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The successful monitoring of Treasury Board (TB) policies is critical in today's environment of rapid change and challenges in addressing policy compliance and effectiveness. It is essential that effective policy monitoring practices be in place at the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) to ensure the success of TB policies. This review was requested by the TBS Internal Audit and Evaluation Committee to provide TBS management with an independent study of leading practices in the area of policy monitoring.
As the administrative arm of the Treasury Board (TB), the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) has a dual mandate: to support the Treasury Board as a committee of ministers, and to fulfill the statutory responsibilities of a central government agency.
Effective December 12, 2003, the functions and mandate of the Treasury Board Secretariat have been amended. TBS is now tasked with providing advice and support to Treasury Board Ministers in their role of ensuring value for money as well as providing oversight of the financial management functions in departments and agencies. The Secretariat also plays a key role in supporting the activities of the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet.
The Secretariat makes recommendations and provides advice to the Treasury Board on policies, directives, regulations and program expenditure proposals with respect to the management of the government's resources. Its responsibilities for the general management of the government affect initiatives, issues and activities that cut across all policy sectors managed by federal departments and organizational entities (as reported in the Main Estimates). The Secretariat is also responsible for the comptrollership function of government.
Under the broad authority of sections 5 to 13 of the Financial Administration Act, TBS supports the Treasury Board in its role as the general manager and employer of the Public Service.
TBS has recognized the need to update the policy suite to bring it in line with Results for Canadians: A Management Framework for the Government of Canada. In September 2002, it launched a Policy and Reporting Review Project. The Project issued a report in September 2003.
TBS' 2003 Departmental Performance Report indicated the Policy and Reporting Review Project will streamline TB policies and reporting requirements and lead to a smaller and more strategic set of policies and reporting requirements aligned with the Management Accountability Framework.
A component of the Policy and Reporting Review Project addresses TBS and departmental roles and responsibilities for effective policy monitoring. This Policy Monitoring Review complements and expands on the practice of policy monitoring as it relates to TBS.
Policy monitoring can be defined as "the assessment of the functioning of policy, and the results achieved. It addresses, as appropriate, issues of both policy application and compliance."
Many TB policies have a requirement that departments themselves monitor implementation within their organizations with monitoring of the implementation of the policy across all departments conducted by TBS. There is also a TB "Policy on Active Monitoring", introduced in 2001, which requires monitoring across government. However, we understand this policy is not meeting the needs for policy monitoring.
It was stated in the June 2003 Policy Council Briefing that "For results-based management to work, the policy suite must provide clear and appropriate direction on what actions and results TBS is holding Deputies and their officials accountable for. In particular, it must set out respective responsibilities of departments and TBS for the monitoring and reporting of policy results. Information gathered pursuant to reporting and monitoring activity should be used to inform decision-making at departmental, Secretariat and governmental levels".
The Policy Monitoring Review was designed to assess the current status of policy monitoring within TBS and provide practical examples of leading practices. The review is intended to provide assistance to management and is not an audit. The recommendations made in this report will provide guidance for the Policy Review and Reporting Project as it proceeds to streamline TB policies and reporting requirements.
The review focused on analysing the current activities undertaken by the TBS for monitoring TB policies to identify effective practices for:
The planning for this review, the selection of the TB policies considered in the review, and many of the interviews conducted were completed in the fall of 2003, prior to the announcements on December 12, that altered the functions and mandate of TBS.
The approach taken to conduct the review included the following steps:
Based on the above steps, practical recommendations were developed to guide the policy review process to ensure that revised policies facilitate monitoring activities.
The review team selected 17 policies from the inventory of over 300 TB policies. The sample of policies was chosen, with input from the business line leaders, from the three TBS business lines and included a range from low to high-risk policies and a cross-section of older and newer policies. The policies included in the sample are listed in Annex A.
For each of the seventeen policies in the sample, we interviewed one or more TBS policy centre representatives. We discussed the major issues facing the policies, the policy monitoring and reporting activities and areas for improvement in policy monitoring. Based on our discussions, we developed an assessment of the level of risk associated with a particular policy and confirmed this with the policy representative.
In addition to interviewing TBS policy centre staff, interviews were conducted with departments to gain departmental perspectives on policy monitoring and reporting. The departments in the sample included large and small organizations and are listed in Annex B.
We also interviewed representatives of departmental internal audit groups, one of the TBS program sectors, the TBS Centre of Excellence for Audit and the TBS Centre of Excellence for Evaluation.
The following three documents provided key information for the study: