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2017–2018 AEC annual report to the Commissioner of lobbying

Table of contents


Introduction

The Audit and Evaluation Committee (AEC) of the Office of the Commissioner of lobbying (OCL) continues to be an active component of the Office’s governance and stewardship regime. AEC provides objective advice and recommendations to the Commissioner on a full range of management issues as well as on the adequacy and functioning of the Office’s governance, risk management, and control frameworks and processes. AEC is accountable to the Commissioner.

Pursuant to Section 8 of its Terms of reference, the Committee prepares an annual report to the Commissioner. The purpose of the annual report of the Audit and Evaluation Committee is to:

  • summarize the Committee's activities undertaken and the results of its review;
  • provide the Committee's assessment of the Office's system of internal controls;
  • highlight significant concerns the Committee may have in relation to the risk management, controls and governance framework and processes of the Office;
  • provide the Committee's assessment of the capacity and performance of the Internal Audit function and progress regarding program evaluation and performance measurement;
  • provide, as needed, recommendations for the improvement of risk management, controls and governance framework and processes, including recommendations for the improvement of the internal audit and program evaluation functions of the Office; and
  • provide such other information or documentation that the Committee deems important to best convey a high-level summary of its activity and results – and the context within which this ought to be viewed.

Purpose

The Committee is an advisory body to the Commissioner. It provides the Commissioner with independent, objective guidance, advice and assurance regarding risk management, the control framework, audit, evaluation, performance measurement and reporting practices.

The work of the Committee is informed by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) / Office of the Comptroller General (OCG) policies in these areas. The Committee carries out its responsibilities through the thoughtful and rigorous implementation of its Terms of reference.

Committee

During the fiscal year 2017-18, AEC consisted of three external members and the Commissioner, as an ex-officio member. The three external members were: Mr. Thomas K. Gussman, MA, C.E., Mr. Michael J. McLaughlin, FCPA, FCMA, and Mr. Alan Winberg, Ph.D., C.E. (Committee Chair).

Thomas Gussman’s term as a Member of the Committee expired April 11, 2018. The Committee wishes to acknowledge the valuable contribution that Tom made since 2009 to the work of AEC.

Qualifications of members

The collective skills, knowledge and experience of the AEC members are such that the Committee is able to competently and effectively undertake its duties. The Members of the AEC are independent and free of any real or perceived conflict of interest.

Meetings held

Pursuant to its Terms of reference and the guidance issued by the OCG, AEC meets in regular sessions, as well as in-camera.

In the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2017 and ending March 31, 2018, the AEC met on the following dates: June 5 to 8, 2017; July 11, 2017; September 18 and 19, 2017; and February 15 and 16, 2018.

At the meeting that was held July 11, Members met with officials of Office of the Auditor General (OAG) to review and discuss the results of their annual audit of the OCL financial statements.

Responsibilities and duties

Terms of reference: The AEC Terms of reference identify the roles and responsibilities of the Committee.

Orientation to the work of the Office: The Committee received a thorough orientation to all areas of the operations within the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying at its first set of meetings after the Committee was formed. Over the years since March 2009, in the course of attending meetings of this Committee, reviewing OCL documentation and operations, and providing advice to the Commissioner, external members have acquired a deep knowledge and understanding with respect to the issues facing OCL. In view of the ongoing meetings and deliberations of the Committee, members of AEC feel that they have a very good knowledge of the operations of the Office, the overall workplace environment, the key public policy issues related to the Lobbying Act, and the key risks and day-to-day risk mitigation strategies in place in the Office.

AEC annual plan: The Chair presented a set of dates for meetings planned over the next fiscal year and a planned agenda for each of those meetings, based on the agendas we have used in past years. Four meetings are expected to be held over the next twelve months, covering the areas of responsibility set out in the Terms of reference. The Committee has the practice of confirming the dates of each of our meetings 12 months into the future. This forward planning has worked quite well to date

The dates planned for our future meetings are:

  • Tuesday, April 10, 2018 (meeting was held as planned)
  • Friday, June 27, 2018 (Teleconference planned to review financial statements)
  • Wednesday July 11, 2018 including OAG meeting
  • Tuesday, October 16, 2018
  • Thursday, January 10th, 2019
  • Wednesday April 10, 2019
  • June 2019 (Teleconference planned to review financial statements)
  • Wednesday, July 10, 2019

AEC self-assessment: Pursuant to our Terms of reference and consistent with guidelines issued by the OCG, each year we plan to undertake a self-assessment. We completed our 2017-2018 self-assessment June 4, 2018. As set out in the Committee's Terms of reference, we have adopted the practice of reporting the results of this self-assessment in a confidential report to the Commissioner.

2017-2018 Highlights

Our work over the past year noted the continued steady progress in implementing measures regarding governance, risk management, accountability and control.

Nancy Bélanger was appointed Commissioner effective December 30, 2017. We are honoured to continue to provide advice to the Commissioner as she carries out her mandate. We provided advice to the former Commissioner for the completion of her term.

Over the past 12 months, we have provided advice to the former Commissioner and to the new Commissioner, regarding organizational structure of the Office; setting key priorities for the Office; building relationships with external service providers; staffing key positions; and, preparing management policies and plans.

For the period from April to December 2017, the former Commissioner’s term had been extended as an interim measure, to allow additional time for the appointment of the new Commissioner. In order to provide continuity and make advice from the AEC available to the new Commissioner, the terms of the Members of AEC were extended with staggered end dates.

With the expiry of the term of Thomas K. Gussman, AEC will continue with two Members.

At our meetings over the past year, we have reviewed documentation and had discussions to consider and provide advice to the Commissioner regarding:

  • preparations for the appointment of the new Commissioner;
  • considerations for the structure of the Office following the appointment of the new Commissioner;
  • considerations for the new Commissioner regarding a three-year strategic plan, with a set of strategic priorities for the Office, including four key results:
    • a modern Lobbyists Registration System
    • enhanced outreach and communications to Canadians
    • effective compliance and enforcement activities
    • an exceptional workplace
  • steps to secure needed resources for additional legal representation of the Office at the Federal Court;
  • considerations, and steps to secure required resources, regarding a planned move by the Office on expiry of its current lease arrangements;
  • considerations, and steps to secure needed resources for the maintenance and improvement of the Lobbyists’ Registration System (LRS);
  • the Office's control environment and system of internal controls, including the implementation of the management responses to the recommendations of completed internal audits and evaluations and an external audit by the PSC;
  • values and ethics initiatives at the Office, and achieving an exceptional workplace environment;
  • the Office's plans and framework for its risk management, internal audit, performance measurement, program evaluation, results reporting and accountability processes;
  • the Office's steps to maintain and build its relationship with the OAG, including the completion of the regular, annual OAG audit of the OCL financial statements;
  • the Office's Financial Statements and accountability reports (Departmental Plan, Departmental Performance Report, and Annual Report to Parliament; and,
  • the arrangements with service providers who provide essential corporate services to the Office for the smooth functioning of its operations.

In addition, at in-camera sessions we reviewed documentation, met with the Chief Financial Officer and senior managers, discussed accountability reporting and organizational issues and provided advice to the former, and to the new Commissioner regarding: financial issues; risk management; and, consultations with stakeholders.

During the course of our work over the next 12 months, the Committee will continue to review these matters and the work underway to implement: the priorities of the new Commissioner as noted in the three-year strategic plan for the Office; the risk mitigation measures noted in the OCL's corporate risk profile; steps required to secure the financial and human resources required to maintain and improve the OCL IT systems and infrastructure and to improve and continue to modernize the LRS; the OCL's multi-year plans for Internal Audit and Program Evaluation; the OCL's Performance Measurement Strategy; the OCL’s ongoing arrangements with service providers; the resolution of issues related to the Phoenix payroll system; and, the essential common services delivered by Shared Services Canada. In addition, AEC plans to provide advice regarding the conduct of an evaluation of the LRS (currently underway), and regarding the implementation of the recommendations of an evaluation study of the Education and Outreach Program. As in past years, the AEC will review the plan and results of the annual financial audit to be conducted by the OAG.

The Committee's mandate includes both Internal Audit and Results / Program Evaluation. OCL has carried out a step-by-step approach to the phased implementation of the Internal Audit and Results Policies. The Committee has reviewed the relevant TB Internal Audit Policy and TB Policy on Results and the associated directives, standards, and guidelines. The Committee plans to remain current with directives and policies that are issued by Central Agencies in these areas, and to provide its advice to the Commissioner in a timely manner.

Discussion and analysis

The Committee is pleased to note that the Office has set up its management systems, organizational structures, financial and administrative policies, internal controls, and accountability reporting in order to carry out its important work effectively. It is our view that the OCL has put in place all significant management policies and procedures. The next year will be one of fine tuning and implementing any new TB policies or modifications to existing TB policies.

AEC will be pleased to provide advice to the new Commissioner for the implementation of her three year Strategic Plan. A number of key files are expected to require her attention over the next fiscal year. These include: options for the management structure of the Office; implementing the priorities of the Strategic Plan; and, preparing the input from the Commissioner for the next 5-year review by Parliament of the Lobbying Act.

We congratulate the Commissioner and applaud the recent signing of an MOU with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

We note the excellent progress made by the Office in reviewing its control environment, in updating its formal corporate risk profile and explicit mitigation strategies and implementing its multi-year Internal Audit and Program Evaluation plan. We note that audit and evaluation reports have been completed as planned and in a professional and timely manner and that the follow-up report on implementation of the management responses has received appropriate attention and has been implemented.

We have carefully reviewed the OCL's corporate risk profile and the OCL's multi-year internal audit and program evaluation plans. We have reviewed and discussed completed reports, and the management action plans for these reports. Based on the documentation and the detailed planning and discussions that have taken place and been reviewed at our Committee, and taking into account that this is a micro-organization, we consider that the Office has made very good progress to establish its audit and evaluation program. We note the completion last year of the evaluation of the Outreach and Education program and that this program is a priority for the Commissioner.

We note the well-designed control environment in place at the Office and the important steps that have been taken by the Commissioner (and the former Commissioner) to ensure sound management practices, including sound control, risk management, and accountability reporting at the Office. Based on completed audits and evaluations, and on our discussions during the meetings of our Committee, where we received reports from each of the managers of the Office and conducted in-camera sessions with the Commissioner, Chief Financial Officer, and Senior Executives, we have seen that there is a well-functioning governance structure at the OCL and that there is a rigorous and professional approach in place for the implementation of the OCL's mandate.

We have reviewed the OCL's financial statements (quarterly and annual), the DP, the DRR and the Annual Report, and confirm our opinion that these accountability documents appear to be complete and that they present and explain the operations and achievements of the Office. Based on our discussions with the Senior Executives of the OCL and the Chief Financial Officer, we have noted the accuracy of the OCL's financial forecasts and the reliability of the information that has been provided. Over the course of our meetings during the past fiscal year, we have noted the care exercised by the Commissioner and the senior management team to ensure that the OCL's limited budget is used in the most cost-effective manner to implement its mandate and provided advice concerning the priorities noted in the Commissioner’s three-year strategic plan. We also noted that the resources available to maintain and improve the OCL IT systems and infrastructure and to improve and continue to modernize the LRS may not be sufficient.

We have reviewed the accomplishments and approved plans in place for improved risk management, internal audit, and evaluation and find that they are being advanced sincerely and with rigour. We concur with the risk assessment and planning that is in place for OCL internal audits and program evaluations. The OAG completed its annual audit of the OCL financial statements. We find that the arrangements in place with regard to results measurement, evaluation and performance measurement, including the set of performance measures and logic model, are of high potential value. In 2018–19, the Office will undertake an evaluation of its registration and client services functions. We are pleased to continue to provide advice in this regard in due course as the plans are implemented.

We have reviewed the OCL's presentations and the testimony provided to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. We confirm that we believe that the Commissioner's (and the former Commissioner’s) testimony and accountability reports prepared for tabling in Parliament were done in a rigorous, professional manner.

Conclusion

Our work has been made easier by the strong working relationship with you and the former Commissioner. We would like to thank all of your Executive team for their thoughtful participation in meetings, and for their support and collaboration.

The Committee wishes to note the significant work completed by the Office to establish its systems and structures and to have operations running well. We continue to be impressed by the dedication of the Office to sound management practices and to its careful and thoughtful management of its limited financial resources and people. We are of the view that OCL is managing well its limited budget. We have noted that the Office was successful with regard to meeting its service standards over the past year. We wish to note the high quality of the documentation, briefings and discussions at our meetings over the past year.

We look forward to continuing our excellent relationship and to offering independent and objective advice, guidance and assurance to the Commissioner on the adequacy of risk management, control and accountability processes for the important work carried out by the Office.

We are proud of the role we play in supporting and strengthening stewardship in the Office and are pleased to have been able to contribute over the past year. As you continue to implement the strategic priorities, and take steps to secure the incremental resources which are required to modernize the IT infrastructure and the LRS, we will be ready to respond to any requests for advice and support that you deem important.


Appendix

Biographical notes AEC members

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