Terrorism concerns lead to changes at passport offices in bid to boost security

Prudent. But odd that focus is with respect to the receiving agent function at Service Canada centres, rather than the full service offices of Passport Canada, the responsibility of IRCC (but ATIP documents were from ESDC, not IRCC):

The federal government has been quietly making changes to passport offices in a bid to improve security and address concerns that the facilities could be easy targets for a terrorist attack.

Civil servants in passport and other government offices have for years faced bomb threats, and hostility from individuals who are disgruntled, drunk or suffering mental illnesses.

Internal government documents show that senior officials have more recently worried that someone with extremist views might see a passport office as prime target for an attack, particularly if the federal government revoked their passport privileges because they wanted to go abroad to join a terrorist group.

The briefing note to senior officials at Employment and Social Development Canada says the offices could now more easily become targets, or be collateral damage.

“ESDC Passport offices may be considered targets of symbolic value in future attacks,” reads part of the 2015 briefing note marked, “Canadian Eyes Only.”

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the documents under the Access to Information Act.

Those concerns were stoked after two separate domestic terrorist attacks in October 2014.

In the first case, Martin Couture-Rouleau hit two soldiers with his car at a strip mall just outside St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53. Officials seized his passport that July after police prevented him from flying to Turkey.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa before storming Parliament Hill. He had come to Ottawa from Vancouver after he ran into problems getting a Canadian passport so he could travel to Libya.

Both attackers were subsequently killed.

The second incident prompted ESDC officials to call in the Mounties to review threats for every passport office in the country. Assessments were also carried out to see what could be done to the physical configuration of spaces, or the layout of services, to better protect the workers inside the office.

The RCMP report from April 2015 concluded that the offices face terrorist and criminal threats, although nothing direct or immediate.

A spokesman for ESDC, which oversees the 151 Service Canada offices that issue passports, said the department has and continues to make changes at existing and soon-to-be-opened facilities in response to the assessments.

Along with physical changes to the offices to increase security there have been operational changes that federal officials hope will lower the risk of an attack. Among the measures was extending the passport renewal period to 10 years from five years and letting Canadians renew their passports online to reduce the number of people who had to go to an office.

Source: Terrorism concerns lead to changes at passport offices in bid to boost security – The Globe and Mail

Someone should take the fall for Ottawa’s botched Phoenix pay system

Hard to disagree with Barrie McKenna: the lack of accountability at both the political and bureaucratic level, the inability of government to manage large-scale IT projects and the miss match between those who “sold” the project and those responsible for delivery are of broad concern, not just in the case of Phoenix.

IT in government is complex given the myriad of requirements and groups involved.

My experience with IT in government is a mixed bag. My most successful project, done with a small group of PCO policy types, was the creation of an Access database to manage the then Chrétien government annual priority setting exercise. Delivered on time, it worked  and ensured consistent tracking rather than the previous time-consuming and error prone Word-based process.

My second experience, also at PCO, but on a larger scale (more data, more users) and thus involving IT folks, was replacing the previous Cabinet meeting planning system with a more up-to-date platform with more flexibility. The IT folks and the consultant never got it to work during my time there.

Lastly, at Service Canada, we partnered with Service New Brunswick to deliver, on Transport Canada’s behalf, a system for pleasure craft licensing. When it went live, it crashed but we were able to identify and fix the problem within a few days (the data link capacity was too small, something missed in all the preparations, by all involved). After that it worked well (Service Canada eventually decided to end its involvement and focus on core services to ESDC):

The mess that is Phoenix is a story of misguided political objectives, bungled management of a major technology project and a complete failure by anyone in charge to take responsibility for mistakes.

The fiasco raises troubling questions about the government’s ability to perform one of its most basic functions – paying its bills and taking care of employees. The Phoenix system is just one of the major information-technology projects, totalling billions of dollars, now under way in the government.

Centralizing the multitude of separate payroll systems was the brainchild of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which was convinced it could wring huge savings out of the bureaucracy. In charge were then-public works minister Rona Ambrose (now interim Conservative leader) and Tony Clement, former president of the treasury board. Neither has expressed any remorse for the fiasco.

The Conservatives eliminated 700 payroll jobs in dozens of departments, mainly in Ottawa, and created a new centralized pay centre in Miramichi, N.B. – political compensation for the shuttered gun registry. Most of those offered positions there refused to move, leaving the running of Phoenix in the hands of hundreds of untrained new hires.

The problem now belongs to the Liberal government, which could have delayed deployment of the system to work out the inevitable bugs. To his credit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged his government initially didn’t take the problem seriously.

“I’ll admit it,” Mr. Trudeau told a frustrated civil servant at a town hall in Kingston, Ont., earlier this year. “This government … didn’t pay enough attention to the challenges and the warning signs on the transition we were overseeing.”

But the mea culpa came three months after the government had promised to resolve the payroll mess. Now, it’s not even offering a target.

Just as troubling is the lack of accountability within the upper ranks of civil servants. Many of those responsible have retired or moved to other jobs in the government. No one has been fired.

Nor has there been a thorough investigation by Parliament of what went wrong. Deputy Minister of Public Works Marie Lemay, who inherited the payroll problem, appeared before the House of Commons government operations committee last year. But none of the original architects of the system have had to answer for their roles.

And then there is IBM Canada, which Ottawa hired to design and implement the system. It appears the government, not IBM, is on the hook for fixing the problems. So why, one wonders, would the government sign a contract that left it so dangerously exposed to financial and technical risk?

Phoenix was supposed to save Ottawa $70-million a year. Instead, the government has spent $50-million fixing the problem, including an extra $6-million paid to IBM, and there is no end in sight.

This isn’t just a story of a botched payroll system. It’s about the chronic inability of governments to manage major purchases, including technology projects.

Unless Ottawa gets to the bottom of what went wrong on Phoenix, it will keep making the same mistakes elsewhere in the government.

That should worry all taxpayers, not just government workers.

Source: Someone should take the fall for Ottawa’s botched Phoenix pay system – The Globe and Mail

Shared Services Canada, already having resulted in the resignation of the Chief Statistician (INSERT), now comes under fire from the RCMP:

CBC News has obtained a blistering Jan. 20, 2017, memo to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in which Commissioner Bob Paulson details how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since the beleaguered department took over tech support for the entire government five years ago.

Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent.

“Its ‘one size fits all’ IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system,” reads the memo.

The document appears to respond to a request for more information after a series of CBC News reports on the RCMP’s long-standing dissatisfaction with Shared Services Canada (SSC).

Despite the agency’s creation of special teams and committees to address shoddy service and repeated computer outages, Paulson said minimal progress has been made.

The commissioner bolstered his arguments by enclosing an appendix of recent critical incidents to show just how little appreciation or understanding there is for operational law enforcement requirements.

RCMP commissioner warns continued IT failures will have ‘catastrophic’ consequences

Government consistently fails to fix mistakes, Auditor-General says [need for citizen-centred program delivery]

Strong condemnation, widely noted. Despite the many years and efforts with respect to performance management and reporting, shows just how entrenched the government remains in measuring process and outputs, rather than results for citizens.

And ‘deliverology’ is unlikely to change this, as it is easier to track political commitments met, than actual benefits and outcomes for citizens.

During my time at Service Canada, we spent considerable time and effort to develop service strategies that aimed to place the citizen at the heart of service delivery, not the program management. There was considerable resistance from the various program branches, who were more comfortable, given the nature of accountabilities, to operate within silos. The slide below highlights the nature of change proposed, with the left showing the program and service maze, the right showing a more citizen-centric way of organizing programs.

ssso_implementation_plan_-_scmb_dec_2005_-_v5_08dec2005_e_scmb

Canada’s Auditor-General says the federal government must adjust the way it does business after a broad evaluation in which he says departments fail to consider whether their services actually benefit Canadians, cannot stay ahead of emerging trends and do not correct inadequacies even after they have been pointed out.

In marking the midpoint of his 10-year term, Michael Ferguson used his fall report to take an unusual step back from the assessments of specific programs to point to more systemic problems. Parliament, said Mr. Ferguson, uses his reports to learn about things that have gone wrong but does not ensure that changes are made to set them right.

“What about programs that are managed to accommodate the people running them rather than the people receiving the services?” asked Mr. Ferguson. “I am also talking about problems like regulatory bodies that cannot keep up with the industries they regulate, and public accountability reports that fail to provide a full and clear picture of what is going on….”

Departments and agencies work in silos, he said, failing to learn from what others outside, or even inside, their own organizations are doing.

“Our audits come across the same problems in different organizations time and time again. Even more concerning is that, when we come back to audit the same area again, we often find that program results have not improved,” said Mr. Ferguson. “In just five years, with some 100 performance audits and special examinations behind me since I began my mandate, the results of some audits seem to be – in the immortal words of Yogi Berra – ‘déjà vu all over again.’ ”

For instance, said Mr. Ferguson, many past audits have revealed the government’s lack of focus on Canadians who are the end users of its services.

And that trend continues in a new study of the Beyond the Border Action Plan which was introduced in December, 2011, to enhance security and the flow of goods and people across the Canada-U.S. border. Five years and $585-million later, the departments and agencies involved cannot show how the measures that were part of the plan have made Canadians safer or accelerated the movement of either trade or travellers.

“We found that, where performance indicators were developed,” says the audit, “they measured whether activities and deliverables were completed, not the resulting benefits.”

Source: Government consistently fails to fix mistakes, Auditor-General says – The Globe and Mail

His full message is also worth reading beyond the excerpt below and soundbites above:

In the interest of assisting our still-new Parliament in carrying out its oversight role and of helping government “do service well,” I believe there is value in looking back over the body of work produced by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. This is a way to identify those issues that show up in audit after audit, year after year, and sometimes persist for decades.

These problems include departments and agencies struggling to work outside their silos, either to learn from what is happening within their organizations, or more broadly, to learn from what their external counterparts are doing.

And what about programs that are managed to accommodate the people running them rather than the people receiving the services? What about programs in which the focus is on measuring what civil servants are doing rather than how well Canadians are being served? In such cases, the perception of the service is very different depending on whether you are talking to the service provider or to the citizen trying to navigate the red tape.

I am also talking about problems like regulatory bodies that cannot keep up with the industries they regulate, and public accountability reports that fail to provide a full and clear picture of what is going on for a myriad of reasons—such as systems that are outdated or just not working, or data that is unreliable or incomplete, not suited to the needs, or not being used. Our audits come across these same problems in different organizations time and time again. Even more concerning is that when we come back to audit the same area again, we often find that program results have not improved.

Lack of focus on citizens

In our system of government, Parliament makes the rules, departments and agencies carry out the wishes of Parliament, and citizens receive the services. At least, that is the way the system is designed. Over the years, our audit work has revealed government’s lack of focus on end-users, Canadians.

Message from the Auditor General

Federal government’s Canada.ca one-website project proving costly — and confusing

While I agree with the logic of consolidation and having one integrated government portal for Canadians (I worked on citizen service strategies in the early days of Service Canada), my experience with Canada.ca is mixed, as I find the information I am looking for, more as a researcher, harder to find than before.

And while the concerns raised by this article are valid, I would be curious to know if there are any public studies on the usability of the site for citizens.

A briefing note provided to former Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat president Tony Clement on Dec. 2, 2013, contains a document called Public Opinion Research plan, ongoing user feedback on new Canada.ca website. When obtained by the Citizen, the entire document had been redacted. Government redacts, or blanks out, portions of documents that may breach a person’s privacy rights or are considered to be too sensitive for public consumption.

Source: Federal government’s Canada.ca one-website project proving costly — and confusing | Ottawa Citizen

Donald Savoie: How government went off the rails

Donald Savoie confirms the policy/service delivery hierarchy.

My experience when Service Canada was established, and then watching how the both the Government and the public service whittled away at the vision of making service as important as policy, is a case in point.

Another example was Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s inability in 2010-12 to implement a series of inter-related changes – new citizenship test, language assessment process, anti-fraud efforts and program review cuts to the regions – which resulted in a dramatic fall in the number of new citizens:

Below the fault line is where government is coming up short, often because the ones operating above it have no appreciation of how the machinery operates. It is also where the great majority of Canadians deal with their government. The view among politicians and the courts is that government is about 90 per cent ideas and 10 per cent implementation. Making a policy or program announcement, defining the right media line and keeping an eye on the blame game as it is played out in Parliament and the media are what truly matters. They expect that program managers below the fault line should simply run on their tracks and avoid providing fodder for the blame game. The view among the majority of Canadians and front-line government workers, however, is that government should be 90 per cent delivering services efficiently and 10 per cent ideas. Canadians are too often left waiting, for an hour or so, to talk to someone after calling a 1-800 number, days to get a phone call returned or weeks to get an answer to what they regard as a straightforward question.

Not only have we overloaded the machinery, we have also misdiagnosed the patient. The thinking that we could somehow make the public sector as efficient as the private sector was misguided, costly and counterproductive. The thinking conveniently overlooks the fact that the public and private sectors are different in both important and unimportant ways. Consider the following: 76 per cent of public-sector employees belong to a union versus 16 per cent for the private sector. The blame game plays very differently in both sectors and the private sector has an unrelenting bottom line, while the public sector has none, or rather has a top line called the prime minister, Parliament and the media. In the private sector, good managers learn to delegate down. In the public sector, good managers learn to delegate up.

In the search for a bottom line, governments have created an abundance of oversight bodies, management constraint measures and vapid performance and evaluation reports. It has only made the machinery of government thicker, more risk-averse and created a veritable army of public servants kept busy turning a crank not attached to anything. It has also given rise to a serious morale problem in the public service.

This is not an indictment on what government tried to do or on the role of government in modern society but rather how the government tried to do it. Thinking that you can simply pile on responsibilities to the existing machinery and somehow emulate private-sector management practices while retaining the command and control approach to operation is where things went off the rails.

  Donald Savoie: How government went off the rails  

How much government accommodation can you expect because of religion or a disability? – Canada – CBC News

Good reporting and discussion on reasonable accommodation issues and practices following the recent CBSA accommodation for Hindu priests visiting Canada:

From [Karen] Busby’s [director of the Centre for Human Rights Research at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg] perspective, the situation involving the request from the Hindu priests doesn’t appear to enter into the realm of creating an undue hardship.

But she says there is a different principle that could apply in such a situation, and that is whether the accommodation made is “contrary to fundamental Canadian values.”

“That’s a trickier question I think, and its something that’s not well defined in law.”

She also suggests the airport case is somewhat similar to one that arose at York University in Toronto earlier this year.In that case, a male Muslim students request not to work with women sparked controversy.

But one element of that story that was often lost, she observes, is that “when there was a little push put on him, he said Of course I will work with women.”

There are times, she says, “when Canadian values say if youre going to be in public life, in some way, you need to be able to interact with men and women.”

Also good reporting on how Service Canada and Service Ontario accommodate religious concerns regarding head coverings and gender (largely sensibly).

How much government accommodation can you expect because of religion or a disability? – Canada – CBC News.