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Audit and Evaluation Annual Report 2009–2010

2 Findings and Recommendations – Network Governance

2 Findings and Recommendations – Network Governance

This section presents audit findings and recommendations on the governance of the national hydrometric network as per the dimension of governance that was looked at.

2.1 Program’s Objectives, Strategies and Risks Assessments

The following four criteria were used to assess governance of the program’s objectives, strategies and risks:

  1. Public officials on all levels are aware of, and can identify with, the program’s objectives and strategies.
  2. The program’s objectives, priorities and strategies are in line with Environment Canada’s mandate.
  3. Internal and external risks faced by the program are identified, monitored and managed.
  4. Program managers consider best practices currently available within and outside of their organization.

As part of the Meteorological Service of Canada, the Hydrometric Monitoring Program is included in the Quality Management System registered to the ISO 9001:2000 standard, which provides a framework to manage the program from a continuous improvement perspective. The Quality Management System registered to the ISO 9001:2000 provides a high level of assurance about the management framework in place to help managers focus on performance, clients and quality in delivering the program.

The National Hydrometric Program is well understood within the National Hydrometric Program community (the water resource community at large, including federal, provincial and territorial Parties and clients as defined in section 1.2). However, the importance of the program is not well known outside this community. The impacts of the program on public safety, infrastructure protection and scientific knowledge are not sufficiently known by other programs, departments, central agencies and the public in general. The risk is that the program may not be positioned in a way that reflects its true value when being assessed through government-wide prioritization and budgetary exercises.

The program is aligned with the departmental mandate. In the past, priorities were derived from funding opportunities rather than brought into line with overall client needs. Currently, the National Hydrometric Program is conceptually working at shifting its strategic planning approach based on a clients-driven model. This model is being developed and piloted.

Operational risks are well assessed by program managers, especially in the area of human resources in general and more specifically occupational health and safety, succession planning, and training. On the other hand, improvements are required in assessing strategic risks for the program, especially in the area of economic, public policy, program development and technological risks. Continuous improvements, learning and innovation are being carried out on an ad-hoc basis by all. Respondents believe that not enough is being done to keep up with technology.

Assessing strategic risks is essential for the strategic planning and future directions of the program. Without a strategic risk assessment, the program may not be best positioned, priorities may not be best aligned, and contingency plans may not be well established.

Recommendation

1. The Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, with the collaboration of the NAT and the 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.

2.2 Authority, Responsibility and Accountability

The following three criteria were used to assess the governance around the program’s authority, responsibility and accountability:

  1. The decision making approach enables delegation of authority and participation of key stakeholders.
  2. Authority and responsibility are clearly defined and consistent with the achievement of the program’s objectives.
  3. There is a well-established, agreed upon accountability framework among Parties, strictly enforced and balanced with capabilities.

One hundred percent of interviewees said that the decision making approach adopted by the National Hydrometric Program managers provides the framework for delegating authority and allowing participation of key stakeholders.

Responsibilities and authorities for delivering the National Hydrometric Program are clear and consistent among the federal, provincial and territorial Parties. They are well defined in the Agreements on Hydrometric Monitoring.

Responsibilities and authorities within the Meteorological Service of Canada are clear and work well through new collaboration and communication, between Weather and Environmental Operations, which is responsible for budgeting and delivering the program, and Weather and Environmental Monitoring, which is responsible for developing the functional directions of the program.

For Parties and clients outside of Environment Canada, it is more difficult to understand the contribution made by the various branches of the Department and by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in the delivery of the Program. Results from documentation review and interviews indicate that responsibilities and authorities are less clear:

  • This is evident within the Department, between the Science and Technology Branch (responsible for water quality monitoring and reporting to the Ecosystem Sustainability Board) and the Meteorological Service of Canada (responsible for the hydrometric or water quantity monitoring and reporting to the Weather and Environmental Services Board). The two branches do not work as a single window, resulting in two water agreements--one for water quality and one for water quantity--for the provincial and territorial Parties.
  • This is also evident between Environment Canada and INAC, resulting in confusion about setting directions and delivering the program.

There is an accountability regime in place for the program. However, for outside of Environment Canada, the accountability regime is not well known, not well communicated, and perceived as ambiguous. This perception is made worse by the backlog affecting the production of the annual report required under section 38 of the Canada Water Act.

While the audit team did not conduct any audit work in the National Water Quality Monitoring Programor outside of the Department, evidence gathered as part of this audit is sufficient to present the following recommendations.

Recommendations

2. 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.

3. The Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, meet with his counterpart in INAC to try to clarify roles and responsibilities between the two departments in the management of the National Hydrometric Program (water quantity management).

2.3 Exchange of Information and Decision Making

The following five criteria were used to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of exchange of information and decision making within the National Hydrometric Program:

  1. The decision making approach is open for suggestions from clients, and transparent to insiders, stakeholders and the public.
  2. Decisions are made based on effective and efficient rules, either formal (constitution, legislation, regulation) or informal (code of ethics, customs, traditions), and assume negotiations with stakeholders on the importance of those rules.
  3. The decision making approach is efficient.
  4. The decision making approach results in coherent and coordinated actions.
  5. The exchange of information among Parties is sufficient, complete, timely and accurate.

The governance provided by the NAT and the NHPCC structure is working well. It provides an excellent tool for all Parties (territorial, provincial and federal) to work together at developing the program, deciding priorities and delivering its components. It is critical to keep this tool, which promotes co operation and ownership among all Parties.

Decision making is open and transparent. Decisions are made based on consensus. All Parties interviewed believe that consensus is the only suitable mechanism to make decisions in the context of a federal-provincial/territorial partnership program. Decisions made are coherent, because, by definition, consensus brings coherence. However, consensus may affect the length of the decision process and its efficiency. All Parties accept this as a normal cost to manage a federal-provincial/territorial program.

While working well, additional efficiencies in the mechanics of the two committees can be looked at, such as the exchange of information; updates to the program’s Internet site so as to be kept current as a central venue for exchange of information; and improving participation by all Parties during meetings.

2.4 Performance and Client Satisfaction Assessment

The following two criteria were used to assess the governance related to the performance and client satisfaction assessment of the program:

  1. There is a well-established, agreed upon performance assessment framework, which is balanced with capabilities.
  2. There is a framework to assess if services provided are of high quality, cost efficient and satisfy the demands of clients.

The quality of hydrometric data is constantly being assessed. The program has a positive working relationship and governance with its Parties. However more attention is required in assessing the overall performance of the program, i.e. the ultimate outcomes, and in ensuring consistency of reporting across the board.

More attention is also required in assessing the satisfaction of clients. Their satisfaction is currently assessed on an ad-hoc basis, when clients fill a WEB-based comment-form; and via the conduct of Stakeholders Workshops. The implementation of these workshops has been slower than expected.

There is a backlog in producing the annual report for the program, which covers client satisfaction assessment. The Canada Water Act, section 38, requires that a report on the operations under the Act be laid before Parliament after the end of each fiscal year. This legal requirement is also reflected in the Agreements on Hydrometric Monitoring with the territories and provinces.

Sufficient performance assessment and client satisfaction surveying has a positive impact on the internal and external decision making and prioritization, and ultimately the ISO certification. It is important for public safety, infrastructure, and scientific knowledge.

Recommendations

4. 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.

5. 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.

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