCISA; however, all additional systems revisions were processed through the internal change request process put in place by BSS-E. [Return to text]