Oversight and openness: Fixing the RCMP – Canadian Government Executive

NEWS

SEARCH

Digital Governance with Jeffrey RoyICT
May 7, 2012

Oversight and openness: Fixing the RCMP

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are one of Canada’s most critical assets in a digital world, fighting cyber-crime and terrorism at home and abroad along with all of the functions and responsibilities that come with serving as the country’s only national police force. Unfortunately, in recent years the RCMP has faced a series of crises and scandals with life and death consequences and unprecedented management upheaval.

In a long overdue sign of resurgence, the RCMP Commissioner and the government would seem to be getting serious about a legislative and organizational overhaul. A major change being contemplated is granting the Force greater autonomy via separate employer status that implies greater freedoms from the shackles of central agency policies and procedures. In return, a new corporate governance regime would feature a board to provide managerial oversight, not unlike the Canada Revenue Agency model in some respects.

Such changes have been proposed by several studies and reviews in recent years, notably the Brown report commissioned by the federal government in the aftermath of financial mismanagement scandals. Complementary proposals for greater public oversight were offered by Justice O’Connor following the Maher Arar inquiry, although the scope of his recommendations also extended beyond the RCMP to include the entire national security apparatus (of which the RCMP is a key component).

There are wider implications for the federal government as a whole and it will be interesting to see whether the present Conservative government comes to embrace changes that may be viewed as fragmentary in nature. After all, we live in a world of growing interoperability and enterprise architectures for the Government of Canada (cloud computing being the next iteration), along with systemic horizontal expenditure reviews. Is a looser grip over the RCMP the right thing to do in such a context?

It absolutely is. Along with an overly inward culture that led to scandal, the RCMP has long struggled with its own IT infrastructure in part due to the unwieldy processes of government-wide planning and procurement (faring less well than the CRA and various other autonomous agencies). Empowerment is a better bet than control provided the necessary governance mechanisms are in place to provide a mix of guidance and oversight. Chief among these mechanisms is the board of management, which will require both competence and independence in order to play such a role. The spectacular failure of Ontario’s E-Health Agency in recent years underscores the risks and consequences of governance failure and the importance of getting it right.

In this informational era, individual departments and agencies require greater managerial autonomy; however, their organizational leaders must be held more publicly accountable as a result. Traditionalists defending the Westminster model will cry foul, arguing that only ministers can be held to account. This has clearly not been the case in the RCMP. While some would say this is due to the particulars of policing (and the need for some independence from political control), the RCMP should instead be viewed as a desired norm rather than the exception.

The world of technology is making interoperability increasingly feasible due to the advent of open source and open standards. What is missing is a willingness of government units to collaborate and engage in integrated outcomes. The key to facilitating this collaboration is not to seek ordainment from the centre (be it the PMO or Treasury Board) but rather to empower individual units with the tools to do their jobs and to provide a performance regime that demands results.

It is for politicians to set the policy objectives and to devise the governance mechanisms that enable departments and agencies to perform, both separately and collectively. It is for managers, aided and overviewed by effective boards, to undertake operational decisions and to be held to account in an increasingly open and direct manner.

The final piece of the RCMP governance puzzle is greater political and civilian oversight of the wider national security apparatus. The highly legalistic, secretive, and after-the-fact review of Afghan detainee documents further underscores Justice O’Connor’s call for wider and more regularized oversight of how national security information is gathered and shared, both within and across jurisdictions. Paradoxically, the more separate the RCMP becomes, the greater the need for proactive openness and scrutiny by politicians over policy matters.

So wish the RCMP well. Quite aside from its crucial role in safeguarding our society, the organization is also a critically important test case for governance reform across the public sector.

 

Jeffrey Roy is Associate Professor in the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University (roy@dal.ca).

About this author

Jeffrey Roy

Jeffrey Roy

Jeffrey Roy is Professor in the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Management. He is a widely published observer and critic of the impacts of digital technologies on government and democracy. He has worked with the United Nations, the OECD, multinational corporations, and all levels of government in Canada. He has produced more than eighty peer-reviewed articles and chapters and his most recent book was published in 2013 by Springer: From Machinery to Mobility: Government and Democracy in a Participative Age. Among other bodies, his research has been funded by the IBM Center for the Business of Government and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He may be reached at: roy@dal.ca

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Digital Governance with Jeffrey Roy
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
The arrival of President Trump in the White House marks a...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
In January, the BBC and BuzzFeed jointly released an exposé on...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
That the new Liberal Government has embraced ‘open government’ is hardly...
 
In 2011, the World Economic Forum presented its vision of a...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
With a seemingly ubiquitous Internet and mobile devices at every turn,...
 
At the end of November, the Council of Europe hosted the...
 
For the casual observer, openness and transparency are terms that can...
 
At stake is the evolving apparatus enjoining Canadians with the information...
 
Faced with the Newtown tragedy, President Obama has sought to make...
 
The now, seemingly distant 2012 holiday season proved to be fertile...
 
In 2008, President Obama refashioned American politics for a more digital...
 
As governments seek transformational change to shift from austerity to agility,...
 
In recent months, Apple and Samsung have been clobbering one another...
 
During the month of October tens of millions of viewers will...
 
For Egyptians and Mexicans, this past summer showcased the imperfections of...
 
With the federal public service in a state of budgetary retrenchment,...
 
Do we read books anymore? Travel on airplanes or trains these...
 
In February, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper announced the formation...
 
Is there reason to hope? Once again, the federal government has...
 
Au moment où s’amorce la présidence d’Obama, les spéculations vont bon...
 
As the Obama Presidency begins, there is much speculation as to...
 
A strange paradox has emerged in the quest for Gov 2.0....
 
One of the peculiarities of the 21st century is the correlation...
 
When President Barack Obama campaigns during the coming months for re-election,...
 
As the iCloud takes hold – along with numerous other private,...
 
A new year is a good time to reflect on the...
 
If only it were so. While Shared Services Canada promises simplicity...
 
The securing of a much-coveted majority by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives surely...
 
The federal election campaign has not been particularly kind to cities...
 
Despite the occasional ministerial tweet and public banter about the federal...
 
More than a decade ago, some enterprising folks at Industry Canada...
 
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are one of Canada’s most critical...
 
Toronto’s new mayor, Rob Ford, has pledged to cut city council...
 
As BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion negotiates with many governments around the...
 
To start with a timeless question: what do woman want? Presumably,...
 
One important consequence of climate change is rising ocean levels. The...
 
Shortly after the Quebec referendum of October 1995 that brought the...
 
As this column goes to print (literally or online as the...
 
Full disclosure – the Conservative government has serious problems with the...
 
Students of public administration struggle with an important contradiction of Westminster...
 
L’opération de promotion à laquelle l’Alberta s’est récemment livrée souligne les...
 
Alberta’s recent branding exercise underscores the tensions and risks inherent in...
 
La plupart des organismes se voient affecter des « directeurs des...
 
With Parliament once again open and a new federal budget in...
 
Two important global events are garnering much attention: the upcoming Winter...
 
The recent scandals plaguing Ontario’s e-health agency carry important lessons for...
 
The Obama administration is appointing “Directors of New Media” for most...
 
Y a-t-il de l’espoir? Une fois de plus, le gouvernement fédéral...
 
Dans le numéro de janvier, Ruth Hubbard et David Zussman nous...
 
In the January issue, Ruth Hubbard and David Zussman discussed the...
 
The past decade has given rise to tremendous experimentation in public...
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...

Member Login

Forgot Password?

Join Us

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.