Shared Services Canada to begin talks on allowing federal departments to ‘opt out’ from centralized IT service

Recognition of reality. Will be interesting to see how departments respond over time:

Shared Services Canada is exploring transferring some responsibilities for federal information technology systems back to individual departments and agencies, in the wake of legislative changes weakening the agency’s monopoly on digital services.

Pat Breton, director general of procurement and vendor relations with SSC, said the agency has started reaching out to the 43 federal departments and agencies it counts as clients to discuss potential service improvements, including bringing certain IT operations back in-house, and plans to hold formal talks with departmental chief information officers in the coming weeks.

“We’ve been proactive in telling them that this is a new tool that we’ve got and we’ll be working with them to put it in place, where appropriate,” he told The Hill Times.

“We’re starting from the holistic needs assessment, gap analysis: What is the specific problem and what’s the best way to address it, and reach solutions together?”

The 2017 budget implementation bill, passed in June, made significant changes to the mandate of SSC, which was launched by the former Conservative government in 2011 with the responsibility of delivering email, data centre, and network services in a “consolidated and standardized manner,” and to offer optional technology-related services to government organizations on a cost-recovery basis.

First, it watered down SSC’s authority to consolidate IT systems across the public services by permitting organizations to opt out of using the agency in “exceptional circumstances.” It also restored the ability of individual departments to purchase software and digital hardware themselves, instead of conducting all business through the agency.

The bill, though, doesn’t allow for blanket exemptions from using SSC, with departments only permitted to opt out of using some services, according to Mr. Breton. Parts of departments can be granted complete exemptions from all SSC services.

The decision to grant the authorization is left to the minister responsible for SSC, Procurement and Public Services Minister Judy Foote (Bonavista–Burin–Trinity, N.L.).

When asked, Mr. Breton didn’t disclose if any departments had asked to opt out since the bill passed, noting that the SSC was only at the “starting point” of defining the exceptional circumstances process. However, departments like Global Affairs that work in remote and international locations would be “obvious areas for consideration,” he said, citing stringent restrictions on who can provide SSC services.

Under its mandate, only SSC employees can deliver its services, meaning the agency has to dispatch an SSC employee in every “point of [reference] around the globe,” according to Mr. Breton, who described it as “not efficient” and “not effective.”

He singled out departments providing services in other countries and working in remote and overseas locations as “consistent themes” where operating from a central location “may not be the most beneficial.”

The Hill Times reached out to several departments and agencies that would appear to fit the criteria or have been identified in media reports as encountering challenges with SSC to ask if they planned to seek an exemption from using its services, though none publicly confirmed they would.

Global Affairs Canada will “continue to work together and maintain our existing partnership,” according to a statement from spokesperson Jocelyn Sweet.

Annie Delisle, a spokesperson for the RCMP, said the national police force is “working closely” with SSC to try and find solutions to “fully meet the RCMP’s policing IT requirements, without compromising operations.”

A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency simply said it “supports” the government’s goals and priorities, and will continue to contribute to areas related to its mandate of defending the country’s borders.

Statistics Canada said it values SSC as a “reliable service provider,” but clarified that while the budget implementation bill provides “more flexibility,” it doesn’t allow departments or agencies to opt out.

Source: Shared Services Canada to begin talks on allowing federal departments to ‘opt out’ from centralized IT service – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

Federal government to downsize failing Canada.ca project

Another failing IT project.

As someone who regularly accesses government information, never found Canada.ca terribly user friendly or easy to find the info I was looking for. The old departmental websites were more efficient from my user perspective (although that may reflect my comfort and familiarity with them or the more policy information that I was looking for).

And a bit disappointed the IRCC is one of the sites that will remain as it is one of the sites I consult with the most.

As with the other major IT failures – Shared Services Canada, Phoenix – one has to question the competence of the senior officials who made and prepared the case along with the Ministers who provided oversight and approval:

The federal government is substantially curtailing the multimillion-dollar Canada.ca project, acknowledging that its plan to merge 1,500 departmental and agency websites into a single website is sputtering.

Instead of migrating all departments and agencies to a single platform, the $11.8 million earmarked for the project will be used government wide, with a focus on four of the largest departments offering services most used by Canadians: health, environment, Canada Revenue Agency, and immigration.

Those departments will have until the end of this year to migrate their content to the new platform.

“The 2012 plan to migrate all government web content to the Canada.ca platform under delivered from the beginning in part due to poor project management, planning and underfunding from the outset by the previous Conservative government,” said Jean-Luc Ferland, press secretary to Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board.

“We are refocusing project funds where they can make the biggest impact to improve Canadians’ online experiences.”

Most telling about the government’s flagging support for the initiative is that remaining departments and agencies will not be compelled to continue.

“Other departments will continue to have the option of migrating content to Canada.ca as resources and technology advances allow,” said Ferland.

Over budget and behind schedule

The Canada.ca initiative was launched with the goal of making it easier for people to find and use government information online. A $1.54-million contract for a new content management system, where all government websites would be moved, was awarded to Adobe in 2015.

But as CBC reported at the end of last year, the project is more than 10 times over budget and more than a year behind schedule, making it yet another failing government IT project, not unlike the Phoenix pay system or the email transformation initiative. It’s also another project the Liberal government is blaming on its predecessor.

A government source not authorized to speak on the record said the decision to pare down the Canada.ca initiative, yet allow it to limp along, was making the best of a bad situation.

“It’s like we walked into the kitchen where the meal is poorly planned and off to a rough start. Some dishes were forgotten, grill is overstuffed … your herbs are wilting on the counter. You don’t freak out and throw everything out. The responsible thing to do is to focus on your guests and make the most of everything you have.”

Tens of millions spent so far

In response to inquiries from CBC, the Treasury Board conceded that as of June, only 230,542 pages were hosted on Canada.ca, up from the 10,000 tabulated six months ago, but still an incredibly slow rate of movement over to the new portal.

There are more than 17 million government of Canada web pages in total.

As well, the Adobe contract has ballooned to more than $14.9 million, according to government figures. That does not include the tens of millions spent by departments and agencies that are responsible themselves for the actual migration of the websites, using existing budgets and staffing.

Since 2015, eight of the largest departments have spent or budgeted nearly $32 million on the project. Those departments include:

  • Employment and Social Development Canada.
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
  • Health.
  • Environment.
  • Canada Revenue Agency.
  • National Defence.
  • Fisheries and Oceans.
  • Global Affairs.

A slow migration

“This is great news from a taxpayer’s perspective,” said Joel Brockbank, chief technology officer at OpenPlus, a content archictecture company that had submitted a bid to create the new content management system for Canada.ca

“These large IT renewals have a lot of momentum and it’s difficult to change course if it’s not going as planned. It’s amazing they are not doubling down and putting a lot more money into something that will ultimately fail.”

Experts who have warned against unmanageable, large, one-size-fits-all government IT projects agree.

“To focus the money on key sites which Canadians use most is the right decision,” said Timothy Lethbridge who teaches software engineering and computer science at the University of Ottawa.

The December deadline for the four big departments is probably still unrealistic, according to Lethbridge, but the idea of letting other departments off the hook is smart.

“To slowly migrate, as time permits, is more cost effective than a forced death march to get to an artificial deadline,” he said.

A time to cut losses

A government source with first-hand knowledge of the Canada.ca project, and who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said IT government workers have been told that none of the government’s arm’s-length agencies have been moving their material over to the new site for some time.

“In fact we are not even talking about Canada.ca anymore,” said the source, adding “the vast majority of the content on government sites is not being migrated at all.

“It probably just won’t happen.”

Source: Federal government to downsize failing Canada.ca project – Politics – CBC News

Why the Senate is unpredictable — and its independents not so independent: Éric Grenier

Good detailed analysis, including voting records of individual senators, by Grenier:

The Senate is gumming up the work of the Liberal government, slowing the process that turns bills into law because the government cannot reliably count on a majority of senators lining up behind it, according to an analysis of votes in the upper chamber.

But the numbers also show this isn’t due to the independent senators named to the Red Chamber by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In fact, these independent senators have voted closely with the government — more often than the “Senate Liberals” cut loose from the party in 2014.

The Senate is currently divided into three groupings: Conservatives, Liberals and an Independent Senators Group (ISG). There are also a few non-affiliated senators, including Peter Harder, the government representative responsible for guiding the government’s agenda through the Senate.

The Conservative senators form part of the party’s parliamentary caucus, along with Conservative MPs from the House of Commons. But the Liberal senators were ejected from that caucus in 2014 by Trudeau, a move aimed at reducing partisanship in the upper chamber.

Though they still caucus together in the Senate, they no longer co-ordinate with their colleagues in the House.

The ISG is formed of senators who left their former Conservative or Liberal caucuses, as well as those put in the Senate by Trudeau as part of the government’s pledge to appoint non-partisan senators nominated by an independent commission.

As the opposition in the Senate, the Conservatives have voted against the government’s position the most often, siding with Harder in just 25 per cent of all 48 recorded votes held since Harder took office. (This includes votes on both government and non-government bills and motions.)

But the swing votes in the Senate have not been the gaggle of independents, but rather the Senate Liberals, who have voted with Harder only 78.5 per cent of the time.

Votes in the Senate

The independents, by comparison, have been much more co-operative. Independents appointed by Trudeau’s predecessors voted with Harder 88 per cent of the time, while independents named by the prime minister have stood with Harder in 94.5 per cent of recorded votes.

This makes Trudeau’s independents — as a bloc — the most reliable votes that Harder can count upon in the Senate.

Senate Liberal swing votes

This bloc is not large enough for Harder to easily steer the government’s legislation through the Senate.

With 98 senators — excluding Speaker George Furey and Jacques Demers, who has been away due to poor health — Harder needs 49 votes to pass legislation when all senators are in the chamber.

In addition to himself, Harder can count on the support of his deputy, Diane Bellemare, and government liaison Grant Mitchell. The independents named by Trudeau increase his vote total to 29.

Adding the six independent senators appointed by past prime ministers who frequently vote with the government bumps that number to 35 — still short of a majority.

So in order to pass legislation, Harder needs most of the votes from the 18 Liberals, making them the Senate’s decisive swing votes.

Source: Why the Senate is unpredictable — and its independents not so independent – Politics – CBC News

Stereotypes hurting millennials’ chances of finding work in the public service, says report

Interesting report with reasonably practical recommendations. Government context requires innovation has to be balanced with accountability and stewardship, not to mention the political/PS interface which the recommendations largely acknowledge:

One of the most significant issues with the public sector’s “millennial problem” is the perception that young people don’t want to work in government, according to the report. In fact, says Deloitte, a consulting firm, the public service is attractive to those born between 1980 to 1995: there’s job stability and an opportunity for a work-life balance.

“Research instead shows that, as a whole, millennials want the same things and value the same things as other generations. Where they differ is in the ways they go about achieving their goals,” the report says.

Retaining millennials is also not a problem for the public service. The report found that from 2007-2014, the number of millennials leaving stayed consistently low. People aged 35 and younger were actually more likely to stay in the federal government than leave, according to the numbers.

That’s if, however, they can get hired.

Since the 2008 recession, the government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan has lowered the number of people hired overall. “The number of external jobs posted in 2008 was about 5,000, but that number dropped to around 2,700 in 2016,” the report said.

Only about 3.5 per cent of applicants were hired during the Recruitment of Policy Leaders initiative which focuses on hiring young top talent into mid and senior level policy roles. In 2016, those who applied through the government’s post-secondary recruitment program had a one-per-cent success rate.

“Recruitment is so selective, the federal government accepts a lower share of applicants than elite Ivy League institutions like Harvard University,” says the report, which points out Harvard’s most recent academic year’s acceptance rate was 5.2 per cent.

The report also raises other issues affecting the hiring of young people, including the older generation in government jobs who are delaying retirement, as well as the length of time it takes to go through the hiring process and the lack of career growth. Younger generations tend to have more debt because of student loans and cannot afford to wait several months to be hired, says the report.

Solutions

The report offered several recommendations to address these issues.

* Streamline the hiring processes: Use more technology for online application forms to reduce printing and scanning, use electronic signatures for online forms and also create an easier process for security clearance.

* Recruitment: Make the hiring process more dynamic and prioritize different skill-sets that may be outside of the usual boxes ticked on application forms. Find new ways to identify top talent, which includes predictive analytics that determine what existing and future skills an applicant meets.

* Mobilizing jobs: Career growth and internal mobility is something millennials want, so offer several different job opportunities within the same organization across different sectors.

* Think outside the cubicle: Break down the barriers that isolate employees in the office to enhance communication, and enhance employees’ overall well-being. Create more dynamic workspaces that include options to work remotely.

* Incentivize innovation: Recognizing and encouraging innovation will benefit the public service. Teams that encouraged diverse perspectives often performed better, says the report. Feeling that creative ideas were recognized and welcomed was important to “would-be innovators.”

Several changes to attract millennials to the public sector are already underway or are being tested in pilot programs, according to the report.

Source: Stereotypes hurting millennials’ chances of finding work in the public service, says report | Ottawa Citizen

Increasingly activist Senate plans amendments to Liberal budget bill — again [Service Fees Act escalator clause?]

Will be interesting to see if the concern over automatic indexing of alcohol excise taxes is followed by the same concern for the automatic indexing of government service fees (Budget bill will increase service fees with less accountability, say critics):

At least two parts of Bill C-44, the omnibus legislation that implements the government’s budget priorities, are likely to see substantial amendments when the bill arrives in the chamber next week. It’s not yet certain they have enough votes to pass, but both have some support in all three groups of senators.

Under an amendment that will come from independent Sen. André Pratte, the section of the bill that creates the Canada Infrastructure Bank — a new agency that would use public funds to help attract private investment for infrastructure projects — would be separated out for further study in the fall.

Pratte said it’s highly unusual for a large financial agency to be created through omnibus legislation, and the Senate must take care to properly consider it.

“We simply lack time, because summer recess is approaching,” he said. “It’s a 3oo-page bill, and the infrastructure bank is a new, complex institution, and an important one. We need to study it in depth to make sure we get it right.”

Many senators also oppose a measure in the bill that creates an annual inflationary increase in the excise tax on alcohol. A special briefing for senators on that aspect of the bill took place on Thursday afternoon.

Sen. Claude Carignan, who sits on the Senate banking committee and was the Conservative caucus leader until recently, said Conservatives will look favourably on both potential amendments.

“If somebody moves a motion to split the bill (to take out the infrastructure bank)…probably, we will support this initiative,” he said.

The alcohol tax is also a concern, he added. “I can confirm that many senators on our side have a problem, first, with raised taxes, but also to do with an automatic system of inflation. We have concerns because it’s something where you raise taxes without Parliament authorization.”

If the whole Conservative caucus votes for the amendments, the support of just a dozen other senators would be needed for passage.

Source: Increasingly activist Senate plans amendments to Liberal budget bill — again | National Post

Government uses Access to Information Act as ‘shield’ against openness: czar – Politics – CBC New

Some things appear not to change although I recognize the complexities involved:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is failing to deliver on his promise of a government that’s open by default, the federal information czar says.

The law that’s intended to give Canadians access to government files is being used instead as a shield against transparency, information commissioner Suzanne Legault said in her annual report tabled Thursday.

Legault said her investigations reveal the Access to Information Act is failing to foster accountability and trust.

The act allows people who pay $5 to ask for everything from expense reports and audits to correspondence and briefing notes. Requests are supposed to be answered within 30 days and agencies must have legitimate reasons for taking longer.

However, the system has been widely criticized as slow, antiquated and riddled with loopholes that allow agencies to withhold information rather than release it.

A number of key institutions that possess valuable information for Canadians showed declines in performance, said Legault, an ombudsman for users of the law.

In terms of timeliness, the RCMP, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Correctional Service and Global Affairs received F grades, while National Defence and Health Canada were branded with the even more serious Red Alert status.

Legault’s report says she referred one case to the attorney general last month after uncovering apparent improper deletion of emails by an employee of Shared Services Canada.

Culture change needed on government openness1:21

The latest federal budget contained no funding for transparency measures and there has been no direction from the head of the public service on increasing transparency, Legault said.

Trudeau’s promises of making the government more open and accountable must be accompanied by action, she told a news conference. “I think he needs to do more. And I think he needs to make sure that the bureaucracy does more. It’s not enough to say it.”

The Liberal government recently acknowledged it is delaying planned reforms to the 34-year-old law due to the complexities of the task — changes Legault maintains are essential and long overdue.

The promised amendments include giving the information commissioner the power to order the release of government records and ensuring the access law applies to the offices of the prime minister, cabinet members and administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts.

Action, not talk, needed

Treasury Board President Scott Brison said Thursday that reforms are coming, though he did not say exactly when. “We agree, actually, with the commissioner about the need to modernize the act.”

New Democrat MP Daniel Blaikie, who sat on a Commons committee that recommended a sweeping overhaul of the law, said Thursday it’s clear what needs to be done. “It’s just a real disappointment for people who took the government at its word in terms of openness and transparency and all the rest.”

Brison did take a first step last year, issuing a ministerial directive to enshrine the principle that federal agencies should be “open by default.”

Legault said the move, on its own, is not sufficient.

“If you want to truly change a whole culture in a very large bureaucracy, you’re going to have to make a concerted effort. There are going to have to be clear messages from the prime minister, the responsible ministers, the clerk of the Privy Council,” she said.

“Sadly, champions for transparency are absent.”

Source: Government uses Access to Information Act as ‘shield’ against openness: czar – Politics – CBC News

StatsCan’s website struggled with software issues for almost a month, emails show

More bad news about Shared Services Canada:

Statistics Canada’s busy website was partially disabled for much longer than previously reported, as technicians struggled for more than three weeks to bring all of its functions back.

The long, slow road to web restoration is documented in a series of emails obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act — emails that raise fresh questions about the performance of Shared Services Canada, the government’s controversial IT agency.

The Statistics Canada website was taken offline late on March 9, after the government was alerted the day before that a common web software tool, known as Apache Struts 2, was vulnerable to hackers.

The Canada Revenue Agency site was taken down for the same reason, just as tax-filing season began.

At a March 13 news conference, a government official said the problems had been resolved after three days.

“We are pleased to note that any affected websites have been patched and have been returned to normal operations,” said Jennifer Dawson, of the Treasury Board Secretariat. Officials said at least one hacker got into the Statistics Canada site, but did no damage, and confidential CRA data was never compromised.

The CRA website appeared to operate without further problems after the fix.

But the released emails show the Statistics Canada website remained dysfunctional for weeks as a series of new problems were revealed.

“We received the results this morning and there are still some vulnerabilities so the focus will be to fix them and re-scan them today,” says one March 27 update.

Shared Services Canada, the troubled IT agency now responsible for maintaining Statistics Canada’s website, confirmed to CBC News that there were “intermittent outages” until April 4 — or 26 days after the problems were first identified.

The emails also suggest Statistics Canada was sometimes not in the loop as Shared Services Canada worked to restore the public-facing website, which is virtually the only means for widely disseminating data to Canadians.

Morning after

The decision to take down the website was made by Shared Services Canada, rather than by chief statistician Anil Anora or other senior Statistics Canada officials.

Internal emails suggest that a problem with Statistics Canada’s website was not reported to the current chief statistician, Anil Anora, until the day after Shared Services Canada decided to take down the site.

Anora and the other officials only learned it had come down the morning after, shortly before the Labour Force Survey — a key monthly jobs report — was scheduled to be posted online, emails show.

Wayne Smith, the former chief statistician who resigned in protest last September citing Statistics Canada’s eroding independence, says the incident shows the agency is still beholden to an ineffective IT provider.

“This was the longest outage of Statistics Canada’s website since it began operation,” Smith said after reviewing the released emails. “There is a risk of this type of event becoming ever more frequent, resulting in a serious degradation of service.”

And despite the Liberal government’s efforts to fix Shared Services Canada, the IT agency remains a problem for other government departments as well, he said.

“Still the same crowd, steering the bureaucratic boat that brought us the failed email system, Phoenix, the outrageously expensive integrated government website, and projects spinning out of control that haven’t yet hit the headlines.”

The released emails have numerous redactions, most to protect security information, and Shared Services Canada declined to fill in the blanks.

‘Consulted’ with StatsCan

A spokesperson for Shared Services Canada, Andrée Gregoire, said the agency “consulted” with Statistics Canada before taking the web servers offline, though a released email uses the word “notified.”

Source: StatsCan’s website struggled with software issues for almost a month, emails show – Politics – CBC News

Can Andrew Scheer fix the Conservative Party’s diversity problem?

Former PC staffer Angela Wright on challenges facing Andrew Scheer, particularly with new Canadian and visible minority voters:

In his victory speech, Andrew Scheer touted the party’s commitment to being this big tent as well as the need to communicate conservative values to a greater number of Canadians. However, there were two statements in his speech—statements that garnered the loudest applauses in the convention—that could prove troubling for the party when it comes to minorities: echoing the dangerous threat of radical Islam and a staunch belief in withholding federal funding from universities that attempt to stifle free speech.

Across North America and Europe, political responses to Islamic terrorism have created a political arena where politicians and their supporters have justified both blatant and consequential discrimination towards Muslims. There is significant support amongst Canadians to commit ground troops to the fight against ISIS, but by framing this as a fight against radical Islam, Scheer gives ammunition to people who harbour prejudicial views towards Muslims. Although many argue that the term “radical Islam” highlights this form of terrorism is a warped strain of normal Islam, it nonetheless reminds listeners the culprits are Muslim, thus offering an excuse for people with biases against Muslims to suggest policies that target Muslims as a remedy. And for Muslims, it may give the impression that the party is using them to advance its policies on global security.

“Free speech,” meanwhile, has been used as a cloak by racists and bigots to spout rhetoric that’s harmful, hateful, and disrespectful towards racial and religious minorities. Scheer must take care to clarify his opposition to firing or silencing university professors with controversial views while maintaining an opposition to hate speech.

More than advocacy for justice and equality, this issue also has the potential to cause discord in the party between those who are advocates of unrestricted free speech and those who want the party to be more welcoming to everyone with small-c conservative values, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion.

That’s why Scheer should rescind his position to withhold federal funding from universities. It’s imperative to be cognizant of how these issues can be used to target minorities as well as the detrimental impact this has on the party’s image—and its chances at electoral victory.

As a young politician with over a decade of political experience, an Ottawa native living in the Prairies, and a Conservative not tied to previous controversial legislation, Andrew Scheer is best-suited to lead the rejuvenation of the Conservative Party into one that will not bring forth policies and communicate them in a manner that forces racial and religious minorities to choose between their values and racism, their values and xenophobia, or their values and self-respect.

The party’s history-making membership numbers and massive voter turnout in the leadership race show an eagerness amongst Canadians to join the conservative movement and a dissatisfaction with other political choices. The Conservative Party has the money and the membership to win in 2019; all it needs is greater support amongst Canadians.

But it can’t be done without support from racial and religious minorities.

Source: Can Andrew Scheer fix the Conservative Party’s diversity problem? – Macleans.ca

U.S. consultants slam Shared Services Canada for failing projects

To the current government’s credit, it engaged Gartner to review the implementation of the shared services initiative.

The question remains whether officials who promoted and supported the previous government’s strategy provided sound advice on the risks and mitigation strategies, and whether or not Ministers and the government accepted it or not.

Complex IT projects are hard, and government by its very nature is not agile, further exacerbating risk:

Ottawa is in way over its head by attempting a massive transformation of its information-technology (IT) systems under Shared Services Canada, says a scathing indictment of the agency’s failings since 2011.

The government of Canada “has vastly underestimated the size, scale and complexity of this effort. … They are attempting the largest and most complex public-sector shared-service implementation ever considered,” concludes a $1.35-million report by international consultants.

“We … lack confidence in the ability of SSC (Shared Services Canada) and the GC (Government of Canada) to successfully execute the plan.”

The Jan. 12, 2017, report by consultant Gartner Inc. was ordered by the federal government last August, after repeated failures of the Phoenix payroll system and complaints from departments about Shared Services Canada’s inability to deliver technology upgrades, including new email systems.

U.S.-based Gartner brought together a five-person expert panel to examine the agency and its projects, a group that included executives experienced in public-sector digital transformations in California, Massachusetts and Northern Ireland, as well as the former IBM executive who handled big projects within that firm.

Shared Services Canada outsourcing

A $1.35-million consultants’ report, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act, says Shared Services Canada is in way over its head trying to manage a massive transformation of technology. (Shutterstock)

The report lauds the project of consolidating the federal government’s information technology, including creation of a single email system, but says “very little progress” has been made in the last six years because of persistent management failures.

“Decision making cannot follow current approaches,” said the document, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

“Execution must be based on agile, effective decision making, with clear and singular accountabilities. This is the antithesis of governance today.”

The report repeatedly underscores the enormous scale of the consolidation project, likening it to combining the infrastructure of between 30 and 40 large banks.

Slow-footed

The consultants say Shared Services Canada is slow-footed, partly hobbled by complex procurement rules, so that an email solution it chose in 2011 and still has not completed has since been outmoded by new cloud services.

“The world in 2016 is much different from how it was in 2011, and the expert panel and Gartner believe developments such as cloud services should be given much more prominence in SSC’s future,” said the 198-page report.

Some of the document is redacted, including key financial information. The authors make a series of recommendations, chief of which is the appointment of a deputy minister for IT for all of government, to whom the head of Shared Services Canada would report.

In April 2011, then-prime minister Stephen Harper lauded the project to consolidate the government’s IT systems and data centres, saying on the election campaign trail that year that “we know we can save all kinds of money there.”

‘The project was set up to fail through underfunding, lack of service standards, and poor planning from the previous government.’– Jean-Luc Ferland, spokesperson for Treasury Board President Scott Brison

The new agency charged with carrying out the transformation, Shared Services Canada, was announced on Aug. 4, 2011, after Harper won a majority.

But two projects in particular went off the rails in the early going, one to consolidate cell and telephone services, the other to consolidate email services. Both have been plagued by delays, among other problems.

And the new agency was immediately required to cut costs as part of a government-wide effort to wipe out the federal deficit by 2015.

Shared Services Canada data centre

Shared Services Canada is the department responsible for the federal government’s IT services, including its data centres. A new report says the federal government must create a new deputy minister of IT, to help get the troubled agency back on track. (Shared Services Canada)

Jean-Luc Ferland, a spokesperson for Treasury Board President Scott Brison, welcomed the consultants’ conclusions and recommendations, pinning much of the blame for the bad results on the former Conservative government.

“As the report makes clear, the motivation and objectives behind the creation of Shared Services Canada are even more relevant today than they were when it was conceived in 2011,” said Ferland.

“The report is equally clear that the former Conservative government failed to put in place the basic fundamentals for success at the time SSC was created. The project was set up to fail through underfunding, lack of service standards, and poor planning from the previous government.”

No timeline

Ferland said the government is still reviewing the recommendations, alongside those of the auditor general, House of Commons committees and other consultations. He did not provide a timeline for solutions.

“Our government’s ambition is to provide exemplary service to Canadians while making a seamless transformation to the age of digital government — not booking false savings, arbitrarily hobbling the public service, or cutting corners.”

Source: U.S. consultants slam Shared Services Canada for failing projects – Politics – CBC News

Wayne Smith, former Chief Statistician, continues his critique of Shared Services: Questionable transfers from Statistics Canada to Shared Services Canada

 

Government accused of hoarding Canadian history in ‘secret’ archives

Hard to know whether deliberate policy or, what I think may be more likely, lower priority and capacity constraints:

Some of Canada’s leading historians say the federal government is putting the country’s historical record at risk by hoarding piles of documents inside secret archives that together would make a stack taller than the CN Tower.

Historian Dennis Molinaro of Trent University discovered ministries and agencies are stockpiling millions of decades-old papers rather than handing them over to Library and Archives Canada for safekeeping and public access. He’s launched a petition to try to convince the government to set them free.

The Canadian Historical Association (CHA) has joined his campaign and is calling on the government to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary by overhauling the laws on access to government records.

“It’s very disturbing that there are caches of documents about which we know very little. We don’t even know the extent of this,” said CHA president Joan Sangster, a colleague of Molinaro’s at Trent in Peterborough, Ont., where she teaches labour and women’s history.

As part of his research, Molinaro has been asking government departments to hand over information about Canada’s Cold War domestic spy and surveillance programs run by the RCMP. Last fall, the federal government initially refused his access-to-information request for the papers (which were never transferred to the national archives) concerning a 65-year-old top secret RCMP wiretapping program dubbed Project Picnic.

One day after CBC News reported on Molinaro’s battle with the bureaucracy, officials notified him they would release the 1951 “secret order” that authorized the wiretapping program targeting suspected Soviet spies and other subversives, signed by Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent.

‘Secret or shadow archive’

Access-to-information officials have told Molinaro the Privy Council Office holds at least 1.6 million more pages from the era, many of which could concern Cold War counter-espionage programs. He’s also learned many more intelligence-related records dating back four, five and six decades are being held by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and the departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs.

He’s been told in email exchanges that there’s currently no public list to help him — or any other researcher — understand, let alone access, these mountains of papers kept inside closed government storerooms.

“The government seems to be, in essence, running some kind of secret or shadow archive,” Molinaro told CBC News.

Keeping millions of records from the national archives is “appalling,” he said.

“You’re hiding the historical record from the Canadian people.”

He says the problem extends far beyond his own research interest of domestic surveillance.

“Think of how many events from the Cold War … The Cuban Missile Crisis … RCMP counter-intelligence operations, foreign intelligence operations,” he said. “What else is there on other topics? On Indigenous affairs and relations? What else is in different government institutions on a variety of topics?

“We don’t know.”

CBC News asked various government departments to identify how much historical material they keep that’s more than 30 years old — and why.

The Privy Council Office (PCO) revealed it has “1,430 cubic feet” (40.5 cubic metres) of government records dating back many decades.

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PCO says transfer of these cabinet documents, discussion papers and records to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is “time-consuming” and first requires wide consultation to ensure classified information isn’t released improperly.

The office says it’s looking at recommendations to declassify a large block of “legacy” information from 1939-1959, and considering transferring cabinet minutes and documents from the 1980s to LAC.

The CSE, Canada’s electronic spy agency, acknowledges it, too, is struggling to sort 128 linear metres of boxes of “legacy” records that are more than three decades old before handing them over to LAC.

The Foreign Affairs Department, Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP all declined to say how much historical material they continue to store.

Source: Government accused of hoarding Canadian history in ‘secret’ archives – Canada – CBC News