Gaps in Ottawa’s detection of citizenship fraud, auditor finds

I did not find this OAG study all that surprising, particularly the challenges of maintaining accurate and consistent database records (e.g., spelling of addresses) and the lack of consistent follow-up to any cases flagged.

One of the lasting legacies of the Conservative government was increased attention to the integrity of the program, beyond the issues identified in the OAG report (e.g., rotating citizenship test questions, more rigorous and consistent language assessment, and the integrity measures of C-24).

But like many OAG reports, it is weak with respect to the materiality of fraud and the gaps it uncovered.

Six addresses out of 9,778 that IRCC officials missed is 0.06 percent. Other aspects are more problematic, multiple versions of addresses in particular, as well as lack of follow-up to warning flags and coordination between IRCC and RCMP or CBSA.

IRCC’s own number of revocation cases pending is 700, again a relatively small number (0.14 percent) compared to  the large numbers of new citizens in the past two years (500,000). And of course there is no comparative data in the report on permanent residency, EI, CPP or other program fraud to relate compare these numbers with.

So while any fraud is by definition unacceptable, the realities of large programs means that some degree, as small as possible, is inevitable, and ongoing attention to reducing its incidence is necessary:

Canada’s immigration department did not properly detect and prevent citizenship fraud, resulting in the review of some 700 citizenship cases as of January, according to Auditor-General Michael Ferguson’s spring report.

The report, tabled in the House of Commons Tuesday morning, found a number of concerns in the citizenship program affecting the department’s capability to prevent citizenship fraud, including the absence of a method to identify and document fraud risks.

“We concluded that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) efforts to detect and prevent citizenship fraud were not adequate,” said Mr. Ferguson in a prepared statement. “These gaps make it difficult for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to assess the impacts of its efforts to combat citizenship fraud.”

…According to the report, the most common reasons for revoking citizenship are residency and identity fraud, and undeclared criminal proceedings.

The report found that citizenship officers did not consistently apply their own methods to identify and prevent fraud when dealing with suspicious immigration documents, such as altered passports. For example, in one region, citizenship officers did not seize any suspicious documents for in-depth analysis since at least 2010, while they did in another.

It was also found that citizenship officers did not have the information they needed to properly identify “problem addresses” when making decisions to grant citizenship. Problem addresses are those known or suspected to be associated with fraud, and used by citizenship applicants to meet residency requirements for citizenship.

“For example, one address was not identified as a problem even though it had been used by 50 different applicants, seven of whom were granted citizenship,” said Mr. Ferguson.

The problem was further complicated by poor sharing of information with the RCMP, which provides information about criminal behaviour among permanent residents, and the Canada Border Services Agency, which leads investigations of immigration fraud, said the report.

While the department did not track the exact number of citizenship fraud risks, it reported 700 pending revocation cases as of January. According to the report, revoking citizenship after fraud is discovered is “time consuming and costly.”

Source: Gaps in Ottawa’s detection of citizenship fraud, auditor finds – The Globe and Mail,

Dozens of fraudsters and suspected criminals became Canadian citizens, watchdog says in damning report

Liberals order investigation into possible citizenship fraud

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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