Opening Statement for Ron Parker, President of Shared Services Canada, at the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on 2017-2018 Main Estimates and Departmental Plan on Thursday, May 11, 2017

Speech

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Mr. Chair, we are pleased to appear before your committee to discuss Shared Services Canada’s 2017-2018 Main Estimates and Departmental Plan. 

With me are John Glowacki, Chief Operating Officer, Alain Duplantie, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Assistant Deputy Minister for Corporate Services, and Sarah Paquet, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategy.

Shared Services Canada is mandated to modernize the Government’s information technology infrastructure.

Created in 2011, we deliver email, data centre, network and workplace technology device services, as well as cyber and IT security services, to departments and agencies across the Government of Canada.

Our work supports the digital delivery of programs and services, such as employment insurance, pension benefits, and emergency responses.

As outlined in our Departmental Plan, improving the delivery of IT infrastructure services is our top priority.

As a recent example, SSC played a leading role earlier this year in managing a cyber vulnerability related to a software called Apache Struts 2, which became a world-wide problem for government and private sector IT systems.

Canada was well-positioned to respond to this threat thanks to SSC’s enterprise-wide security approach. It provides a better view of government networks and infrastructure, and therefore the ability to take quick and coordinated action for all departments and agencies that are part of our security perimeter.

Ultimately, all systems and services for Canadians remained secure, as SSC coordinated with the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Communications Security Establishment to quickly isolate vulnerable systems and ensure the protection of government and citizen information.

This fiscal year is an important one for us. With our planned 2017-2018 budget of $1.7 billion, we will continue to strengthen cyber security and refresh legacy mission critical IT equipment.

We will also build on progress towards achieving our target state. Our goal, for example, is the consolidation of approximately 700 legacy data centres to seven or fewer enterprise data centres. To date, we have closed more than 90 legacy centres, and opened two enterprise data centres. Construction is underway for a third enterprise centre in Borden, Ontario. 

SSC’s Main Estimates represent an increase of almost $176 million over last year. This is due mostly to the multi-year funding provided in Budget 2016, which we’re investing in a number of projects to maintain and replace legacy mission critical IT equipment.

SSC is using these funds to replace more than 40,000 out-of-date components, such as older servers, networks, and telecommunication systems.

This includes upgrades to a number of telephone systems, including six RCMP Operational Control Centers in British-Columbia for 911 capability.

We have also replaced 3,000 Blackberry devices for Global Affairs Canada to ensure secure and reliable mobile communications at missions abroad.

Today, many of the government’s infrastructure components are reaching the end of their life-cycles, and some are no longer supported by vendors. Our work on maintaining legacy equipment is therefore vital to keeping the operations of government running smoothly to ensure continuity of services to Canadians.

Shared Services Canada also secures the integrity of networks, systems and information. As I discussed earlier, the security we provide is a clear advantage for the Government of Canada. It did not exist before SSC. 

Our cyber security efforts were supported by Budget 2016 funding of $77 million over five years.

Our department collaborates closely with other agencies, such as the Communications Security Establishment, in putting in place security controls.

This work includes maintaining the integrity of the IT supply chain. To date, SSC has performed more than 17,000 supply chain assessments and will continue to incorporate security controls for all our procurements.

On procurement, I would like to mention that Budget 2017 included proposed legislative amendments to make the delivery of IT goods and services simpler, easier and faster.

The proposed changes would amend the Shared Services Canada Act and were part of the Budget Implementation Act.

This would allow the Minister responsible for Shared Services Canada to delegate the purchase of certain items, such as workplace technology devices, directly from vendors through SSC’s contracting vehicles.

SSC would continue to set up IT contracts and ensure economies of scale. As well, we would continue performing supply chain integrity assessments to ensure only trusted equipment, software or services are used in the delivery of services.

We have advocated for these changes, as it will provide better service to our customers, while ensuring value for money and enterprise security, using our procurement tools.

This coming year, we will update the Government of Canada IT Infrastructure Plan to modernize IT infrastructure and government-wide cyber and internet security.

The updated plan will reflect lessons learned from SSC’s early experience, as well as the broad-based consultations we held last year with SSC employees and other federal public servants, Canadians and industry. Overall, we received more than 2,500 submissions from stakeholders.

The updated plan will also reflect the views of parliamentarians, the Auditor General, and an independent panel of experts commissioned by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

The feedback we received will help us to adjust our action plans for human resources, financial management, and project management to ensure they are realistic and aligned to government priorities and industry best practices.

Once the plan is considered by Ministers, it will be our roadmap for the subsequent three years. It will include timelines for moving to a simpler, smarter and more secure government-wide IT platform.

We have already taken action on some of the recommendations.

For example, we have developed a Service Management Strategy to deliver service excellence and improve the planning, costing and delivery of our services to customers and Canadians.

As part of this, we survey chief information officers every month, asking them questions on five key areas: timeliness, ease of access, positive outcome, process aspects and engagement experience. This past March, we scored 3.2 out of 5, up from 2.71 in July of 2016 and the highest we have scored to date. This is an important achievement, and we must continue on this improvement track.

We are also in the process of renewing all business agreements with our customers. These agreements clearly identify the IT services and support we provide, as well as our service performance standards. They are a key part of our committed to quality service delivery.

We’re also increasing the agility of government IT. This includes completing a collaborative procurement process to establish standard and secure access to commercially available cloud services for unclassified data for all of our customers. Among their many benefits, cloud services will permit easier and faster access to compute and storage services required temporarily. They will also allow government workers to be more innovative in how they offer services to Canadians.

Much remains to be done to modernize government IT. But we are making steady and important progress. We are also proud of the partnerships we have established with our customers and what we have achieved together.

Mr. Chair, this concludes my remarks. We would be pleased to take the committee’s questions.

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