Horizontal Audit of Accountability for Official Languages Transfer Payments to the Provinces (Part VII of the Official Languages Act)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Health Canada and Canadian Heritage

Table of Contents

September 2013

Highlights

This accountability audit of official languages-related transfer payments to the provinces was conducted after parliamentarians expressed an interest in the subject and addressed questions to the Commissioner of Official Languages in the spring of 2012. There seemed to be a perception that funds transferred to the provinces to ensure the vitality and development of official language minority communities were being used for other purposes. These concerns led the Commissioner to undertake a horizontal audit of three federal institutions, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Health Canada (HC) and Canadian Heritage (PCH), because their areas of activity— immigration, health and education—are crucial for all Canadians.

The audit, which was conducted between July and November 2012, had three objectives. First, it determined whether senior management at CIC, HC and PCH are strongly committed to accountability mechanisms for official languages transfer payments to the provinces. Second, it verified whether these institutions have developed formal and effective accountability mechanisms and procedures. Third, it looked at whether the departments are effectively tracking their performance in terms of accountability for official languages transfer payments.

The audit found positive results. We concluded that the three institutions that were audited have formal accountability mechanisms. However, the accountability mechanisms and procedures tied to performance measurement frameworks at HC and PCH ensure better governance of the public funds that are transferred to the provinces for official languages than CIC’s do.

The audit also found that the institutions have made considerable efforts and demonstrated strong leadership by establishing reliable and transparent official languages governance structures. The departments have developed key documents, including management and accountability frameworks, policies, guidelines and service standards. They have also set up formal and advisory committees, working groups and a consortium to identify the requirements set out in the grant and contribution agreements and to oversee their implementation. The three departments have implemented official transfer payment accountability processes for both project outcomes reports and financial reports. The official agreement documents submitted to CIC, HC and PCH are signed by senior managers from the provincial governments. In terms of monitoring, the departments conducted program evaluations and internal audits to ensure that all accountability activities for transfer payments to the provinces are compliant. Through our interviews we found that decision-makers know and understand the status of agreements with provincial governments, which we have examined, and, as a result, decisions are made to correct problematic situations.

Senior management at HC and PCH have committed to meeting the requirements of Part VII of the Official Languages Act. These institutions have developed performance measurement frameworks, unlike CIC. Their agreements with the provincial governments include specific indicators to evaluate progress that has been made as a result of the positive measures that were taken. HC and PCH have also given the provincial governments the tools they need to evaluate the impact of the interventions they make to strengthen the vitality of official language communities. We cannot say the same about CIC, because it does not have a performance evaluation framework and is not able to evaluate the effectiveness or results of the agreements it signs with the provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba. These agreements could have a negative impact on the vitality of Francophone newcomers in minority situations.

The Commissioner is satisfied with the results of the audit of HC and PCH, as we did not identify any shortcomings under the audit objectives or criteria. However, we are not ruling out the possibility of problems related to the other parameters. That being said, we encourage these institutions to carry out other types of audits, including financial audits, to examine how funds are spent and ensure that the transfer payments to the provinces achieve the expected results.

For CIC, we noted problems in the agreements signed with British Columbia and Manitoba, particularly in Annex A, which deals with settlement and integration services for immigrants. The agreement with Manitoba, which expired in April 2013, and the agreement with British Columbia, which is valid until April 2014, will not be renewed. However, if the Department ever has to negotiate other agreements with the provinces and territories for the settlement and integration of newcomers and immigrants in official language minority communities, it should put appropriate accountability mechanisms in place. To do this, it could look at the good practices implemented by HC and PCH to comply with Part VII of the Official Languages Act.

The Commissioner made one recommendation to CIC and two recommendations to PCH to help them improve the accountability of their official languages transfer payments to the provinces.

We are satisfied with the steps taken by CIC with the Government of British Columbia to implement the first Recommendation. We are also satisfied with PCH’s response to the third recommendation. We are only partially satisfied with PCH’s response to the second recommendation, because the Department provided comments but did not submit a detailed action plan for implementing this recommendation. However, PCH has committed to making ad hoc visits during its official trips to annual meetings in order to discuss action plans and projects related to the agreements with the provinces and territories. PCH has also promised to document these meetings rigorously.

Introduction

The decision to conduct an accountability audit of official languages transfer payments arose from discussions held during the Commissioner’s appearances before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages in March and May 2012. This issue is highly important to ensuring the confidence of the Canadian public in the government’s commitment to official languages.

The federal institutions that were audited are Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Health Canada (HC) and Canadian Heritage (PCH). They were chosen because their activities fall under three sectors that are crucial to community vitality: immigration, health and education.

The audit was guided by three parameters: accountability mechanisms, transfer payments to the provinces, and official languages programs and activities. More specifically, the audit looked at accountability mechanisms for the transfer payments made by the institutions to provincial governments for programs and activities targeting official language minority communities. All the activities and programs audited at CIC, HC and PCH met these parameters.

Mandates of the audited institutions

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

CIC’s mandate is to select foreign nationals admitted to Canada as permanent or temporary residents and offer Canada’s protection to refugees. The Department develops Canada’s admissibility policy, sets out the conditions for entering and remaining in Canada and, in cooperation with its partners, screens potential permanent and temporary residents to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians. In other words, the Department contributes to building a stronger Canada by helping immigrants and refugees settle and fully integrate into Canadian society and the economy, and by helping them obtain Canadian citizenship. Part of CIC’s mandate comes from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act. Under the Canadian Constitution, provinces and territories have the power to enact immigration legislation, as long as it is compatible with federal laws. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, the Minister of CIC has signed—with the approval of the Governor in Council—agreements with the provinces and territories to facilitate the development and implementation of integration policies and programs.

The objective of the CIC programs and policies that were audited is to facilitate the settlement of newcomers, including the resettlement of refugees and their long-term integration into Canadian society, with the goal of obtaining citizenship. Settlement programs are administered by third parties, including provincial governments, municipalities, school boards, post-secondary institutions, settlement organizations, and other non-governmental and private-sector stakeholders. The provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba receive funding for newcomer settlement and integration activities. They determine which activities to undertake and how much funding is to be allocated to ensure the vitality and development of official language minority communities.

Health Canada

HC is responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health. It is committed to improving the lives of all Canadians and making the country’s population among the healthiest in the world. As a catalyst for innovation, a source of funding and an information provider in Canada’s health system, the Department works closely with provincial and territorial governments to develop national approaches on health issues and promotes the pan-Canadian adoption of best practices. It administers the Canada Health Act, which embodies national principles to ensure a universal and equitable publicly funded health care system. HC provides strategic support for the federal government’s Canada Health Transfer to the provinces and territories, and provides funding through grants and contributions to various organizations to help meet its objectives.

Canadian Heritage

PCH is responsible for the policies and programs that help all Canadians participate in their shared cultural and civic life. The Department’s legislative mandate is set out in the Department of Canadian Heritage Act. More specifically, PCH formulates and implements policies related to copyright, foreign investment and broadcasting, as well as policies related to arts, culture, heritage, official languages, sport, state ceremonial and protocol, and Canadian symbols. The Department’s activities involve funding community and other third-party organizations to promote the benefits of culture, identity and sport for Canadians. The Minister is accountable to Parliament for the activities carried out by the Department and the 20 organizations that make up the Canadian Heritage Portfolio. In terms of official languages, PCH is responsible for programs that support the development of official language communities and the enhancement of official languages. The Official Languages Support Programs Branch is responsible for grant and contribution activities. Through its Official Languages Secretariat, PCH is also responsible for the implementation of the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality. In terms of roles and responsibilities, the Minister is accountable for the development and coordination of measures to achieve the results set out in the Roadmap.

Audit objectives and legislative framework

During the course of this audit, we sought to determine whether CIC, HC and PCH have established effective accountability mechanisms for official languages transfer payments to the provinces. The audit had three objectives. First, we determined whether senior management at the audited institutions are strongly committed to accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces. Second, we verified whether the institutions had formal and effective accountability mechanisms in place for official languages transfer payments. Third, we looked at whether these federal institutions are effectively tracking their performance in terms of accountability for official languages transfer payments.

CIC, HC and PCH are subject to the Official Languages Act. The audit examined whether these institutions are complying with Part VII, which refers to their obligation to take positive measures. This obligation includes the obligation to ensure that funds transferred to the provinces for programs developed under Part VII of the Act are used for this purpose, which is why it is important to establish effective accountability and oversight mechanisms.

Methodology

The audit was carried out in compliance with the standards set forth in the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages’ external audit policy. Our findings are based on results obtained under the established parameters.

Only funding agreements between each of the three federal institutions in question (CIC, HC and PCH) and provincial governments were examined. We did not look at funding agreements that have been negotiated with community organizations or other recipients. The audit was limited to examining the activities of the institutions in question as they relate to accountability mechanisms for official languages transfer payments to the provinces, without taking into account the allocation of funds transferred to the provinces. This was not a financial audit to determine how the provinces used their funding.

The audit of CIC looked at activities related to two agreements with the provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba. These agreements, for newcomer settlement and integration services, fell under the objectives of the audit.

The audit of HC looked at a contribution agreement with the New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour. This project, known as the New Brunswick Government Agreement, is the only agreement between HC and a province that involves official language minority communities. The agreement comprises one of the three components of the Official Languages Health Contribution Program (2008–2009 to 2012–2013), the training and retention of health professionals from official language communities.

The audit of PCH examined the Protocol for Agreements for Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction signed by the Government of Canada and the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), as well as the bilateral agreements concluded pursuant to the Protocol with the governments of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. These files have also been examined.

The audit was conducted at CIC, HC and PCH headquarters between July and November 2012. A total of 18 interviews were held with executives and managers, as well as with representatives from official language minority communities in the provinces.

A number of CIC, HC and PCH documents were examined, including memoranda of understanding (MOUs), protocols and agreements, strategic and accountability frameworks, policies, guidelines, strategic plans and action plans, evaluations, annual and biennial reports, financial reports, consultation reports, surveys, templates and minutes of the meetings of official languages committees and other committees. In some cases, we also looked at Web sites to validate the references.

Review of institutions

Objective 1

Ensure that senior management at the audited institutions are strongly committed to accountability mechanisms for official languages transfer payments to the provinces.

a) Verify whether the institutions have accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces. Verify whether the institutions have an effective, transparent governance structure in place for accountability with regard to official languages.

Accountability framework

All three institutions have official languages accountability frameworks in place.

However, CIC does not have a separate framework. Instead, it opted to set out its roles and responsibilities, in detail, in its 2010–2013 Official Languages Plan. This plan describes the responsibilities of the deputy minister and assistant deputy ministers, the official languages champion and co-champion, directors general, directors, managers, employees and committees. While the plan describes all the official languages activities to be implemented, it does not address accountability with regard to provincial transfer payments for implementing these activities.

Nevertheless, CIC has a management accountability framework, under which the Management Accountability Committee was created. Part of the Committee’s mandate is to develop a strategic program that could strengthen departmental accountability. Again, a review of the accountability framework and the Committee’s minutes did not demonstrate the existence of accountability mechanisms for official languages transfers to the provinces.

Health Canada

HC has a results-based management and accountability framework for the Official Languages Health Contribution Program, approved by HC’s Head of Evaluation (2008). The framework, which describes HC’s roles and responsibilities under the program, is comprehensive and clearly states the Department’s expectations and the results to be achieved.

Canadian Heritage

In the same vein, PCH has an integrated results-based management and accountability and risk-based audit framework for the official languages support programs (2009–2010 to 2013–2014). The framework contains a provision regarding accountability for the Development of Official-Language Communities Program and the Enhancement of Official Languages Program.

In addition, the Department has established and implemented the Horizontal Results-based Management and Accountability Framework, which determines the federal partners and the funding to be allocated, for PCH activities related to the Roadmap. The institution reports that the Framework is based on the Roadmap logic models, by setting out the structure of expected results, and that it allows for the oversight and evaluation of the implementation of the Roadmap and facilitates the decision-making process and policy development. We thought it was relevant to mention this reference, since part of the funds allocated for minority-language education, second-language instruction and the training of health professionals from official language minority communities comes from the Roadmap.

The two frameworks that PCH has developed and implemented set out the Department’s expectations in a formal and comprehensive manner. Together, they contain the elements that are necessary for transfer payment accountability.

Governance structure

The three departments have established solid governance structures for official languages programs. They have developed framework documents and set up committees, working groups and forums to effectively implement these programs. The departments report briefly on the activities of their official languages programs in a number of key government documents, such as reports on plans and priorities and departmental performance reports. We have also noted that these departments are being transparent by consulting official language minority communities. However, our interviews with official language community representatives found that they are not informed of accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces. The following information reflects our observations.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

CIC established the Official Languages Steering Committee that is chaired by the Associate Deputy Minister and the official languages champion. This committee has become a forum for discussion and strategic direction for senior management. It oversees the development, monitoring and evaluation of an integrated horizontal action plan for the implementation of policies and programs to fulfill CIC’s official languages obligations.

While CIC does have an official languages governance structure, our review of the frameworks, mandates and minutes of various CIC committees to facilitate integration into Francophone minority communities did not enable us to determine what measures are in place or what concrete results have been achieved in relation to transfer payment accountability mechanisms.

Health Canada

HC’s organizational structure includes the Official Language Community Development Bureau, which is responsible for managing the Official Languages Health Contribution Program (2008–2009 to 2012–2013). The Bureau was created in 1999 to coordinate the Department’s responsibilities for the implementation of section 41 of the Official Languages Act, and to manage Health Canada’s official languages programs as part of the federal government’s commitment under the Action Plan for Official Languages (2003–2008) and the Roadmap (2008–2013).

The Program provides the Department with the opportunity to work in partnership with the Consortium national de formation en santé, a national secretariat that comprises 11 partner post-secondary educational institutions, colleges and universities from across Canada and outside of Quebec, and one provincial government agency namely, New Brunswick. Consisting of experts and representatives of these institutions, including the Centre de formation médicale du Nouveau-Brunswick at the University of Moncton, the Consortium is responsible for managing the training activities in health related programs for students from official language minority communities. It reports to HC, and an HC representative sits on its board of directors as an observer.

The audit shows that HC has an effective and transparent governance structure for official languages transfer payment accountability.

Canadian Heritage

The PCH Official Languages Support Programs Branch manages two official languages programs under section 41 of the Official Languages Act that correspond to two types of results: the Development of Official-Language Communities Program, which supports official language minority communities, and the Enhancement of Official Languages Program, which fosters the recognition of both of Canada’s official languages. The audit examined the accountability activities for these two programs, the first of which includes a minority-language education component, and the second of which includes a second-language instruction component.

PCH has signed a Protocol for Agreements for Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction with CMEC and 13 bilateral agreements pursuant to this protocol with all the provinces and territories. The funds transferred under these agreements support nearly 245,000 Canadian youth living in official language minority communities and studying in their language in over 900 schools across the country. The funds also support the work of 40 school boards and 39 post-secondary institutions operating in official language minority communities across the country.

PCH has a good governance structure with regard to accountability for transfer payments to the provinces.

We also sought to determine whether, broadly speaking, the question of accountability for official languages transfer payments was raised in the meetings of the three institutions’ steering committees. The members of these committees occasionally discuss official languages in general, without specifically addressing transfer payment accountability.

b) Verify how the audited institutions ensure effective management of official languages transfer payments to the provinces.

The objective of this audit criterion was to examine the practices and processes in place to ensure accountability for transfer payments to the provinces is effectively managed.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

In CIC’s Integration Branch, the Director of Information, Language and Community Program Policy is responsible for overseeing the contribution agreements with the governments of British Columbia and Manitoba. In the general provisions of the Canada–British Columbia Immigration Agreement, the Department sets forth the accountability mechanisms that will be used to monitor the activities under the agreement. CIC established the Agreement Management Committee (AMC) and the Settlement and Multiculturalism Working Group (SMWG), which are responsible for implementing the requirements set out in the Agreement. The AMC is primarily responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Agreement with British Columbia.

The AMC is co-chaired by the Assistant Deputy Minister, Labour Market and Immigration, part of the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development, and the Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, at CIC, or their representatives. The AMC meets once a year to discuss the overall management of the Agreement and innovative approaches to addressing immigration matters.

The SMWG serves as a forum for Canada and British Columbia to foster and enhance collaboration on results-based activities related to multiculturalism and the settlement and integration of newcomers under the terms and conditions of Annex A of the Agreement. The SMWG reports to the Canada–British Columbia Settlement and Sponsorship Sub-Committee, which, in turn, reports to the AMC. The purpose of the Sub-Committee is to facilitate the settlement and integration of newcomers and refugees in British Columbia.

It should be noted that the purpose of the AMC and the SMWG is to examine all newcomer settlement and immigration activities, regardless of the official languages involved. As set out in the AMC’s roles and responsibilities, broad discussions relating to the overall management of the agreements may take place. No similar groups have been established under the Canada–Manitoba Immigration Agreement. Based on our interviews, there are no indications that integration services for Francophone newcomers in minority communities have been discussed.

The provincial governments’ annual reports are approved by each province’s deputy minister and sent to the deputy minister of CIC, who may inform his counterparts that improvement is required without necessarily mentioning specific examples.

In summary, the audit found that CIC has not demonstrated that it is effectively managing the transfer payments for its official language minority community settlement and integration program.

Health Canada

HC has implemented accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the Government of New Brunswick for the training of health professionals from official language minority communities. Responsibility for the Official Languages Health Contribution Program falls primarily to the Executive Director of the Official Language Community Development Bureau at HC, who in turn reports, through the Director General of Health Care Programs and Policy, to the Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy. The Executive Director’s responsibilities are the following:

  • manage and implement the Program in order to attain its objectives;
  • select eligible recipients through proposal submissions and evaluate funding applications based on the terms and conditions of the Program, in accordance with the Treasury Board Policy on Transfer Payments;
  • ensure the general conditions of funding agreements in relation to contributions set out in the terms and conditions of the Program are met;
  • develop evaluation strategies to collect data on the performance of the Program and evaluate its impact on the proposed objectives and expected results.

The Program proposes a clear hierarchy of responsibilities for the delivery of activities based on the payment schedule, which specifies expected achievements and accountability requirements.

Consequently, for all the Program’s activities, proposal review committees are formed to evaluate the eligibility and compliance of the proposals submitted by the Government of New Brunswick to obtain funding. These committees examine strategic plans, work plans, annual reports on cash forecasts and expense statements. As mentioned previously, HC also has a results-based management and accountability framework for the Program, which led the Department to develop a report template for evaluating the progress and performance of the New Brunswick Department of Education based on the Program’s reporting requirements. HC indicated that the template enables it to collect detailed information that is useful for evaluating the implementation, impact and effectiveness of the Program. The questions in the template indicate the type of information and level of detail required, and seek to systematically obtain information on activities, outputs and results for all components of the Program. The information collected shows how the Program helps improve access to health services in the language of the minority and promote the use of English and French in the delivery of health services.

Inspired by a data collection tool developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the HC template has two parts: a four-month progress report and a performance report. The report includes information instruments, the obstacles that were encountered, exemplary and promising practices, and strategies for training, retaining, recruiting and increasing the number of health professionals who provide health services in official language minority communities.

In terms of financial management, HC indicated that, as part of its modernization of business processes, it will be using a new tracking system, the Grants and Contributions Information Management System, effective April 1, 2014. This system will enable the application of technology in the management of funding programs to improve effectiveness in supporting funding recipients, including official language minority communities. The Department believes that this system will make accountability for support provided to these communities more effective. It also indicated that the Official Language Community Development Bureau is implementing the recommendations of the summative evaluation of the Contribution Program to Improve Access to Health Services for Official Language Minority Communities, by introducing a strategy for systematic data collection and tools for recipients to monitor and report on program performance.

The implementation of these initiatives and our findings show that HC is ensuring that its transfer payments to the New Brunswick Department of Education are effectively managed.

Canadian Heritage

As previously mentioned, in terms of official languages, PCH has two main responsibilities: the development of official language communities, which includes minority-language education, and the enhancement of official languages, which includes second-language instruction for Canadians. These programs are governed by terms and conditions approved by the Treasury Board in 2009. PCH has subsequently developed terms and conditions and guidelines related to education to govern how the federal government works with the provinces and territories. According to these guidelines, a multilateral protocol must be signed with CMEC and with the provinces and territories to establish the collaboration and accountability parameters.

In terms of educational inter-governmental collaboration, the Director General calls upon the Director of Policy and Research to negotiate the multilateral Protocol with CMEC. CMEC also has a negotiating committee, consisting of seven senior officials from the provinces and territories. When the parties agree on the collaboration parameters, CMEC, through the Minister of Education who chairs CMEC, and the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages sign the Protocol.

Once the Protocol is signed, the Director General of Official Languages Support Programs calls upon the Director of Operations and Regional Coordination at PCH to negotiate the bilateral agreements with each provincial and territorial government. Supported by two teams of managers and program officers, the Director negotiates the provisions of the agreement with each province and territory, by reiterating in a more detailed manner the items presented in the Protocol. The provisions must also take into account the requirements set out in the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Directive on Transfer Payments (Appendix I: Transfer Payments to Other Orders of Government), as well as related instructions from the Department for all of its recipients. The bilateral agreements include provisions on objectives, the results framework, action plans, the financial breakdowns of federal contributions by province and territory, reports and templates.

When a consensus is reached on the content of the agreement and on the action plan for a province or territory, a funding recommendation, to which the agreement and action plan are attached, is sent to the Minister for approval. Everything is then sent to the province or territory in question for the Minister of Education’s signature.

The bilateral agreements are managed by a team from the Operations and Regional Coordination Branch, which is responsible for the following:

  • holding at least one annual meeting with provincial and territorial representatives to discuss the implementation of the action plan, and revise it, when required;
  • negotiating projects to complement the action plan, as needed;
  • receiving and analyzing drafts of annual and biennial reports to ensure their compliance, and discussing the progress of initiatives and targets set in the action plan with representatives from provincial and territorial governments, as well as how to present the information in the reports;
  • receiving final versions of reports approved by authorized officers from the province or territory. Financial reports are analyzed by financial officers from the Department’s Centre of Expertise, Grants and Contributions to initiate payments;
  • reporting on the provinces’ and territories’ educational achievements in PCH’s annual report on official languages.

The Official Languages Support Programs Branch prepares an annual report on official languages that contains key achievements in official languages support programs. The Branch receives reports from the provinces and territories, along with some reports prepared by CMEC, such as the report from the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program, which collects information on academic results, and the Pan-Canadian Report on Official Languages in Education 2005–06 to 2008–09, which presents the results of the intergovernmental collaboration between PCH and the provinces and territories. The publication of the next pan-Canadian report was planned for June 2013 and will present the activities from 2009 to 2011.

PCH has demonstrated a firm commitment to transfer payment accountability by implementing a formal process and producing educational tools that have been developed as part of the agreements with the provincial and territorial governments. The Department states in the administrative terms and conditions, which are presented in the schedule to these agreements with the provinces, that the text and its schedules must be made available to the Canadian public, specifically on their respective Web sites, within a reasonable amount of time following their signature. In this respect, our interviews indicated that the Department does not follow up to verify whether this is done. PCH also reports that the provinces must make copies of the final reports on results and actual expenditures available to the public. In accordance with the provisions in the agreements, those who wish to obtain this type of information can communicate with the provincial governments. In addition, PCH states that the principles of transparency, accountability, consistency, accuracy, timeliness and clarity shall guide public reporting related to these agreements. Therefore, PCH itself ensures transparency by posting agreements with the provinces and territories on its Web site.

Overall results

The audited institutions have made considerable efforts to develop frameworks and policies for official language minority community support programs.

For CIC, it has been difficult to assess the effectiveness of all provincial transfer payment accountability mechanism management activities, since the component related to the activities and services provided in French to Francophone newcomers is integrated into all of the activities set out in the agreements, rather than presented separately. Our interviews did not allow us to obtain specific information on whether transfer payments are managed effectively. When entering into any future agreements with the provinces, CIC should use the best practices put in place by HC and PCH regarding accountability for official languages transfer payments.

For example, HC conducts a comprehensive annual analysis of the implementation of activities set out in its agreement with the Government of New Brunswick. This exercise is carried out as part of its performance evaluation mechanism. The Department indicated that it follows up with the New Brunswick Department of Education by telephone and in writing to obtain clarifications in response to the four-month reports it receives. HC also conducts on-site spot checks as needed to observe the implementation and results of spending activities. In addition, the Department reserves the right to audit or to have an audit conducted of the accounts and records of the Government of New Brunswick to ensure compliance with the contribution agreement. The Consortium national de formation en santé regularly reviews the activities and reports presented by the New Brunswick Department of Education, which strengthens and complements HC’s evaluations. This initiative ensures better accountability for transfer payments to this province.

Our interviews with PCH found that the Department examines the annual and biennial reports to ensure compliance with all the conditions of the agreements related to education. This evaluation is mandatory to proceed with payment. An official approval process exists to ensure efficient financial management. Authorized persons within the senior management of provincial governments approve the activity reports as well as the financial reports submitted to PCH. The Department does not conduct on-site visits to validate the information that is received, although the agreements include a provision for access rights, which requires the provinces to allow the federal minister or his or her representatives to visit the sites where the funded projects are carried out under the agreement framework. However, interactions between education stakeholders, managers and program officers who work in regional offices and at headquarters lead to discussions about achievements at several levels. If provincial governments do not comply with the requirements set out in the agreements, provisions under which PCH could ask the provincial auditor to intervene exist. In addition, recourses are provided for in the agreements in case of breach of commitments. The Department also indicated that it carries out consultations across the country with provincial and territorial government representatives and official language community organizations involved in education before negotiating the Protocol with CMEC. In the 60 days preceding the close of each fiscal year, the Department meets with representatives from the provinces in question to discuss the implementation of their action plans and adjustments that need to be made. PCH also meets with the tripartite committee, established in 2005 to enable consultations with representatives from provincial departments of education, the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones, the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française and the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada. Our interviews revealed that this committee, which meets approximately twice per year, moves major, nation-wide educational issues forward.

HC and PCH have each established, in their own way, formal processes to ensure effective management of accountability for transfer payments to the provinces. These two institutions demonstrated leadership by taking concrete measures to monitor health and educational activities affecting official language minority communities. PCH must put a validation mechanism in place, as HC has done.

Recommendation 1

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) ensure the Government of British Columbia accounts for its activities and spending for Francophone newcomers separately and in more detail when preparing its final annual report, which will be presented to CIC on August 31, 2014.

This approach will enable CIC to ensure better management of accountability mechanisms and better understand spending related to official language communities as part of the settlement and integration of newcomers program in this province.

Recommendation 2

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Canadian Heritage proceed with field validations to follow up on activity and financial reports received in accordance with the outcomes domain in the agreements, to ensure better accountability for funds that are transferred to provincial and territorial departments of education. It must also ensure effective record keeping in this regard.

c) Verify whether Canadian Heritage, as the coordinator of official languages programs and in particular the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008–2013: Acting for the Future, effectively manages transfer payments to the audited institutions.

We learned, during the course of the audit, that the provinces receive funding from PCH for education from the Department’s budget and the Roadmap’s budget. However, PCH does not specify the source of funds in the Protocol for Agreements for Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction 2009–2010 to 2012–2013 between the Government of Canada and the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. That being said, the accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces for the amounts provided under the Roadmap are the same as for the funds from the Department’s budget. We note that PCH has established formal and effective processes for transfer payments to the provinces.

Objective 2

Verify whether the institutions have formal and effective procedures and mechanisms in place with regard to accountability for official languages transfer payments.

a) Verify whether institutions have policies, guidelines or other official documents regarding accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces and whether they take the obligations related to Part VII of the Official Languages Act into account.

In terms of financial management, the departments are subject to the Treasury Board Secretariat’s policies and guidelines, including those that apply to evaluations and transfer payments. The Policy on Transfer Payments clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities of the Treasury Board, the President and the Secretary of the Treasury Board, the ministers and the deputy heads in terms of designing, implementing and managing transfer payments programs. Along with the Policy, the Directive on Transfer Payments sets out in Appendix I the terms and conditions required for a transfer payment program that permits payments only to other orders of government, particularly the provinces and territories. Departmental managers who are responsible for preparing the terms and conditions must ensure that all of the mandatory elements are addressed in the terms and conditions of the transfer payments program.

In terms of official languages, two of the three institutions that were audited, HC and PCH, had policies and guidelines that take into account the requirements under Part VII of the Official Languages Act and refer to accountability.

Since 2004, HC has had the Policy to Support Official Language Minority Communities and related guidelines. This policy aims to ensure that branches and regional offices work with official language minority communities to ensure that they can more easily access HC programs, projects and services and are better informed. The Policy provides for an accountability mechanism for HC’s activities, and the results are included in the Department’s achievements report. Submitted annually to PCH, this report does not address official languages transfer payments. The “Policy Evaluation” section mentions that the Official Language Community Development Bureau will examine this policy in the three years following its implementation to determine its effectiveness. The evaluation of the policy had been conducted in 2011; however, although the results of this evaluation revealed the need to revise the policy, it had not been done at the time of our audit. We encourage HC to quickly move forward with the review of this policy in order to comply with Part VII of the Official Languages Act, which was modified in 2005. The new HC policy and guidelines affecting official language minority communities must take these amendments into account.

In 2010, PCH implemented guidelines for five activity components, including minority-language education and second-language instruction. For example, the Minority-Language Education component of the Development of Official-Language Communities Program aims to improve the provincial and territorial supply of programs and activities to provide education in the language of official language minority communities (Anglophones in Quebec and Francophones outside Quebec), at all levels of education. The sub-components set out detailed criteria: objective, cooperation framework, eligible recipients, eligible expenditures, timeframe, content of the submission, evaluation criteria, conditions of funding and parameters. Guidelines related to official languages support programs at PCH are clear for program activities and funding and comply with the protocol between the Government of Canada and CMEC, the key partner for federal intervention in bilateral education agreements with the provinces and territories, in which the accountability provisions are described.

b) Verify whether institutions have developed results-based standards with regard to accountability for transfer payments to the provinces. Verify whether everything is officially documented.

The institutions have introduced management accountability frameworks that include requirements and expectations for several official languages-related areas of activity as well as accountability provisions.

The agreements between the provinces and each of the three audited institutions clearly establish the conditions and deadlines for the submission of work plans and achievement and financial reports. HC’s and PCH’s agreements are much more detailed and explicit than CIC’s. They include templates that could serve as models for accountability for performance and results, as well as a template for developing comprehensive action plans. These models clearly indicate the focuses or areas of results statements and results-based performance indicators. All work performed by the provincial governments and the departments is officially documented.

c) Verify whether the institutions have a performance measurement framework and how the results are evaluated. Verify who is responsible for complying with the stated conditions and for the actions that are taken when the conditions are not complied with.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

CIC has a process for receiving service plans and annual reports from the two provinces with which it negotiates agreements. These documents are reviewed to ensure compliance with the requirements of the agreements. However, our interviews revealed that the Department does not conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the plans and reports that are submitted to it because the requirements in the agreements are minimal. Following receipt of these documents, the Deputy Minister sends a courtesy letter to the British Columbia and Manitoba deputy ministers. However, the CIC’s comments do not deal with official languages activities.

The Department is developing an official performance measurement framework. It has recognized the need to establish more specific requirements in its agreements to better evaluate the provinces’ performance regarding the development of Francophone newcomers.

Lastly, CIC is not in a position to fully evaluate all the results of the funding under its agreements. It should be possible to observe the concrete results of agreements of this size.

Health Canada

HC has a performance measurement framework in place for accountability for transfer payments to the province of New Brunswick for the professional development of health students from official language minority communities. The New Brunswick Department of Education, with which there is an agreement, must report on its activities every four months. The Official Language Community Development Bureau has established a reporting evaluation process. When there is incomplete information in the reports, follow-ups are carried out with the province’s project coordinator. HC issues the payments once the evaluation is complete and the submitted measures and results are satisfactoryFootnote 1.

Canadian Heritage

PCH has also developed an ongoing performance measurement strategy for the Development of Official-Language Communities Program. This strategy is found in Appendix C of the Results-based Management and Accountability Framework and Risk-based Audit Framework for the Official Languages Support Program: Development of Official-Languages Communities (DOLC) 2009–2010 to 2013–2014. The following elements are assessed as part of this strategy: activities, results (for example, the outputs as well as the ultimate, immediate and intermediate outcomes), descriptions, performance indicators, data sources, collection methods, branches responsible for collection and frequency of the measures.

HC’s and PCH’s efforts enable them to measure the provinces’ performance, since there is an official mechanism in place to verify compliance with the conditions in the agreements. HC goes even further by requiring and evaluating the reports of the New Brunswick Department of Education on a more frequent schedule.

d) Verify whether the institutions are ensuring that the objectives of Part VII of the Official Languages Act are part of the agreements with the provinces.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

By defining the responsibility to design, supply and administer settlement services to newcomers in their respective territory, with the federal government’s financial support, Annex A of the Canada–British Columbia Immigration Agreement and the Canada–Manitoba Immigration Agreement vaguely describe the Department’s official languages obligations and the objectives of Part VII of the Official Languages Act. In 2010, CIC renewed its agreement with British Columbia and made certain provisions more explicit. However, the same was not done for the agreement with Manitoba. Annex A of each agreement outlines the responsibilities concerning settlement and integration services funded by the federal government, including the roles and responsibilities of the provincial and federal governments, the financial terms and conditions, implementation and reporting. CIC recognizes the shortcomings in both agreements, which prevent it from conducting a detailed evaluation of all the services provided to newcomers.

Our review of the agreements signed with the provincial governments revealed that the obligations under Part VII of the Official Languages Act are not well defined. Moreover, CIC has not provided the tools the provinces need to report results in concrete terms. In particular, the institution has not developed reporting templates and has not identified the targeted areas related to the results-based performance indicators. This is a serious problem. Our interviews show that CIC is not able to report on expected results or on funds allocated specifically to settlement and integration services for Francophone newcomers in minority communities.

Health Canada

HC has a contribution agreement with the New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour. This agreement is a component of the Official Languages Health Contribution Program (2008–2009 to 2012–2013), focusing on the training and retention of health professionals from official language minority communities.

Appendix A of the agreement includes a component on official languages requirements, which stipulates that the administration of this agreement is subject to the Official Languages Act of Canada and the Act Recognizing the Equality of the Two Official Linguistic Communities in New Brunswick. It also stipulates that the promotion, recruitment, coordination and liaison activities, as well as a dissemination plan, are all to be prepared in the language of the communities in question.

In addition, the agreement includes the detailed annual budget for the duration of the project. It describes how the province of New Brunswick must submit financial reports by the deadlines established in Appendix C and report to HC through reports, including audit reports prepared by official auditors of New Brunswick’s Department of Education. Everything must be done in compliance with recognized accounting principles, while cooperating on any evaluation conducted by HC and supplying data through a performance measurement framework.

Our review enabled us to conclude that the requirements of Part VII of the Act are part of the conditions of the agreement for the training of health professionals from official language minority communities.

Canadian Heritage

The PCH agreements establish that, under the Official Languages Act and its policies, the Department works with the provincial and territorial governments as well as with Canadian organizations and other federal institutions. The purpose of this collaboration is to promote the equal status and use of English and French and promote the development and vitality of official language communities and ensure their full participation in Canadian society.

Appendix 4 of the agreements sets out six outcome areas for the Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction programs: student participation, program delivery, student performance, enriched educational environments, access to post-secondary education and support for teaching and research staff.

The minority-language education and second-language instruction agreements with the provinces that we examined clearly state the requirements of Part VII of the Official Languages Act.

Objective 3

Verify whether federal institutions are effectively monitoring their performance in terms of accountability for official languages transfer payments.

a) Verify whether the institutions have reliable, official mechanisms, including internal auditing, for ensuring that all activities related to accountability for transfer payments to the provinces are in compliance. Verify responsibilities, reports and follow-ups, and how decision-makers are informed of results.

The three audited institutions have established a four-month, annual and biennial reports and plans review process. Consequently, our interviews found that those responsible for official language minority community support programs at HC and PCH were informed of the activities, spending and results thanks to official and reliable mechanisms. However, we cannot say the same for CIC. While CIC does receive annual reports, it is not in a position to officially evaluate the results of spending activities that stem from its agreements with British Columbia and Manitoba. For example, British Columbia does not differentiate between integration services provided to newcomers and integration services provided to Francophone newcomers in minority communities.

More specifically, we sought to determine whether, over the past three years, each institution carried out program evaluations and internal audits with regard to accountability for official languages transfer payments.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

CIC carried out the Evaluation of the Recruitment and Integration of French Speaking Immigrants to Francophone Minority Communities Initiative in 2012. This evaluation examined activities under the Roadmap, particularly those tied to MOUs with organizations. It did not examine the agreements with British Columbia and Manitoba. Nevertheless, the results of the evaluation are interesting. In terms of accountability, the evaluation found shortcomings in data collection. It also found faults in the reliability of the CAMS system, within the SAP financial system, since CIC officers do not always collect and process data systematically. The evaluation indicates that there are significant differences between what is coded into the SAP system and the amounts entered in files or databases used by CIC officers in various regions.

CIC noted that it usually conducts its program evaluations, including those related to its agreements, every five years. However, the Department will not conduct a formal evaluation of the agreements negotiated with British Columbia and Manitoba, since these agreements end in 2013 and 2014 respectively, and will not be renewed. CIC will still ask the provinces to submit a summary of the lessons learned.

Health Canada

In 2011, HC published a report titled Audit of the Key Financial Controls, an audit that reviewed the control mechanisms that allow HC to meet its objectives so that it can fulfill its responsibilities in terms of completeness, validity and accuracy for processing financial transactions, as well as the accuracy of the Department’s financial statements. The results of this audit indicate that the key financial controls specific to grant and contribution agreement processing are functioning properly at HC, since no discrepancies were observed. These results apply to the contribution agreement with the New Brunswick Department of Education, which is mentioned several times in this report.

During our audit, HC conducted a summative evaluation of the Official Language Community Support Program. The results, including the recommendations, will be published in the fall of 2013.

Canadian Heritage

PCH indicated that an evaluation of its official languages support programs was underway at the time of our audit.

In 2008, the Audit and Assurance Services Directorate of the Office of the Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive conducted an audit of official languages support programs. The purpose of the audit was to ensure that the management control mechanisms, risk management frameworks and overall governance structure were effective and adequate. This audit also aimed to reassure PCH that the control mechanisms that were in place were effective in that they provided reliable operational and financial information. The results of the audit showed that the Official Languages Support Programs Branch had put in place sound control management mechanisms for program design, implementation and related management tools. However, the audit team recommended some improvements, particularly in areas such as the management of advance payments to recipients, employees’ workload, monitoring of recipients and access to the Department’s Grants and Contributions Information Management System, in order to ensure that access rights for users are appropriate.

As part of its Risk-Based Audit Plan 2012–2013 to 2014–2015, the Department plans to conduct an audit of the implementation of the modernization of grants and contributions. This management priority is consistent with the implementation of the recommendations made by the independent expert panel and the provisions of the Policy on Transfer Payments. It aims to simplify how the grants and contributions programs are implemented and reduce the administrative burden, while ensuring the quality of accountability. Our audit revealed that those responsible for the official languages programs in the three institutions do not seem to have the reflex of consulting the internal audit directorate of their respective departments to review their programs’ transfer payment accountability mechanisms. These individuals would be well advised to work upstream with the internal audit directorates, which will help identify shortcomings in a timely manner.

Recommendation 3

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Canadian Heritage use its next internal audit on the modernization of grants and contributions to integrate all accountability activities related to transfer payments to the provinces and territories, and governed by official languages support programs, into its audit objectives.

b) Verify whether the monitoring results are used to manage the accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces for official language minority communities.

At HC and PCH, the results of internal audits have been positive. We believe that the two departments will maintain their focus on ongoing improvement. CIC still has a lot of monitoring work left to do since some shortcomings were noted during the last evaluation on the recruitment and integration of French-speaking immigrants in minority communities, particularly in the management of accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to provinces.

Conclusion

The purpose of our audit was to determine whether there was a strong commitment from senior management at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Health Canada (HC) and Canadian Heritage (PCH) with regard to accountability mechanisms for official languages transfer payments to the provinces in the areas of immigration, professional training in health and minority-language education and second-language instruction. It also sought to verify whether these institutions have developed formal and effective accountability mechanisms and procedures, and whether the departments were effectively managing their performance with regard to accountability for official languages transfer payments.

We conclude that the three audited institutions have official accountability mechanisms. However, the accountability mechanisms and procedures tied to a performance measurement framework at HC and PCH ensure better governance of the public funds transferred to the provinces for official languages than CIC’s do.

The audited institutions have made considerable efforts and demonstrated leadership by establishing reliable and transparent official languages governance structures. They have developed key documents, including management and accountability frameworks, performance measurement frameworks, policies, guidelines and standards related to Part VII of the Official Languages Act. They have also set up formal and advisory committees, working groups and a consortium to establish the requirements set out in the grants and contributions agreements and to oversee their implementation. The three institutions have put official processes in place to ensure better accountability for transfer payments, for both achievements reports and financial reports. While a process exists at CIC, the Department is not able to evaluate the effectiveness and results of the agreements with the provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba.

In terms of monitoring accountability mechanisms, only HC and PCH have conducted program evaluations and internal audits to ensure that all accountability activities for transfer payments to the provinces are compliant. Our interviews found that decision-makers know and understand the status of agreements with provincial governments, which we have examined.

In light of the foregoing, the Commissioner is satisfied with the results of the audits of HC and PCH, because we did not identify any shortcomings under the objectives and criteria. We noted that HC goes beyond the practices established by PCH, as it conducts field audits of transferred funds, and requires activity and financial reports on a more frequent basis. We are of the opinion that PCH could benefit from these good practices.

We are not ruling out the possibility of problems related to other parameters. It is important to note that auditing provincial governments does not fall under the purview of the Commissioner of Official Languages. It is for this reason that this audit did not examine whether the provincial governments use the funds that are transferred to them by the three federal institutions as they should, but rather whether the institutions fulfilled their obligation to ensure they did. We encourage the institutions to carry out other types of audits, including financial audits, to examine how the funds are spent and ensure that the transfer payments to the provinces achieve the expected results.

We noted problems in the agreements CIC signed with British Columbia and Manitoba. The agreement with Manitoba that ended in April 2013 and the agreement with British Columbia that will end in April 2014 will not be renewed. However, if the Department ever negotiates other agreements for the settlement and integration of newcomers and immigrants in official language minority communities, it should put appropriate accountability mechanisms in place. To do this, it could look at the good practices implemented by HC and PCH. The Commissioner has made one recommendation to CIC and two recommendations to PCH to help them improve their accountability for official languages transfer payments to the provinces.

We are satisfied with the steps taken by CIC with the Government of British Columbia to implement the first recommendation. We are also satisfied with PCH’s response to the third recommendation. We are only partially satisfied with PCH’s response to the second recommendation, because the Department provided comments but did not submit a detailed action plan for implementing this recommendation. However, PCH has committed to making ad hoc visits during its official trips to annual meetings in order to discuss action plans and projects related to the agreements with the provinces and territories. PCH has also promised to document these meetings rigorously.

Implementation of all the recommendations in this report will allow CIC and PCH to comply with Part VII of the Official Languages Act with respect to accountability for transfer payments to the provinces and territories.

Appendix A

Audit objectives and criteria

Objectives Criteria
  1. Ensure that senior management at the audited institutions are strongly committed to accountability mechanisms for official languages transfer payments to the provinces.
  1. Verify whether the institutions have accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces. Verify whether the institutions have an effective, transparent governance structure in place for accountability with regard to official languages.

  2. Verify how the audited institutions ensure effective management of official languages transfer payments to the provinces.

  3. Verify whether Canadian Heritage, as the coordinator of official languages programs and in particular the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008–2013: Acting for the Future, effectively manages transfer payments to the audited institutions.
  1. Verify whether the institutions have formal and effective procedures and mechanisms in place with regard to accountability for official languages transfer payments.
  1. Verify whether institutions have policies, guidelines or other official documents regarding accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces and whether they take the obligations related to Part VII of the Official Languages Act into account.

  2. Verify whether institutions have developed results-based standards with regard to accountability for transfer payments to the provinces. Verify whether everything is officially documented.

  3. Verify whether the institutions have a performance measurement framework and how the results are evaluated. Verify who is responsible for complying with the stated conditions and for the actions that are taken when the conditions are not complied with.

  4. Verify whether the institutions are ensuring that the objectives of Part VII of the Official Languages Act are part of the agreements with the provinces.
  1. Verify whether federal institutions are effectively monitoring their performance in terms of accountability for official languages transfer payments.
  1. Verify whether the institutions have reliable, official mechanisms, including internal auditing, for ensuring that all activities related to accountability for transfer payments to the provinces are in compliance. Verify responsibilities, reports and follow-ups, and how decision-makers are informed of results.

  2. Verify whether the monitoring results are used to manage the accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces for official language minority communities.

Appendix B

List of recommendations for each objective, Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s and Canadian Heritage’s comments and action plan, and Commissionner’s comments

We are satisfied with the proposed actions and timeframes in Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) action plan. We are also satisfied with the response by Canadian Heritage (PCH) to the third recommendation. However, we are only partially satisfied with PCH’s response to the second recommendation.

We would like to thank departmental staff who took part in the audit for their cooperation.

Objective 1

Ensure that senior management at the audited institutions are strongly committed to accountability mechanisms for official languages transfer payments to the provinces.

Recommendation 1

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) ensure the Government of British Columbia accounts for its activities and spending for Francophone newcomers separately and in more detail when preparing its final annual report, which will be presented to CIC on August 31, 2014.

CIC’s action plan

Action Plan: CIC officials have already communicated this concern to British Columbia, and the province has undertaken to provide more detailed information on activities and spending for Francophone newcomers separately in their annual reports for 2012–13 and 2013–14.

Responsibility: Integration / FCRO

Timelines: Q2 2013–2014 and Q2 2014–2015

Commissioner’s comments

We are satisfied with the measures already taken by CIC with the Government of British Columbia to implement this recommendation.

Recommendation 2

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Canadian Heritage proceed with field validations to follow up on activity and financial reports received in accordance with the outcomes domain in the agreements, to ensure better accountability for funds that are transferred to provincial and territorial departments of education. It must also ensure effective record keeping in this regard.

PCH’s comments

Although the Department of Canadian Heritage has no structured program of field validation, it uses some mechanisms and indicators to monitor federal investment: official meetings with the provinces and territories, field visits during business trips and informal feedback from community organizations.

Under the agreements between the Department of Canadian Heritage and the department of education of each provincial and territorial government, annual meetings between federal and provincial representatives are planned to discuss the implementation of the provincial/territorial action plan. This provides an opportunity to receive an update on the status of achievements and ask questions concerning the implementation of the agreement. The Department will continue its efforts to document these meetings rigorously.

Canadian Heritage representatives also take advantage of their business trips to make ad hoc visits to schools or school/community centres and speak with leading community stakeholders in the region visited. In addition, informal feedback from various organizations also provides Canadian Heritage with an overview of the impact of its support to the provinces and territories.

The establishment of a formal validation program would include several difficult issues to resolve and significant costs, given that the activities and projects that come out of these intergovernmental agreements are distributed over much of Canada.

Moreover, the activities and projects concerned are the exclusive jurisdiction of the provincial and territorial governments. In this context, the accountability mechanisms provided for in the intergovernmental agreements take into account the fact that these governments all have extensive financial management and control systems to be accountable to the public.

Commissioner’s response

PCH has provided comments but has not presented an action plan in response to this recommendation.

We recognize the work done by PCH with respect to the mechanisms affecting departments of education and with respect to the formal annual meetings to discuss action plans and projects related to the agreements with the provinces and territories. We also understand the context within which PCH carries out its mandate. However, the Department needs to build on what it has already done. First, it must make absolutely certain that careful records are kept to document discussions of accountability at meetings with the provinces. Also, the Department says that it takes advantage of business trips to make ad hoc visits to schools or community centres. These visits should be planned and targeted based on a risk analysis so that PCH can get the most out of its business trips. Finally, the feedback PCH receives from community organizations should be formalized and structured.

In light of the above, we maintain our recommendation that PCH proceed with official field validations to follow up on activity and financial reports arising from the agreements, to ensure better accountability and compliance with Part VII of the Official Languages Act.

Objective 3

Verify whether federal institutions are effectively monitoring their performance in terms of accountability for official languages transfer payments.

Recommendation 3

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Canadian Heritage use its next internal audit on the modernization of grants and contributions to integrate all accountability activities related to transfer payments to the provinces and territories, and governed by official languages support programs, into its audit objectives.

PCH’s comments and action plan

Canadian Heritage will take this recommendation into account when conducting future audits on grants and contributions. It may include in its audit plan for the official languages support programs an audit of the accountability mechanisms provided for in the federal-provincial/territorial agreements.

Commissioner’s comments

We are satisfied with PCH’s proposed measures to implement this recommendation.

Footnotes

Return to footnote 1 referrer See the detailed accountability mechanisms for transfer payments to the provinces in Objective 1b) of this report.