Audit of the Immigration Program at the Canadian High Commission in Accra

Internal Audit and Accountability Branch
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Final Report
January 19, 2012


Table of Contents


List of Acronyms Used in the Report

CAIPS
Computer-Assisted Immigration Processing System
CIC
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
CKFITS
Controlled Key Forms Inventory Tracking System
CRC
Cost Recovery Clerk
CRO
Cost Recovery Officer
GCMS
Global Case Management System
IPM
Immigration Program Manager
IRIMP
International Region Integrated Management Plan
LES
Locally Engaged Staff
MCO
Management Consular Officer
MIO
Mission Integrity Assistant
MIO
Mission Integrity Officer
NHQ
National Headquarters

Executive Summary

The Citizenship and Immigration Canada Risk-Based Audit Plan 2011-2014 includes audits of Canada’s immigration program at missions abroad. The selection of the immigration program at the Canadian High Commission in Accra, Ghana, was done in consultation with the International Region Branch at national headquarters. The on-site field work was conducted from September 12 to 16, 2011.

The Accra mission is a regional processing centre. The mission conducts its operations in a very complex operating environment. It provides permanent resident application processing for 12 countries in West Africa and temporary resident visa services for 10 of these countries.

The audit objectives were to assess the mission’s adequacy in the following areas:

  • Governance framework for administering the immigration program;
  • Risk management processes and practices in place to support program objectives; and
  • Internal control framework governing administrative, financial and operational activities.

The audit focused on all significant activities performed within the immigration section at the High Commission. At the conclusion of the site visit, the audit team provided preliminary audit observations to the High Commissioner and the Immigration Program Manager.

Overall, we concluded that:

  • The governance framework met our expectations;
  • The risk management processes and procedures met our expectations; and
  • The internal control framework partially met our expectations.

Four recommendations related to program management in Accra are made in the report, and a management action plan was developed in response to this audit.

1.0 Introduction

The Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Risk-Based Audit Plan 2011-2014 includes audits of Canada’s immigration program at missions abroad. The selection of the immigration program at the Canadian High Commission in Accra, Ghana, was done in consultation with the International Region Branch at CIC national headquarters (NHQ). The on-site field work was conducted from September 12 to 16, 2011.

1.1 Background

1.1.1 Operations

CIC recruits, selects and processes applications from foreign nationals who want to come to Canada temporarily or permanently and contribute to building a stronger Canada by settling and fully integrating into Canadian society and the economy. The Operations Sector at NHQ, which is divided into domestic and overseas operations, is responsible for carrying out these tasks. Overseas operations fall under the responsibility of the International Region and its network of visa offices at missions abroad, which is comprised of 86 points of service in 73 countries.

The Accra mission is a regional processing centre. The mission conducts its operations in a very complex operating environment. It provides permanent resident application processing for 12 countries in West Africa and temporary resident visa services for 10 of these countries.

The immigration section has 17 full-time equivalent employees as follows:

  • 4 Canada-based officers (including one mission integrity officer (MIO) from the Canada Border Services Agency);
  • 2 locally engaged expatriate program officers;
  • 2 locally engaged expatriate case analysts; and
  • 9 locally engaged support staff.

Appendix A presents the mission’s summarized organizational chart as of October 2010. Appendix B sets out a summary of the mission’s processing statistics for 2011 (as of April 1), 2010, 2009 and 2008.

1.1.2 Environmental Context

The following is an overview of the environmental context within which the mission conducts and manages its operations. The information is provided as part of the background to the audit and is not listed in any particular order. Mission management has identified the following challenges and opportunities related to its operating environment.

  • The presence of fraud in the operating environment - Application fraud in the permanent and temporary resident programs is widespread and targets all categories with most fraud related to issues of identity, relationship and age. The lack of reliable identity and civil registration processes remains at the root of the challenges in the delivery of visa services in the region.
  • Service delivery to countries within the area of responsibility - There are no remote application drop-off points or visa application centres in the area. The challenges in obtaining financial instruments to pay processing fees mean that many applicants must travel to Accra to obtain visa services. The absence of direct visa services in some of these countries is often the source of frustration in bilateral dealings.
  • Communications challenges - Mail service in the region is extremely unreliable, courier charges are very expensive and e-mail is not as widespread as in many other parts of the world. In addition, many sponsored clients use a Canadian address for all correspondence, creating processing delays for time-critical categories, such as Family Class priority cases. One alternative that may offer opportunities to improve communication within the region is the prevalence of cell phones. It will, however, require some effort to explore whether information technology products can be implemented to exploit this technology.

1.2 Audit Risk Assessment

The audit engagement risk assessment was conducted during the planning phase of the audit. It was based on discussions with International Region officials at NHQ during the development of the Risk-Based Audit Plan 2011-2014 and at the beginning of the planning phase of the audit. In addition, a document review was performed, which included an assessment of several key documents, including the mission’s submission for the International Region Integrated Management Plan (IRIMP).

The overall audit engagement risk was deemed to be high based on the following factors:

  • Governance - There were risks to the management of the program in terms of significant growth in applications in certain categories, and management of operations that cover a dozen countries in the region;
  • Risk management - The main risks that faced the mission in this area related to the external environmental context that includes a relatively high level of fraud and misrepresentation. The mission also had a relatively high refusal rate, which made case processing more difficult.
  • Internal controls - Given the external environmental context, the provision of services to 12 countries, significant growth in certain categories, and a high level of refusals in some categories, the integrity of the internal control environment was potentially at risk.
  • Introduction of new technologies - In early 2011, two new systems were introduced at the mission. First, the Controlled Key Forms Inventory Tracking System (CKFITS) was introduced in January 2011 for the management of controlled documents. Second, the Global Case Management System (GCMS) was introduced in February 2011 and will eventually replace the Computer-Assisted Immigration Processing System (CAIPS) that has been the main system to process applications overseas. Given the recent implementation of GCMS, there were risks related to the fact that two parallel systems would be used for processing applications and managing operations, particularly related to the generation of performance information on in-year processing.

1.3 Audit Objectives

The audit objectives were to assess the mission’s adequacy in the following areas:

  • Governance framework for administering the immigration program;
  • Risk management processes and practices in place to support program objectives; and
  • Internal control framework governing administrative, financial and operational activities.

1.4 Audit Criteria

The audit criteria were based on applicable Treasury Board and CIC legislation, policies and directives. See Appendix C for the detailed criteria.

1.5 Audit scope

The audit focused on the management of the Accra immigration program in terms of the governance processes in place, the risk management practices and processes in place, and the adequacy of the internal control framework in place to support the delivery of immigration program services.

This audit focused on all significant activities performed in the immigration section at the Canadian High Commission in Accra, Ghana. Where applicable, interrelationships with the International Region, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canada Border Services Agency, Public Safety Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were assessed as part of the audit.

The audit covered the period from January 1, 2010, to September 16, 2011.

1.6 Audit approach and methodology

The three lines of enquiry were:

  • Governance framework;
  • Risk management processes and practices; and
  • Internal control framework.

The audit was conducted in accordance with the Internal Auditing Standards for the Government of Canada and the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.

The examination phase was conducted from July 8 to October 20, 2011, with the site visit to Accra, Ghana, taking place from September 12 to 16. As part of our examination of governance and risk management, we interviewed immigration program staff and other mission staff with links to immigration operations, reviewed documents, observed processes, documented controls, tested information, and reviewed samples of management files to test for compliance.

As part of our examination of the internal control framework, we examined controls over application processing, CAIPS, GCMS, controlled documents, cost recovery, travel and hospitality expenditures, human resources, citizen-focused service, and learning, innovation and change management.

For our examination of application processing, we examined all decisions related to permanent resident determination travel documents, temporary resident and permanent resident cases, and temporary resident permits finalized from January 1 to December 31, 2010, to test compliance with decision-making authorities. We also interviewed immigration program staff and other mission staff with links to immigration operations, reviewed documents, observed processes and documented controls.

The audit also examined a judgmental sample of five permanent resident determination travel documents, 30 temporary resident cases and 30 permanent resident cases that were finalized between January 1 and December 31, 2010, to assess compliance with the legislation, regulations and policy requirements of each case file. We determined sample size based on processing volumes at the mission. Individual sample cases were selected randomly and reviewed in order to validate findings from the interviews, reviews of documents and observations of procedures.

In examining other internal controls, we interviewed immigration program staff and other mission staff with links to immigration operations, reviewed documents, observed processes and documented controls. Specifically, we examined CAIPS and GCMS user profiles, tested CAIPS and GCMS inventory controls, tested a sample of transactions involving the office’s inventory of controlled documents, examined cost recovery revenue controls, and reviewed a sample of travel and hospitality claims to assess the effectiveness of the controls in place.

The audit team met with the High Commissioner at the beginning of the on-site field work to obtain her impression of the immigration program and again at the conclusion of the site visit to provide preliminary observations. The audit team also provided preliminary observations to the Immigration Program Manager (IPM) at the conclusion of the site visit.

The examination phase was completed on October 20, 2011, after which a debriefing was given to the International Region to provide draft audit observations, conclusions and recommendations. A draft audit report was provided to both the International Region and the IPM on October 31, 2011, for comment.

The Management Action Plan to address audit findings and recommendations was also developed in response to the audit recommendations.

2.0 Audit Conclusions

Overall, the audit concludes that:

  • the governance framework met our expectations;
  • the risk management processes and procedures in place met our expectations; and
  • the internal control framework partially met our expectations.

The next section of the report contains the detailed observations, conclusions and recommendations for each line of enquiry.

3.0 Observations and Recommendations

3.1 Governance Framework

We expected to find that the mission’s governance framework, including governance and strategic directions, public service values, results and performance, and accountability, supported the administration of the immigration program. As part of our examination of governance, we interviewed immigration program staff and other mission staff with links to immigration operations, reviewed documents, observed processes, documented controls, tested information, and reviewed samples of management files to test for compliance. Overall, we found that the immigration program’s governance framework met our expectations.

3.1.1 Governance and Strategic Direction

The program has a clearly defined strategic direction, and strategic objectives that are aligned with its mandate. The program’s operational plan clearly outlines how the work will be managed to achieve objectives.

The immigration program’s annual IRIMP submission to NHQ provided a good overview of the program’s strategic direction, and internal and external environmental factors affecting program management and operations. The IPM has also introduced local service standards for processing applications, which enhanced and operationalized the general service standards set by NHQ. In addition, all immigration staff performance indicators were closely linked to visa targets, service standards and their respective job descriptions.

The program’s team-based structure and approach to file management allowed the IPM to distribute applications for processing in line with targets established at the beginning of the year as part of the IRIMP process. As well, the IPM makes good use of temporary duty assignments and re-assignment of staff to manage workloads throughout the year, including during the peak summer temporary resident processing period.

3.1.2 Public Service Values

Management demonstrated its commitment to values and ethics through the inclusion of values and ethics questions in staffing competitions and through training opportunities offered to all staff. Moreover, soon after the IPM arrived in Accra, he held a staff retreat that focused primarily on values and ethics. Staff appear to recognize management’s commitment to values and ethics. They have all signed values and ethics statements and the CIC Code of Conduct document.

3.1.3 Results and Performance

As stated in section 1.2, the GCMS was introduced at the mission in February 2011. Since that time, application management and processing have been performed using two separate, parallel systems. In the transition from CAIPS to GCMS, the program has not been generating performance information to track progress against targets as they used to when they only had CAIPS.

Immigration program targets are set at the beginning of the year. The IPM meets with the senior Canada-based officer on an informal basis throughout the year to discuss processing times and targets. Since the introduction of GCMS, information on results has not been systematically gathered, assessed or reported and therefore, not used in a formal manner to support decision making.

In the past, IPMs were able to generate performance data to support decision making from the CAIPS system exclusively. However, since both CAIPS and GCMS are being used to process applications, the data to support decision making would have to come from both systems and users are not yet as familiar with the GCMS reporting functions as they are with those in CAIPS. This is one contributing factor to the recent, non-systematic generation of data for management decision-making purposes. It is assumed that over time, as users become more comfortable with GCMS and only one system is used for case processing, the IPM will have access to the required performance information needed to manage operations.

3.1.4 Accountability

The program has a clear and effective organizational structure in place that is documented. An organizational chart is developed and established that reflects the actual reporting lines in the immigration program. Reporting lines are clear and roles are consistent with CIC generic job descriptions.

The IPM is well integrated into overall mission management. He attends the weekly meetings of the Committee on Mission Management, chairs a committee and supports mission activities. In addition, based on our discussions with the IPM, the immigration program has good working relations with its partners both inside and outside the mission (the MIO, the Medical Officer in Paris, France, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Liaison Officer in Rabat, Morocco). Moreover, based on the work performed by the MIO, the immigration program appears to have good working relations with external law enforcement agencies and like-minded missions.

3.2 Risk Management

We expected to find that the mission’s risk management processes and practices in place supported the achievement of program objectives. As part of our examination of risk management, we interviewed immigration program staff and other mission staff with links to immigration operations, reviewed documents, observed processes, documented controls, tested information, and reviewed samples of management files to test for compliance. Overall, we found that the immigration program’s risk management practices met our expectations.

We also found that the mission identified and documented key risks to the program in terms of case processing (fraud and reliability of applicant documents), cost recovery (refunds to refused clients and controls in place), client-focused service (same-day temporary resident visa services to clients), and the external environmental conditions within which the mission operates. Planning and resource allocations considered these risks. In addition, we found that risks were appropriately communicated to staff and stakeholders, particularly through the IRIMP.

In addition to both the MIO and the assistant who work on anti-fraud files, the program also has an anti-fraud coordinator who is the senior Canada-based officer at the mission. When discussing this role with the audit team, the anti-fraud coordinator pointed out that it mainly related to communicating potential fraud-related items in applications in a more informal manner with staff.

While the program does not take a systematic approach to quality assurance work, it has undertaken two quality assurance reviews on an ad hoc basis over the past two years. The most recent review focused on the bank statements of student permit applicants.

Recommendation 1

Program management should ensure that quality assurance reviews are conducted in a more systematic manner, results are disseminated to staff, and any resulting recommendations to improve operations are implemented.

Management Response

The mission has accepted and implemented this recommendation. It will use the 2012-2013 annual International Region Integrated Management Plan exercise to identify and set out the mission-specific quality assurance review or reviews to be conducted in the coming fiscal year. The quality assurance reviews will then become part of the objectives and results set out for the section that form the basis for establishing these factors in the Personnel Management Plans of section staff. The existing monthly meetings for both officers and program assistants will be used to disseminate the results to staff.

3.3 Internal Control Framework

We expected to find that the internal control framework in place supported the administrative, financial and operational activities of the program. As part of our examination of the internal control framework, we examined controls over application processing, CAIPS, CAIPS, controlled documents, cost recovery, travel and hospitality expenditures, human resources, citizen-focused service, and learning, innovation and change management. Overall, we found that the internal control framework partially met our expectations. The specific details are outlined below by line of enquiry.

3.3.1 Application processing

The audit of internal controls included an examination of immigrant and non-immigrant processing. We expected to find that immigrant and non-immigrant decisions were adequately documented, that designated and delegated authorities for decisions were appropriate and in compliance with departmental policies, and that appropriate controls were in place to ensure that admissibility requirements were met. For our examination of application processing, we examined all decisions related to permanent resident determination travel documents, temporary resident and permanent resident cases, and temporary resident permits finalized between January 1 and December 31, 2010, to test compliance with decision-making authorities. We also interviewed immigration program staff and other mission staff with links to immigration operations, reviewed documents, observed processes and documented controls.

The audit also examined a judgmental sample of five permanent resident determination travel documents, 30 temporary resident cases and 30 permanent resident cases that were finalized between January 1 and December 31, 2010, to assess compliance with the legislation, regulations and policy requirements of each case file. We determined sample size based on processing volumes at the mission. Individual sample cases were selected randomly and reviewed in order to validate findings from the interviews, reviews of documents and observations of procedures.

We found that controls over application processing met our expectations. We reviewed the process in place to assess immigration applications and found that overall, adequate controls were in place to ensure compliance with operational and legislative requirements. We also reviewed all decisions made on cases finalized over our review period and found that all decisions were made by individuals with the authority to do so.

As part of our audit, we also reviewed samples of case files finalized during our review period. We generally found processing files to be compliant with policy. The documents maintained on file met our expectations. However, there were a few areas where this could be strengthened, particularly in temporary visa processing. Areas for improvement included date-stamping application forms, keeping copies of key documents used to determine refusals, and enhancing CAIPS notes specifically related to whether interviews were required or waived. In addition, CAIPS notes for final decisions could be more consistent.

We also interviewed staff as part of this process and found that they were knowledgeable about legislative and operational processing requirements. In addition, we found that staff met our expectations when reviewing applications for admissibility requirements. In particular, they demonstrated a good practice by ensuring that FOSS checks were up to date in applications when final decisions were made.

3.3.2 CAIPS and GCMS

As part of the audit of the internal control framework, we examined controls over CAIPS and GCMS. We expected to find that appropriate controls were in place for the management and use of CAIPS and GCMS user accounts at the mission and these assets were safeguarded. In examining CAIPS and GCMS, we interviewed immigration program staff, reviewed documents, observed processes and documented controls. We also examined CAIPS and GCMS user profiles, and tested CAIPS and GCMS inventory controls.

Up until recently, CAIPS was the main system used to facilitate immigration work at the Accra High Commission and in all visa offices abroad. However, in February 2011, GCMS was introduced at the mission and it is currently being used to process certain types of visas. It is expected that over time, GCMS will become the main system used by visa officers overseas and that CAIPS will eventually be decommissioned.

3.3.2.1 CAIPS

The control framework over CAIPS partially met our expectations. We found that three active accounts belonged to former staff who were no longer at the mission. We also found that some CAIPS users had access to the system above their authority levels, allowing them to perform functions that they should not have had access to. While staff had access to functions that were beyond their authority levels, for the decisions we reviewed, we found no instances where staff exceeded their authority levels. These control issues represented a risk to the program in terms of staff having access to functions beyond their level of authority and the presence of user accounts that were no longer needed. Program management was notified of these issues while the audit team was on site and will continue to monitor user accounts going forward.

The CAIPS Information Technology asset inventory list was not up to date and included some items that were no longer used solely for CAIPS purposes. Specifically, the inventory list kept by the program included items such as older printers that used to be for CAIPS but were now being used as regular printers in individual staff offices. Program management was notified of this issue while the audit team was on site.

3.3.2.2 GCMS

The control framework over GCMS partially met our expectations. The GCMS system was introduced at the mission in February 2011. User access is centrally administered by NHQ unlike CAIPS, which is managed locally at the mission. Our review of GCMS found that the system’s assets were safeguarded. We also found that, even though the system was recently introduced, there were five former employee accounts that were still active and needed to be de-activated. The GCMS manager sent an e-mail to NHQ to have these accounts de-activated while the audit team was on site.

At the time of our site visit, the audit team was informed that missions had not yet received any guidance for monitoring user accounts, such as the guidance provided in the CAIPS Manager’s Manual. After our site visit, GCMS officials informed us that they intend to send GCMS user account lists to all offices across the network and NHQ for validation by the end of January 2012. Once offices and NHQ have reviewed the lists, any necessary changes will be made according to established procedures for changes to user accounts.

3.3.3 Controlled Documents

At missions abroad, controlled documents are comprised of counterfoils and seals, which are issued together as a visa. Counterfoils are the documents on which missions print visa information. Seals are documents that are affixed over counterfoils when they are placed in an applicant’s passport to prevent tampering.

In January 2011, a new application that was developed by NHQ was introduced at the mission. The CKFITS was developed to assist CIC overseas offices in managing the controlled forms. It is a Web-based application that replaced the previous paper-based and locally developed electronic methods used to control, transfer and inventory controlled documents.

We expected to find that roles and responsibilities were appropriate for the custodianship; safeguarding and handling of controlled documents and that adequate controls were in place. In examining controlled documents, we interviewed immigration program staff, reviewed documents, observed processes and documented controls. We also conducted a physical inventory count and reconciled with records, and reviewed a sample of transactions involving the office’s accuracy in record keeping. We found that the management of controlled documents partially met our expectations.

When the audit team was on site, we noted that while roles and responsibilities were clear, there were some discrepancies related to the management of controlled documents. Specifically, the quarterly report that was submitted to NHQ for the period April 1 to June 30, 2011, was not up to date. The report was supposed to be an inventory count of all seals and counterfoils as of June 30, 2011. However, the data for temporary resident seals and counterfoils were recorded only up to May 23. This provided an inaccurate count of the inventory of seals and counterfoils as of June 30, 2011.

The audit team was able to reconcile seals and counterfoils while on site. However, during the reconciliation process, we noted some recording errors in the controlled documents tracking log. These were pointed out to the Forms Control Officer and corrected on site.

The audit team also noted that since the introduction of CKFITS, the IPM has not been able to sign off on the quarterly inventory report. This is a systemic issue with the new application that tracks seals and counterfoils. The Information Management and Technologies Branch is aware of the issue and will address it with the next full release of CKFITS so that IPMs will be able to sign off on quarterly inventory reports in the future.

We also noted that controlled documents were safeguarded - both in working and deep storage. Only those that were being used were not kept in storage. The Forms Control Officer provided the seals and counterfoils to another officer when required for printing. However, the Forms Control Officer did not maintain a record (tracking log) of the seals and counterfoils transferred for printing purposes. This is a key control for controlled documents that should be put in place for the safeguarding of the forms in use.

Recommendation 2

Program management should strengthen the controls in place for quarterly inventory reporting and tracking seals and counterfoils transferred for printing purposes.

Management Response

This recommendation has been implemented. The audit revealed problems that were the result of a lack of familiarity with the new Controlled Key Forms Inventory Tracking System. Counterfoil and seal logs are now entered on a daily basis, ensuring that physical inventories of active stock are done consistently.

3.3.4 Cost Recovery

Cost recovery revenues are generated when an applicant provides payment to the immigration program in advance of, or during, the submission of an application for a visa to come to Canada. Clients submitting applications at the Accra High Commission do not pay in cash. Rather, they are expected to pay with a bank instrument such as a bank draft, a certified cheque or a money order. In 2010, immigration revenues at the mission were $1.3 million.

We expected to find that there was an effective control framework in place to safeguard the revenues collected in the immigration section of the mission. In examining cost recovery, we interviewed immigration program staff and other mission staff with links to immigration operations, reviewed documents, observed processes and documented controls. Specifically, we examined cost recovery revenue controls to assess the effectiveness of the controls in place.

We found that controls over cost recovery partially met our expectations. Roles and responsibilities for cost recovery were clear and in compliance with relevant authorities. However, there were nine employees who had access to POS+ at the mission, including six cost recovery clerk (CRC) backups. The program corrected this situation while the audit team was on-site and reduced the number of backups to three. In the future, the program should periodically review POS+ profiles.

Another POS+ issue related to the fact that the program was using two separate fee schedules in months where a change in fees had been made. As some applicants come from outside Ghana, the program often receives payment for services based on previous fee schedules for some time after an adjustment (especially in applications received by mail or courier). The program’s operating procedure has been to create a second fee schedule in POS+ and keeping it active for one month, while leaving the previous fee schedule active for the same period. During this month, the CRC has the option of using either fee schedule when processing payments without referring to the cost recovery officer (CRO) for a fee override. At the end of the month, the program removes the previous fee schedule from the active currencies in POS+. Normally, there should only be one fee schedule and when payments are received by the program that are not based on active fees in the schedule, the CRO should perform a fee override so that the clerk can enter the information into the POS+ system.

This situation increased the risk of fraud in the program because it removed the need for management to approve fee overrides, which is a key control. While no instances of fraud were identified during the period under audit, this presented a higher than acceptable level of risk in this regard and the standard operating procedure and associated controls were put back in place while the audit team was on site.

We also found that POS+ system maintenance had not been performed in over two years. The repair and compacting of the POS+ system must be performed regularly to ensure that the system is operating as intended and that it is kept up to date.

The program’s end-of-day reconciliation of revenues with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) could also be strengthened. The CIC Cost Recovery Manual and the Standard Financial Procedures for Immigration Fees Collected at Missions - Official Agreement between DFAIT and CIC describe the standard operating procedures for end-of-day reconciliations. At the time of the audit site visit, this process was not being performed in accordance with the standard operating procedures. Program staff informed us that the CRC provided the daily revenues to the mission accountant, a DFAIT employee, at the end of the day. The CRC and mission accountant did not reconcile the revenues at that time, nor was a receipt of the transfer provided to the CRC. The revenues were reconciled the day after they were provided. While the program does not accept cash as a form of payment, it does accept certified instruments, which makes this a key control point.

We also noted an issue related to the provision of refunds to clients. The total value of refunds processed over the past two years, as of August 15, 2011, was approximately $401,485. At the time of our site visit, some applicants who had been refused a visa had been waiting over two years for refunds. The delays in processing refunds relate to relatively high application refusal rates, the capacity of the mission accountant to process a large quantity of refunds and the transfer of funds from Ghana to other countries in the program’s operating area, specifically for refunds to applicants from Nigeria.

The IPM and the mission’s management consular officer are working on a solution, which should be in place by the end of the year. The IPM informed us of a plan to create a list of all refund requests and provide this list to the mission accountant once a month. The development of this list will allow the IPM to maintain a record of outstanding refunds and enable better management of refunds to clients in the future. The current practice does not allow for the tracking of refunds by refused client.

Recommendation 3

The CRO should perform system administrative functions periodically to ensure that the POS+ system and cost recovery controls are functioning as intended.

Management Response

This recommendation has been implemented. All POS+ user profiles have been reviewed and updated based on the recommendations of the audit team. The CRO has implemented weekly compact and repair cycles as well as archiving of the POS+ database six months after the end of the fiscal year (completed for 2010-2011).

Recommendation 4

Program management should ensure that end-of-day reconciliation procedures with the mission accountant are performed in accordance with the Cost Recovery Manual and the official agreement between DFAIT and CIC.

Management Response

This recommendation has been implemented. A daily reconciliation procedure has been implemented, and the accounts section with financial instruments, reconciliation and 1203A reports are submitted daily. The daily reconciliation reports are stored with the CRO. The accounts section issues receipts for daily transactions to the CRC the same day.

3.3.5 Travel and Hospitality

We expected to find that the internal control framework for managing travel and hospitality expenditures was in compliance with applicable policies and directives. In examining travel and hospitality expenditures, we interviewed immigration program staff and other mission staff with links to immigration operations, reviewed documents, observed processes and documented controls. Specifically, we reviewed a sample of travel and hospitality claims to assess the effectiveness of the controls in place.

We found that the controls related to travel and hospitality expenditures met our expectations. All files reviewed were in compliance with applicable policies and procedures.

3.3.6 People

We expected to find that human resources management was aligned with strategic and business planning, that the mission provided employees with the necessary training, tools and resources, and information to support the discharge of their responsibilities, and that the mission had a system in place for the performance evaluation of employees. In examining human resources, we interviewed immigration program staff and other mission staff with links to immigration operations, reviewed documents, observed processes and documented controls.

We found that people management at the mission met our expectations. Human resources planning in the immigration program was aligned with the business planning cycle and annual IRIMP submission to NHQ. The mission supplements its staff during peak processing times through the use of temporary duty assignments.

In terms of immigration program staff, we found that all performance appraisals were on file for 2009-2010 and that three performance appraisals had not been completed for 2010-2011 at the time of our site visit. Our review of available 2010-2011 performance appraisals found that staff objectives and indicators were closely aligned to office targets, service standards and job descriptions. There was a good mix of qualitative and quantitative performance measures. However, despite measurable indicators, limited performance information or data appear to have been captured by the program and used in the performance appraisal process.

Our review of staff files indicated that they were mostly up to date and that all required documents were included, such as learning plans, security checks, signed letters of offer and job descriptions. However, in reviewing the files from the three most recent staffing competitions, we found that two of the three files did not contain complete documentation of the process. The immigration program should ensure that its competition files are well documented at the end of a competition and that the complete file is provided to the management consular officer.

3.3.7 Citizen-Focused Service

We expected to find that the mission takes measures to facilitate access to its services, that it leverages technology to enhance user services and access, and that a formal process was in place to consider feedback and impact on short- and long-term objectives. In examining citizen-focused service, we interviewed immigration program staff, reviewed documents and observed processes.

We found that the controls in place for citizen-focused service met our expectations. The mission uses service standards effectively to set client expectations, manage workloads and meet client needs. However, as discussed previously in section 3.1 of this report, performance information is not captured regularly to evaluate progress against standards.

The mission’s website is up to date, thorough and well laid out to provide comprehensive information to clients by relevant business line. Mission-specific information is included, particularly for temporary resident visas (same-day service standards) as well as links to the departmental website.

Client feedback forms are available at the main gate of the mission. Clients can also send an email to the program about their concerns. The mission does not provide clients an opportunity to telephone with questions or complaints. Rather, clients are always referred to the mission’s website. While clients can write in their comments or questions to the program, responses are not formally tracked.

3.3.8 Learning, Innovation and Change Management

We expected to find that learning and development activities were used to promote innovation and change management at the mission, and that change management practices supported the implementation of GCMS at the mission. In examining learning, innovation and change management, we interviewed immigration program staff and reviewed documents.

We found that learning, innovation and change management met our expectations and were well managed. The introduction of GCMS at the mission was the most significant change to occur over the course of the past two years. The support provided by NHQ, particularly with respect to on-site training and coaching, was seen as having a very positive impact in terms of the program’s ability to use the system to process applications. In addition to NHQ support for GCMS implementation, the senior Canada-based officer at the mission developed local standard operating procedures.

Staff are still discovering all the features of the system and the potential benefit that they could bring to the management of the immigration program. Over time, as the program fully understands the capabilities and functionalities that the system can provide, it will become a very powerful tool for program employees. NHQ is continuing to provide ongoing support and sending information to IPMs on a regular basis to enhance their knowledge of the functionality of the system.

Appendix A: Accra Mission Organizational Chart

Source: Adapted from the International Region Immigration Management Plan Organizational Chart (October 2010)

Accra Mission Organizational Chart

Appendix B: Accra Processing Summary

Line of Business 2011
(as of Apr 1)
2010 2009 2008 % change
2008 to 2010
Permanent 
Residents
Visas Issued 882 2,914 2,885 1,897 53.61%
Applications Finalized 1,275 5,390 5,290 3,074 75.34%
Applications Received 508 6,028 4,846 7,244 -16.79%
Application Inventory 21,840 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Temporary 
Visitors
Visas Issued 373 2,203 2,057 2,271 -2.99%
Applications Finalized 718 4,204 3,730 4,321 -2.71%
Applications Received 733 4,261 3,800 4,333 -1.66%
Temporary 
Workers
Permits Issued 5 61 97 122 -50.00%
Cases Finalized 10 105 187 260 -59.62%
Applications Received 14 111 192 273 -59.34%
Students Permits Issued 10 246 277 196 25.51%
Cases Finalized 34 673 638 534 26.03%
Applications Received 34 680 651 550 23.64%

Source: Data from International Region (NHQ) records as at April 1, 2011.

Note: All data above are in persons rather than cases. A case is comprised of an application that may include multiple applicants (persons), for example: a family.

Appendix C: Detailed Audit Criteria

Objective 1: Governance Framework

The adequacy of the governance framework will be assessed against the following sublines of enquiry and criteria.

  • Governance and Strategic Direction
    • The mission has clearly defined and communicated strategic directions and strategic objectives, aligned with its mandate.
    • The mission has in place operational plans and objectives aimed at achieving its strategic objectives.
  • Public Service Values
    • Management, through its actions, demonstrates that the mission’s integrity and ethical values cannot be compromised.
    • Values and ethics are promoted within the mission, documented and clearly communicated.
  • Results and Performance
    • Relevant information on results is gathered, used to make decisions and reported.
  • Accountability
    • A clear and effective organizational structure is established and documented.

Objective 2: Risk Management

The adequacy of the risk management process and practices will be assessed against the following criteria.

  • The mission identifies and documents the risks that may preclude the achievement of objectives;
  • Management appropriately communicates risk and risk management strategies to key stakeholders; and
  • Planning and resource allocations consider risk information.

Objective 3: Internal Controls

The internal controls in place to support financial, administrative and operational activities will be assessed against the following sublines of enquiry and criteria.

  • Application Processing
    • Decisions are adequately documented, and required supporting documents are maintained;
    • Designated and delegated authorities for decisions are appropriate and comply with departmental policy; and
    • Appropriate controls are in place to ensure that admissibility requirements are met.
  • CAIPS / GCMS
    • Appropriate controls are in place for the management and use of CAIPS / GCMS user accounts at the mission; and
    • Appropriate controls are in place to safeguard CAIPS / GCMS assets at the mission.
  • Controlled Documents
    • Roles and responsibilities are appropriate for the custodianship, safeguarding and handling of controlled documents; and
    • Adequate controls are in place for the custodianship, safeguarding and handling of controlled documents.
  • Cost Recovery
    • There is an effective control framework in place to safeguard revenues collected in the immigration section of the mission.
      • Roles and responsibilities assigned and procedures performed are in accordance with policies; and access to cost recovery assets, records and information is limited to authorized individuals;
      • Controls are in place to ensure accurate recording and processing of cost recovery transactions; and
      • Cost recovery assets and records are retained, and are periodically monitored and verified.
  • Travel and Hospitality
    • The internal control framework for managing travel and hospitality expenditures is in compliance with applicable policies and directives.
  • People
    • Human resources management is aligned with strategic and business planning;
    • The mission provides employees with the necessary training, tools, resources and information to support the discharge of their responsibilities; and
    • The mission has in place a system for the performance evaluation of employees.
  • Citizen-Focused Service
    • The mission takes measures to facilitate access to its services;
    • The mission leverages technology to enhance user services and access; and
    • A formal process is in place to consider feedback and impact on short- and long-term objectives.
  • Learning, innovation and change management
    • Learning and development activities are used to promote innovation and change management at the mission; and
    • Change management practices supported the implementation of GCMS at the mission.

Appendix D: Management Action Plan

Recommendations Action Plan Responsibility Target 
Date
1. Program management should ensure that quality assurance reviews are conducted in a more systematic manner, results are disseminated to staff, and any resulting recommendations to improve operations are implemented.

The mission has accepted and implemented this recommendation.

It will use the 2012-2013 annual International Region Integrated Management Plan exercise to identify and set out the mission-specific quality assurance review or reviews to be conducted in the coming fiscal year. The quality assurance reviews will then become part of the objectives and results set out for the section that form the basis for establishing these factors in the Personnel Management Plans of section staff. The existing monthly meetings for both officers and program assistants will be used to disseminate the results to staff.

IPM April 30, 2012
(ongoing)
2. Program management should strengthen the controls in place for quarterly inventory reporting and tracking seals and counterfoils transferred for printing purposes.

This recommendation has been implemented.

The audit revealed problems that were the result of a lack of familiarity with the new Controlled Key Forms Inventory Tracking System.

Counterfoil and seal logs are now entered on a daily basis, ensuring that physical inventories of active stock are done consistently.

IPM
Forms Control Officer
November 1, 2011
(completed)
3. The CRO should perform system administrative functions periodically to ensure that the POS+ system and cost recovery controls are functioning as intended.

This recommendation has been implemented.

All POS+ user profiles have been reviewed and updated based on the recommendations of the audit team. The CRO has implemented weekly compact and repair cycles as well as archiving of the POS+ database six months after the end of the fiscal year (completed for 2010-2011).

CRO 2011
(completed)
4. Program management should ensure that end-of-day reconciliation procedures with the mission accountant are performed in accordance with the Cost Recovery Manual and the official agreement between DFAIT and CIC.

This recommendation has been implemented.

A daily reconciliation procedure has been implemented, and the accounts section with financial instruments, reconciliation and 1203A reports are submitted daily. The daily reconciliation reports are stored with the CRO. The accounts section issues receipts for daily transactions to the CRC the same day.

IPM
CRO
November 1, 2011
(completed)

Appendix E: Audit Time Line

Activity Time
Audit planning June-July 2011
On-site examination September 12-16, 2011
Clearance draft to IPM and the International Region for comments October 31, 2011
Management Action Plan finalized November 17, 2011
Recommended for approval by Audit Committee January 19, 2012
Report approved by Deputy Minister January 19, 2012
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