Audit finds massive delays in CPP, weakness in government IT infrastructure – Canadian Government Executive

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February 2, 2016

Audit finds massive delays in CPP, weakness in government IT infrastructure

Auditor General's report on Shared Services Canada is a lesson in how not to run an IT department

The latest Auditor General’s report on Shared Services Canada (SSC) and the Social Security Tribunal could be an instructive document for IT managers on how not to run an IT department.

The latest report of Auditor General Michael Ferguson revealed a huge backlog delaying the processing of Canada Pension Plan disability claims and failure of SSC to meets its goal of cutting cost and streamlining the government’s IT infrastructure.

A look into the operation of the Social Security Tribunal of Canada created by the former Conservative government in 2012 showed that 38 per cent of CPP disability claimants have been waiting for over a year for their appeals to be heard.

The tribunal was created to process disability claims but the backlog of cases waiting for an appeal has nearly doubled since the tribunal was created. The AG’s office found that the average waiting for a decision is more than 800 days, double that of what it was before the tribunal was set in place.

The SSC was created to maintain and improve government IT services, generate savings, and improve IT security. SSC began its tasks in 2013 and was expected to completely transform government IT shared services by 2020.

The auditor general’s investigation revealed the SSC has made very little progress.

“We concluded that, for the transformative initiatives that we examined, Shared Services Canada has made limited progress in implementing key elements of its transformation plan, and it has challenges in adequately demonstrating that it is able to meet its objectives in maintaining or improving IT services and generating savings,” Ferguson said in his report.

He said SSC failed to establish “clear and concrete expectations” in maintaining original service levels for its 43 partners and “rarely” gave them adequate information and guidelines to aid them in complying with government IT security policies and standards.

The audit also found the SSC had weaknesses in measuring and tracking its progress on transformation initiatives and savings.

“As a result, it cannot show if and how it is maintaining or improving services since its creation,” Ferguson said.

The SSC was supposed to have migrated more than 500,000 email accounts to a new streamlined system in March of 2015. The audit found that only 3,000 accounts have been moved to the new system.

SSC revealed last month that technical problems had put on hold the government’s move to a single email system. The program was supposed to have improved service and saved the government $60 million annually.

As part of its recommendations, the AG’s office said SSC should:

  • Continue to develop a comprehensive service catalogue that includes a complete list of services provided to partners, levels of service offered, and service targets.
  • Work with its partners to establish agreements that clearly and concretely articulate service expectations, including roles and responsibilities, service targets, and associated reporting commitments.
  • Measure and report to Parliament and partners in key areas of IT system health performance (such as security, availability, reliability, and capacity) and on partner satisfaction. Where partner service is below target, SSC should put action plans in place to remediate levels.
  • The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat should put into effect a completed IT Strategic Plan for the Government of Canada.
  • In order for partners to comply with government IT security policies, guidelines, and standards, Shared Services Canada should establish expectations and provide the necessary information to partners for the IT infrastructure and services that it manages.
  • The SSC Canada should reassess the reporting process for its transformation initiatives to:
    • Ensure that the methods for measuring progress are defined and aligned to key benefits established at the outset of the initiative and
    • Establish review mechanisms to ensure that information reported to the senior management board on the status of transformation initiatives is clear and accurate.
  • In supporting its funding strategy for its ongoing operations and investments, Shared Services Canada should include in its strategy:
    • A formal methodology to prioritize and allocate funding for its investments in legacy and transformation initiatives that includes detailed criteria and rationales and
    • A clear process to ensure that it has the available funding to address its funding deficiencies.

The auditor general also recommended that the SSC should periodically refine its methodologies and practices to enable them to accurately determine and report savings.

About this author

Nestor Arellano

Nestor is a Toronto-based journalist who specializes in writing about technology and business. He is the editor of Vanguard Magazine and the associate editor of IT in Canada and a regular contributor to CGE.

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