Internal Audit Report
Audit of CFIA External Stakeholder Complaints Process

1.0 Executive Summary

The Complaints and Appeals Office (CAO, the Office) is designed to provide consumers, producers and industry stakeholders in Canada's agriculture and agri-food industry with a transparent and accessible way to register complaints about CFIA's services, administrative errors and regulatory decisions.

The CAO is responsible for leading the management of all complaints received by the Office, and responding to the complainant with an outcome of the review. The Office tracks complaints, compliments and comments, collects metrics and analyzes the data captured. The data analysis is used to identify repetitive issues within CFIA with the intent that this information can be used by CFIA to develop and enhance work plans for improving programs and policies, tool development and service delivery.

The CAO has been operational since April 1, 2012. During fiscal years 2014-15 and 2015-16, the Office received a total of 168 complaints: 90 regulatory complaints and 78 related to CFIA service.

Service excellence is a key Agency priority. Providing external stakeholders with a straight-forward, transparent and fair mechanism to submit and have their complaints heard will assist the Agency in meeting this priority.

Audit Objective

The objective of the audit was to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the management of the external complaints processes and key controls that have been established by the CAO to support its mandate.

Key Audit Findings

Complaints Handling Processes and Controls

The CAO has established complaint handling processes which incorporate controls to help ensure due diligence and a timely response. These processes were well-designed and generally found to be free of redundancies and excessive controls with one exception: the CAO's information management practices included the maintenance of both a paper and electronic file. CAO standard operating procedures were generally followed and files were well-organized and structured in a logical manner; however, some opportunities for improvements related to information management were noted: retain consistent file documentation and ensure all documents/files include information security markings.

Communication and Awareness

To support the effectiveness of the CAO, both internal and external stakeholders need to be made aware of the Office's mandate and processes. The CFIA's external website and intranet provide sufficient information and tools. Nevertheless, the audit found that a more formal or systematic approach to outreach, especially in Areas and regions, is needed.

Performance Measures and Service Standards

The CAO implemented a performance measurement strategy framework in fiscal year 2015-16. The Framework identifies performance measures and service standards that are measurable and directly linked to planned results. Performance against service standards was calculated and reported at year-end. A review of the performance measurement strategy framework has not yet been undertaken, including a review of performance measures and targets.

Continuous Improvement

CFIA branch management is provided with information on the types of issues/complaints received by the CAO; however, branch responses to annual reporting of themes and systemic issues were not consistently provided by the responsible branch.

Accountabilities, along with roles and responsibilities pertaining to the tracking or follow-up of management actions to address observations have not been established. Furthermore, there is no formal mechanism in place to inform senior management across the Agency of themes and systemic issues identified through stakeholder complaints.

Conclusion

The management of the external complaints processes and key controls were found to be well-designed and generally efficient. Performance measures and services standards are in place, standard operations procedures were being adhered to and the processes were generally free of redundancies, excessive controls and duplication of effort.

Nevertheless enhancements were identified that could further support and demonstrate the effectiveness of the CAO program. Most importantly, a formal approach to engaging senior management as well as oversight protocols with respect to identified opportunities for improvement would better position the Agency to demonstrate service excellence. A more systematic approach to stakeholder outreach activities would also enhance awareness of the CAO.

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