2013-2014 Audit and Evaluation Committee Annual Report

Office of the Information Commissioner

 

1. Purpose

The external members of the Office of the Information Commissioner’s (OIC) Audit and Evaluation Committee prepared this report for the Information Commissioner as a summary of the Committee’s work from April 2013 to March 2014.

The report is also a vehicle for the external Committee members to present their thoughts on areas for improvement, based on the Committee’s assessments and deliberations over the year.

2. Committee role and membership

Independent from OIC management, the Audit Committee plays an advisory role to the Information Commissioner. Committee members provide objective advice and recommendations regarding the sufficiency, quality and results of assurance activities related to the OIC’s risk management, control and governance frameworks and processes.

The Committee has three members, two of whom are external to the federal government. The external members are Bernard Bougie and Dyane Adam, who serves as chair. Mrs. Adam was appointed in October 2008 and M. Bougie joined the Committee in February 2013. Together, they have a breadth of knowledge and experience, in the areas of audit, internal controls and risk-management in both the public and private sectors. Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is the third member of the Committee.

The OIC’s Chief Financial Officer/Director General of Corporate Services and a senior representative of the Office of the Auditor General attended all meetings during the year.

The Committee is also mindful that the Office of the Comptroller General (OCG) continues to develop and update internal audit practices in the federal government: to the extent feasible, while respecting the need to guard the independence of OIC, the Committee conforms to OCG preference. See the Audit and Evaluation Committee Charter, which sets out the Committee’s responsibilities and operations, and the Directive on Internal Auditing in the Government of Canada.

3. Meetings

The Audit and Evaluation Committee met four times in person and one time by teleconference between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014. In camera sessions involving only the Commissioner and the external committee members were held at every committee meeting.

Approved minutes of each meeting can be found on the OIC’s website - Record of minutes.

4. Summary of activities

The Committee’s activities fall under eight categories, and are summarized below. Note, however, that these areas of responsibility are linked in many ways, which Committee members take into account when carrying out their assessments and providing advice.

4.1 Values and ethics

The Committee reviews any measures OIC management takes to exemplify and promote public service values and to ensure compliance with laws, regulations, policies and standards of ethical conduct.

During the April 2013 meeting, Committee members discussed OIC’s values.

4.2 Risk management

Risk assessments and mitigation strategies constitute an ongoing focus of the Committee’s work.

The Committee met with representatives from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) to discuss the OIC’s risk of fraud and error, in anticipation of the audit of the OIC’s annual financial statements. This is done in compliance with standard practice of the OAG.

The Assistant Commissioner, Complaints Resolution and Compliance (CRC) regularly presents an updated risk profile of the Efficiency and Quality of Complaints Resolution at the committee meetings. The major risk identified is the consistency in insuring efficient investigations and quality resolution of complaints.

The Director, Financial Services, Security and Administration (FSSA) kept the Committee informed on the progress and the costs related to the relocation to 30 Victoria in Gatineau. The relocation happened on January 31, 2014.

4.3 Management control framework

Activities and discussions pertaining to the management control framework, which is linked to all other areas of responsibility, were numerous and are ongoing.

4.4 Internal audit function

A revised Audit and Evaluation Committee Charter that reflects the committee's new evaluation role was approved. It and the accompanying policies were developed after consultations with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Treasury Board Secretariat.

The Chief Financial Officer presented her 2012-2013 annual report as the Chief Audit Executive. It was approved by the Audit Committee members. Since February 2013, OIC has opted to have one independent member of its Audit Committee to assume the responsabilities of the CAE.

The Committee is monitoring the work of the internal audit function as part of its responsibilities.

4.5 Support to audits conducted by OAG or other organizations

AC members were presented with the results from the 2012-2013 OAG Annual Audit. The Committee recognized the professional approach of the new audit team.

4.6 Follow-up on Management Action Plans

At each meeting, members were provided with the minutes and an update for the action items from previous meetings. The human resources area was the object of a major restructuring in the past year, following a Public Service Audit in 2011. The committee members have been kept abreast of its follow-up remedial plan, this year’s follow-up audit and want to commend OIC for its successful implementation plan for outsourcing its human resources functions to Public Works and Government Services Canada’s Shared Human Resources Services (SHRS).

4.7 Financial Statements and Public Accounts Reporting

The OAG Financial Statement Audit Plan for 2012-2013 was presented at the May 2013 meeting and the Final Report at the August meeting. Members were satisfied with the FSSA team’s hard work related to the audit and preparation of the financial statements.

Committee members reviewed and recommended for approval the OIC’s Financial Statements for the year ended March 31, 2013. The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) presented an audit report with an unmodified opinion, finding no significant deficiencies in internal controls and requiring no significant adjustments. In fact, the committee members are impressed by the level of professionalism and openness of OIC’s staff dedicated annually to this external audit by the OAG. OIC has always received an annual financial statement audit report with an unmodified opinion from the OAG.

4.8 Risk and Accountability Reporting

At various meetings, the Committee reviewed and discussed several reports and accountability instruments, including the following:

  • 2012-2013 Departmental Performance Report
  • 2014-2015 Report on Plans and Priorities
  • 2014-2018 Risk-Based Audit and Evaluation Plan

5. Overall assessment of risk management, control and accountability

Based on its reviews and discussions throughout 2013-2014, the Committee is reasonably assured that the OIC’s risk management, control and governance processes are generally functioning well.

The Committee appreciates the due diligence the OIC has exercised in the development of sound processes and practices, and is encouraged that management strives for constant improvement.

6. Committee effectiveness

The Committee’s external members are pleased with the Committee’s ongoing development and maturity in its advisory role. Members were provided with relevant and transparent information to enable the Committee to discharge its mandate. Members were pleased with the professionalism of staff, their candour concerning the challenges they face and willingness to implement suggestions.

The Committee has established itself as an integral part of the OIC’s governance system. Despite the pressures of competing priorities and the multitasking typical of small organizations, the commitment and engagement of senior officials and functional analysts have been invaluable in helping the Committee fulfill its mandate. Based on observations over the past year the Committee concludes that OIC appears to have a systematic and rational approach to addressing its mandate, to monitoring results and to reporting publicly.

7. Forward planning

The Committee is scheduled to meet four times during 2014-2015. Its goal is to continue to provide advice that reflects core public sector principles, take into account the independence of Agents of Parliament, and encompass innovative and creative perspectives.

Appendix A: Audit Committee calendar of activities, 2013-2014

   
  April 3 May 28 Aug. 1 Nov. 6 Jan. 22 Teleconference
1. Organizational Matters  
Audit and Evaluation Committee Charter     A    
Annual Forward Calendar A   R R A
Audit Committee Annual Report       I A
2. Key Responsibilities  
Values and Ethics R        
Report on inventory of complaints     I I I
Report of Wrong-Doing As Reported
Financial Statements & Public Accounts     A    
OAG Financial Statement Audit Plan I A     I
OAG Financial Statement Audit Report & Management Action Plan     R    
Other OAG/Central Agency Audit Reports (incl. OCG Horizontal Audits), OIC Self-Assessments/Action Plans As Audits are Planned (I) and Action Plans Developed (R)
Risk-Based Audit/Evaluation Plan   I A I  
Internal Audit Report, Management Action Plan, Follow-ups   A   I  
Report on Plans and Priorities          
Departmental Performance Report     A    
Chief Audit Executive Reports     A I  
In-camera meetings I I I I I
3. Business Context, Planning and Implementation  
Strategic Plan   I      
Integrated Operational Plan       
4. Other Issues
Parliamentary Activities – Annual Calendar I I I I I

Legend

  • A – Approval / Action required
  • R – Review / Recommend for approval
  • I – Information / Discussion
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