Evaluation of the CFIA's Food Safety Program Modernization - Part 1
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA or Agency) is a science-based regulatory agency guided by the following strategic outcome: "A safe and accessible food supply and plant and animal resource base" (CFIA, 2014a, p. 6).
The Food Safety Program (FSP) is an established, long-standing program at the CFIA. The objectives of the program are to "mitigate risks to public health associated with diseases and other health hazards in the food supply system and to manage food safety emergencies and incidents" (CFIA, 2014a, p. 21). The FSP uses a considerable portion of the Agency's annual resources. For example, from fiscal year 2011-12 through fiscal year 2014-15, the FSP accounted for between 45 and 50 per cent of the CFIA's overall expenditures.
Following the release of the Report of the Independent Investigator into the 2008 Listeriosis Outbreak (the Weatherill Report) in 2009, the Government of Canada committed funds in Budget 2011 to modernize Canada's food safety system (Government of Canada, 2011). As a result, the CFIA developed the Food Safety Modernization Initiative (FSMI) - a suite of eight projects designed to improve the FSP. CFIA recognizes the need for change within the Agency to address risks affecting its operations. These risks include the effectiveness and ability of programs such as FSP to support the overall strategic outcome.
This evaluation, carried out between January 2015 and March 2016, examines the $87.4 million initially allocated for the FSMI between fiscal years 2011-12 and 2014-15Footnote 1 . It was atypical of Government of Canada evaluations, as it did not attempt to directly assess an established and ongoing program.
Key Findings and Recommendations
- There is a continued need for FSP and a demonstrated need for the FSMI.
- The design of individual FSMI projects is aligned with overall project objectives.
- The FSMI supports government-wide and CFIA priorities. It will enhance how the CFIA carries out its activities.
- Despite some delays, project activities are producing their respective outputs, but there is a lack of performance measurement to track the initiative's effects on the FSP.
- Project delays are largely a reflection of associated FSMI dependencies.
- Communication and stakeholder buy-in are common challenges across all FSMI projects.
- Financial data supports project delays, but it is projected most funding will be spent within the five-year timeframe ending in fiscal year 2015-16. Remaining funding has been extended to fiscal year 2017-18.
- There is minimal evidence to support the efficiency of FSMI projects, in part due to delays; however the fact that all projects were either implemented or are scheduled to be completed without significant overages provides reasonable evidence of efficiency.
- Generally, most FSMI initiatives are at too early a stage to report on outcomes. However, there is no evidence of a plan to track the initiative's effects on Agency programming.
Relevance: Need, Alignment with Government Priorities, and Alignment with Federal Roles and Responsibilities
Overall, the evaluation found the FSMI to be relevant and necessary for modernizing the FSP. Furthermore, FSMI projects are in line with the recommendations from the Weatherhill report, federal priorities, and the Government of Canada's Blueprint 2020 vision. The evaluation also found all FSMI projects were well designed to meet established program needs and objectives.
These projects represent the beginning of long-term change activities at the Agency; therefore, ongoing efforts will be required to fully realize their intended benefits on CFIA programs. Without this, there is a risk the effectiveness of the initiative's investments will be undermined. Ensuring appropriate levels of effort rests in part on maintaining CFIA staff and external stakeholder buy-in for change.
The following recommendation is meant to establish a culture of change and support Agency program improvements.
Recommendation 1: The Agency should establish and monitor an internal and external communication process to share ongoing information about the FSMI projects and their benefits.
Performance: Achievement of Outputs, Outcomes, and Demonstration of Efficiency and Economy
Despite some delays, all FSMI project activities are progressing along their intended plans and are producing outputs. Measureable outputs produced under the FSMI include:
- Completion of a new food inspection model
- Completion of a system plan for an Electronic Service Delivery Platform (ESDP)
- Completion of a plan for the Food Safety Information Network
- Implementation of core and refresher training for inspectors
- Implementation of the first wave of an improved food inspection model
Of particular concern, the evaluation demonstrates there is a lack of an established and effective means of measuring the influence of FSMI projects and their impacts on the FSP, as well as broader Agency programming. Without an established and effective means for measurement, there is a challenge in establishing the effectiveness of FSMI investments and, therefore, justifying future investments in Agency change initiatives.
The following recommendation is meant to establish the basis for measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of change initiatives affecting the FSP.
Recommendation 2: The Agency should develop and implement a performance measurement strategy to track how FSMI projects are affecting the Food Safety Program. The strategy should include:
- Indicators directly linked to overall Food Safety Program outcomes
- Indicators to measure the effects of FSMI investments on program efficiency
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