The CRA continues to ensure robust management in areas of strength such as financial management. This fiscal year, the Agency continued to closely monitor major projects and initiatives, including those funded under Budgets 2016 and 2017, and reported progress to senior management and the CRA Board of Management. We also instituted an improved resource alignment process to ensure funding allocations remained in line with Agency and Government of Canada priorities.
The CRA takes its responsibility to maintain the trust of Canadians very seriously and continues to underline this commitment by focusing on integrity and security as an Agency priority. Our Agency Security Plan (ASP) 2016‑2019, clarifies how the Agency integrates its security activities into daily operations to manage security risks and protect employees, information, and assets to the highest standard. This fiscal year, we completed all activities identified in the ASP for 2017‑18, notably the final phase of the multi-year Identity and Access Management project.
The CRA is also increasing controls to prevent and detect internal fraud and misuse of information. Given continual advances in the methods and sophistication of fraudulent activities, the Agency must continue to update its internal fraud detection tools and identify weaknesses that could be exploited. This fiscal year, we established detailed business requirements for two new fraud detection capabilities.
The Agency's Data Security Initiative (DSI) will further enhance the protection of data and implement safeguards for the Agency's databases and computing environments. In 2017‑18, we fully implemented 2 DSI deliverables, and are on schedule to complete the remaining 13 committed DSI phase 1 deliverables by June 2020.
The Agency also improved physical security controls by updating card access and intrusion detection systems at 15 sites this year. We developed a new Employee Threat and Violence Mitigation strategy, which will be implemented next fiscal year, and delivered 332 awareness sessions to employees to promote security at the CRA.
The CRA respects the government's requirement for open and transparent government as part of its commitment to integrity. To this end, we reduced the backlog of access to information and privacy requests by 29%, and participated in consultations on legislative changes included in Bill C‑58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Information technology to serve Canadians and government priorities
Over the past fiscal year, the CRA continued to use a Government of Canada enterprise approach to Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and service delivery to support the Agency's business programs and IT investments. The CRA also assessed and strengthened its underlying IT infrastructure services in order to deliver reliable, secure, and accessible digital services to Canadians. The CRA continued to renew and redesign core software system programs to ensure they remain current and to protect the integrity of the tax base and benefits services.
In 2017-18, the CRA finalized a three-year (2018-21) IT Plan, in compliance with the Treasury Board Secretariat annual requirement, that identified IT strategic priorities and provided a context for $175 million in project development (for 63 projects and activities), and the ongoing support and maintenance of over 480 enterprise applications. The IT Plan will guide the Agency in making sure its IT investments are aligned with CRA and government business priorities.
In 2017, the CRA's National Information Technology Service Desk was re-certified by the Help Desk Institute, which recognizes commitment to excellence, efficiency, and service quality. We were one of only two organizations in Canada and the only Government of Canada department to receive this certification.
Gathering business intelligence (BI ) gives the CRA better insight into taxpayer behaviour and non-compliance. The Agency continues to combine business intelligence with advanced data analysis techniques in order to take a targeted and risk-based approach to promoting, supporting, and enforcing compliance activities.
Recognizing its data holdings as a strategic asset, the CRA developed a Business Intelligence Vision, which determined the need for an integrated, horizontal approach to the way the Agency collects, uses, manages, publishes, and shares data. We appointed a Chief Data Officer to implement this approach over the next two years, establishing BI priorities to support the CRA's objectives and drive innovation, and guiding a new CRA centre of expertise for BI.
The CRA is renewing its BI computing platform, tools, and processes to allow an integrated view of taxpayer activities, support continuing research into business efficiency, and ensure informed decision-making and issues management. In 2017‑18, the CRA successfully implemented most of the foundational IT infrastructure and began migrating data to the new BI environment. The BI Renewal project will lay the groundwork for statistical and trend analysis to prepare for future needs, challenges, and opportunities, and is on track for completion in December 2018. Throughout 2017-18, the CRA continued to advance its data analytics capability by developing and testing predictive models to allow us to identify individual and business taxpayers with an increased risk of non-compliance, and determine what specific compliance actions to apply.
Our Accelerated Business Solutions Lab also continued to promote BI use at the Agency, using tools such as behavioural insights, ethnography, and advanced analytics to improve services and increase compliance. For example, a "nudge" experiment was conducted to determine if increasing taxpayers' awareness of the working income tax benefit would encourage more paper filers to claim. ("Nudge" projects influence decisions and behaviours without restricting people's choices. These projects test different interventions to measure their impact.) The experiment was extremely successful at increasing claims among low-income paper filers in New Brunswick in tax year 2016, and was rolled‑out nationwide for tax year 2017.
Encouraging innovation and new ideas is crucial to the ongoing growth and improvements of CRA's compliance, collections, and verification approaches. One particularly successful collaborative agreement involved recruiting and supporting students from the Business Intelligence Systems Infrastructure co-op program from Algonquin College in Ottawa. This program has positive results for both students and the Agency. The program is specialized and selective, with only 25‑30 students admitted annually. Since the start of the agreement 3 years ago, 12 students have been recruited to the Agency and 26 have been assigned to a number of CRA-developed BI and analytics exploratory case studies, as part of their academic learning. This year, along with three other recipients, the CRA was awarded the first ever Algonquin College Co‑op Award of Excellence.
To improve access to federal and provincial benefits for vulnerable Canadians, the CRA completed an ethnographic research project in 2017 on the needs and experiences of people who are homeless and housing-insecure. The research focused whether they file tax returns and their life experience, and identified the barriers they face in accessing benefits to which they are entitled. The findings suggested ways for the CRA to improve its interactions with homeless and housing-insecure Canadians and be more responsive to their needs. In alignment with the commitment to open government, the research report xx is available on Canada.ca.
This year, the CRA collaborated with other government departments and consulted different tax administrations and companies on innovation. We also studied potential strategies for solutions, including distributed ledger (blockchain) technology and cloud computing, and practical applications of artificial intelligence.
In addition, the CRA piloted the first Government of Canada activity-based workplace, where desks are unassigned and employees may choose a type of workspace aligned with the type of work they are performing that day. The pilot demonstrated that a work environment can be designed to increase communication, collaboration, and overall productivity through concepts such as desk‑sharing, thereby reducing the organization's "footprint." User surveys consistently resulted in a 30% increase in workplace satisfaction (from 56% to 86%). The pilot helped form the foundation of new Government of Canada Workplace Standards slated for implementation across the government.
The Agency's Workforce Plan for the fiscal year underlined the challenges of staff renewal. It focussed on identifying and developing qualified leaders, expanding the recruitment strategy, and maintaining a healthy, respectful, and empowering work environment.
Identifying and developing leaders remains a priority at the CRA, as demographics continue to shift. In 2017-18, the CRA continued to enhance its leadership development to help ensure we have the capacity to achieve current and future business objectives. This included participating in various leadership development programs from the Canada School of Public Service and external providers, an enhanced internal Agency Leadership Development Program, and a new onboarding approach for executives.
We piloted an executive staffing process using "character‑based leadership," a new approach to identify and recruit future leaders who exhibit traits of good leaders and have potential to grow. We included character-based leadership as a complementary element in executives' evaluation processes for the 2017-18 performance management cycle.
To simplify staffing processes and ensure they remain effective—hiring the right person for the right job at the right time—the CRA launched the staffing redesign project. The CRA also incorporated messages about its Top 100 Employer status for 2018 on the CRA's career webpages and on selection process posters. We also modernized our online presence by expanding our use of social media, and enriching our recruitment toolkit. The CRA's online recruitment video, called "We're more than just taxesxxi" was widely viewed on social media, with about 12,000 views across platforms. In addition, the CRA expanded its recruitment strategy and launched a senior management ambassador pilot project on selected post-secondary campuses: we recruited more than 1,900 students, an increase of 10% from 2016‑17. We also implemented the Strategic Recruitment Champions' Action Plan, which included fulfilling a commitment to increase external recruitment for above-entry-level positions. It increased from a three-year historical average of 18% to 20% as of March 31, 2018.
The CRA continued to work closely with Public Services and Procurement Canada as payroll administrator, and with other government departments, to address outstanding system defects and compensation issues in the Phoenix pay system. Our dedicated employees put in extra effort to ensure their colleagues were paid accurately and on time, specifically through the Pay Modernization Project links to Phoenix. The CRA has continued to make progress reducing outstanding pay requests and responding to general enquiries. As of March 21, 2018, 17.6% of employees had an open case over 30 days old—a reduction of 7.5% from 25.1% in January 2018.
Since 1995, the Government of Canada has been committed to using Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+ ) to advance gender equality in Canada. The CRA uses this analytical tool to assess how initiatives may affect different population segments, and looks at gender and many other identity factors (examples include age, ethnicity, religion, and culture).
Budget 2018 highlighted some areas in which the CRA should improve its existing GBA+ efforts. In 2017‑18, the CRA continued to promote awareness of GBA+ through training opportunities to expand knowledge and capacity, and developed and implemented a GBA+ Communications Plan and Action Plan.
We made sure GBA+ was applied to all CRA-led Government initiatives in 2017‑18. In total, 55 GBA+ analyses were conducted in support of inclusive program and service delivery.
We fostered diversity and inclusion in the workplace by carrying out a variety of Agency-wide activities. In support of the Indigenous Recruitment, Retention and Promotion Strategy, which encourages Indigenous youth to consider a CRA career, we developed Indigenous-specific promotional materials as well as a campaign page. In addition, we launched the Indigenous mentoring and Indigenous buddy initiatives, and initiated the development of an Indigenous employee network. We also created a new national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two‑spirit (LGBTQ2) network in April 2017, and launched national training sessions on the Positive space initiative in October 2017. By the end of 2017-18, 99 trainers were certified and delivered awareness sessions to 1,464 employees, as well as Ambassador training to 543 employees nationally.
The LGBTQ2 network provides a forum for LGBTQ2 employees and supporters to connect and promote a healthy and inclusive work environment at the CRA. It also serves as a resource for the CRA on internal initiatives and service to the LGBTQ2 public, and acts as a referral point for community resources related to LGBTQ2 issues.
To support well-being and respect in the workplace, and ensure an inclusive work environment that fosters engagement and productivity, we continued to implement the CRA's three‑year Respectful Workplace and Well-Being Strategy. We used social media and internal communication tools to promote well-being support services such as the Employee Assistance Program, Early Intervention and Return to Work, Diversity and Inclusion, Recognition, Informal Conflict Resolution, and Discrimination and Harassment. We also engaged with various CRA networks, such as the Young Professionals Network, Management Group Network, and EX Group Network, and various committees and communities to further highlight how these services can help our employees.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
In 2017-18, the Agency developed a new Sustainable Development Strategy 2017-2020 that contains specific targets and implementation actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the use of paper, minimize the environmental impact of its real property and procurement, improve waste management, and promote sustainable development.
Sustainable development in action:
The CRA continued to reduce the energy used by its office equipment by introducing multifunction printers in multiple sites across the Agency. These devices can photocopy, print and scan; they replaced older, single function photocopiers, printers, and scanners. At the same time, an exercise was carried out to ensure that these devices were used to their full capacity, increasing the number of users per device while ensuring no impact on productivity. These actions resulted in an average 45% reduction in individual devices.
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