Evaluation of the CFIA's Stakeholder Consultation Processes
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) Evaluation Directorate is responsible for evaluating the relevance and performance of agency programs, policies and initiatives. This effort supports informed decision-making and enhances performance and accountability.
The Evaluation Directorate is accountable to the CFIA’s Evaluation Committee, chaired by the President. All evaluations must be reported to the Evaluation Committee and must be conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board's 2009 Policy on Evaluation. Evaluation projects are selected based on higher risk or significance during an annual Agency planning process, and then reflected in the Agency’s Evaluation Plan, which is approved by the Evaluation Committee.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducted an internal evaluation of the CFIA’s Stakeholder Consultation Processes. This evaluation was requested by senior management as part of the Agency’s regular oversight of its key activities, as well as to provide an update on its work responding to Recommendation 47 of the Report of the Independent Investigator into the 2008 Listeriosis Outbreak (Weatherill Report).
The evaluation assessed the relevance and performance of CFIA’s stakeholder consultation mechanisms and processes, focussing on the CFIA’s regulatory obligations. The scope of activities included formal consultations in support of proposed regulatory, policy and program changes. The evaluation excluded communications that are primarily for the purpose of education and consultation during emergencies.
The evaluation covered the five-year period from 2006-07 to 2010-11 and was conducted over the period of March to July 2011.
The evaluation reports that the CFIA has a strong history and culture of consultation, with significant skills and expertise.
The evaluation finds that reach to stakeholder groups is generally good with recent efforts to increase engagement of consumers. Stakeholders broadly view the CFIA’s consultations as open, meaningful and balanced.
The evaluation also finds that responsibility for the design and conduct of consultation is dispersed within the CFIA. While this allows for flexibility in approach, responsiveness and good technical expertise, it can result in inconsistent processes, inefficiencies and unevenness in the conduct of consultation activities.
The evaluation notes that the lack of a focal point in the CFIA can hamper the sharing of best practices and the development and sharing of tools.
This particular issue will be addressed as of March 2012, when the CFIA’s Policy and Programs Branch begins providing a focal point for Agency consultations.
Recommendations and response
The CFIA continually improves its programs and protocols. Management’s commitment to addressing recommendations made by internal evaluations like this one is a critical part of that continual improvement.
The Agency has developed a management response and action plan to address the opportunities for improvement identified by the evaluation.
Recommendation 1 – Support CFIA consultation activities by:
- Providing coordination, advice and tools within CFIA and a source of expert advice for Agency personnel;
- Providing key coordination mechanisms for stakeholder consultation such as, an Agency-wide list of stakeholder organizations (explore Agriconnexions) and a schedule of major consultation activities;
- Enhancing mechanisms for consultation, specifically, more consistent use of the Consulting with Canadians website, enhanced web-based tools and improved visibility of consultations on the CFIA external site; and
- Promoting standardization and sharing of best practices through activities such as: development and promulgation of a toolkit; creating a resource centre for consultation on the CFIA’s intranet; and establishing a community of practice within the CFIA.
The Agency is addressing this recommendation by developing a web presence, including:
- information on why the Agency conducts consultations and how the results are being used;
- the CFIA’s new Consultation Policy and Framework;
- links to current and completed consultations and to the Consulting with Canadians website;
- a list of Agency consultative groups and sitting members; and
- consultation resources and tools.
This updated web presence is expected to be operational in February 2012.
As of March 2012, Policy and Programs Branch will provide a focal point for Agency consultations. This will involve development and maintenance of a listing of major consultation activities and annual consultation plans, and facilitation of discussions at Business Line meetings and across CFIA units involved in consultation.
Recommendation 2 – Develop and implement guidelines for providing feedback to participants of consultation activities.
In collaboration with the CFIA’s Business Lines, the Agency is developing guidelines to assist CFIA units in consistently providing feedback to participants in a timely manner.
Recommendation 3 – Continue to enhance engagement of consumers and small- and medium-sized businesses and engage less traditional stakeholder groups, such as Aboriginal peoples and vulnerable populations, as required.
The Agency is already addressing this issue. Through its Consumer Association Roundtable and its website, the CFIA continues to explore outreach options to engage consumer representatives from other stakeholder groups, including vulnerable populations.
In addition, through CFIA’s Business Lines, the Agency is encouraging the enhanced engagement of small- and medium-sized businesses and less traditional stakeholder groups.
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