This page has been archived on the Web
Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.
Audit and Evaluation Annual Report 2009–2010
- 1. Executive Summary
- 2. 1 Introduction
- 3. 2 Findings and Recommendations – Network Governance
- 4. 3 Findings and Recommendations – Network Sustainability and Configuration
- 5. 4 Management Response
- 6. 5 Conclusion
- 7. Annex 1 - Network Configuration
- 8. Annex 2 - Network Configuration Benchmarking
- 9. Annex 3 - Documentation References – Network Governance
- 10. Annex 4 - Network Configuration
- 11. Annex 5 - Interviews – Network Governance
- 12. Annex 6 - Interviews – Network Configuration
The audit of the National Hydrometric Program was included in the departmental Audit and Evaluation Plan 2009–2012 as approved by the Deputy Minister, upon recommendation of the External Audit Advisory Committee. The rationale for this audit is explained by the complexity of the program in terms of its management structure, network size, capacity and sustainability. The objective of the audit is to provide assurance on the adequacy of:
- the internal and external governance of the hydrometric network, looking in particular at the committee architecture, decision making process, reporting structure, and the centre of control; and
- the current hydrometric network configuration and delivery approaches, compared to its size, capacity and sustainability.
The scope is Department-wide and focuses on Environment Canada’s governance and configuration of the National Hydrometric Program as it existed at the time of the audit. The scope does not cover the management performed by the other jurisdictions (provinces, territories or municipalities) or the National Water Quality Monitoring Program.
To assess the governance of the program, the audit team used recognized governance models, frameworks and indicators from national and international institutions in order to derive the audit criteria. The assessment of the network configuration was performed by a reputable expert advisor in the water management field. Interviews with federal, provincial and territorial managers from the National Hydrometric Program and other water specialists were performed, along with an extensive documentation review to validate all findings.
Statement of Assurance
This audit has been conducted in accordance with the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing and the Policy on Internal Audit of the Treasury Board of Canada.
In our professional judgement, sufficient and appropriate audit procedures have been conducted and evidence gathered to support the accuracy of the conclusions reached and contained in this report. The conclusions were based on a comparison of the situations, as they existed at the time, against the audit criteria.
Summary of Findings and Recommendations
Reliable data and information concerning the levels and flows of Canada’s lakes and rivers are critically important to continued economic prosperity, the sustainable management of the environment, and the health and safety of Canadians. Hydrometric information is also required to effectively support policy development and implementation with respect to water availability for economic development in different regions. It has been estimated (Environment Canada 2004) that water’s measurable contribution to the Canadian economy ranges from $7.5–$23 billion annually, and the amount invested in water monitoring should reflect this economic value. It is clear that the best method for collecting and archiving hydrometric data, and establishing national standards, is via a nationally coordinated program.
Overall, the governance of the National Hydrometric Program is functioning well. The framework exists for participation and delegation of responsibilities among the federal, provincial and territorial Parties. Authorities and responsibilities are reasonably clear and consistent. An accountability regime is in place and operational risks are well assessed. Decision making is open, transparent and based on consensus. By definition, a decision making process based on consensus brings coherence, but takes time and may impact negatively on efficiency. All Parties accept this as a normal cost to manage a federal-provincial/territorial program. In addition, the National Hydrometric Program is compliant with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO 9001:2000 standards and is being managed from a continuous improvement perspective.
The governance of the National Hydrometric Program would benefit from continuous improvements to: the program’s authorities and responsibilities within Environment Canada and between Environment Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada; the assessment of strategic risks, the performance of the program in general, and clients’ satisfaction; the establishment of priorities on the basis of clients’ needs; and communication, exchange of information, learning and innovation (the term “clients” is defined in section 1.2 of the report).
On the aspect of network sustainability, a detailed comparison of the effectiveness of the hydrometric programs in different countries was performed with the use of station densities. It is notable that Canada is a country with one of the largest land spaces, greatest renewable water resources, and one of the lowest abilities to fund the program. More interestingly, compared with other countries, the hydrometric network densities in Canada are among the highest compared to its capacity to fund programs.
While the capacity to fund programs is of interest in comparing the National Hydrometric Program to other countries, the overriding issue is that the importance of our water monitoring programs is undervalued. The size and structure of the hydrometric network is considered insufficient for the overall characterization of water resources in Canada. The needs of other clients for water resources planning, environmental assessment, project approvals, climate change analysis and other scientific requirements are not generally met by the current network configuration, particularly in northern Canada. It was noted that it is not just a question of the total number of stations, as some stations are located for specific needs and are not always in the best locations for research and hydrological analysis. Particular concern was expressed regarding the loss of key long-term stations in reference to the Hydrometric Basin Network. The loss of stations in the 1990s due to budget cuts was a loss to hydrologic records in Canada.
The National Hydrometric Program has been making great strides in the past several years with respect to improving service delivery to clients. This has been achieved in a context of resource restraints and a decrease in the number of hydrometric stations. As a result, it is necessary for the program to continue looking for service and technological improvements through innovative, cost effective solutions.
The National Hydrometric Program would also benefit from carrying out the following through strategic planning: assessing the current network risks and vulnerabilities; evaluating the demands and establishing priorities to ensure the network provides the largest benefits for the financial resources available, and that resources are optimized to address the areas of greatest concerns; and continued efforts at service and technological improvements through innovative, cost effective solutions, especially in remote locations.
Recommendations regarding the Network Governance are that:
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, with the collaboration of the National Administrators Table (NAT) and the National Hydrometric Program Coordinators Committee (NHPCC), pursue efforts in the development and implementation of a new approach to strategic planning based on a regular assessment of strategic risks, clients and stakeholders’ needs, and that includes strategies for learning, innovation and external communication.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, explore with the Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, a single window approach to the management of water quantity and quality falling under the purview of Environment Canada, that would benefit provinces and territories.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, meet with his counterpart in Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) to try to clarify roles and responsibilities between the two departments in the management of the National Hydrometric Program (water quantity management).
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, with the collaboration of the NAT and NHPCC, further develop the framework to assess the overall performance of the program (ultimate outcomes) and the satisfaction of clients.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, with the collaboration of the NAT and NHPCC, ensure the National Hydrometric Program meets its legal obligation regarding the Canada Water Act, section 38, which requires that a report on the operations under the Act be laid before Parliament after the end of each fiscal year.
Recommendations regarding Network Sustainability are:
As part of the strategic planning referred to in recommendation #1, the Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, with the collaboration of the NAT and NHPCC, assess the current network risks and vulnerabilities, evaluate the demands and establish priorities to ensure the network provides the largest benefits for the financial resources available and that resources are optimized to address the areas of greatest concerns.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, with the collaboration of the NAT and NHPCC, consider the integration of the hydrometric network with the climate data network, both for network design and data reporting, to improve the scientific value of the hydrometric and climate networks.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, with the collaboration of the NAT and NHPCC, continue looking for service and technological improvements through innovative, cost effective solutions, especially in remote locations, through the NAT strategic planning exercise.
Management concurs with all of the recommendations contained in the Audit of the National Hydrometric Program. Specific actions designed to address the recommendations have been undertaken and will be completed by March 31, 2011.
- Date modified: