The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (Secretariat) is the administrative arm of Treasury Board, a Cabinet committee whose ministers render decisions on the government's management and expenditures. The Secretariat supports Treasury Board ministers in this function and also fulfills the statutory responsibilities of a central government agency. When a federal organization is seeking approval or authority from Treasury Board for an initiative that it would not otherwise be able to undertake or that is outside its delegated authorities,1 it prepares a Treasury Board submission in consultation with the Secretariat.
This evaluation assessed the relevance, effectiveness, and economy of the Treasury Board submission process. Given that the Secretariat is the "owner"; of the Treasury Board submission process, the evaluation paid close attention to the role it plays in contributing to the success of the process. It should be noted that the scope of this evaluation was limited to the current process used to support Treasury Board ministers and did not include an assessment of the process against potential alternative mechanisms for providing this support. A limited review of international practices was conducted as part of the evaluation; however, the review was not sufficiently in-depth to suggest alternative mechanisms for the Secretariat to explore.
The evaluation framework used multiple lines of evidence and complementary research methods to ensure the reliability and validity of the data. The following research methods were used:
(i) document review; (ii) interviews with stakeholders and experts; (iii) a working session with assistant secretaries from the Secretariat and assistant deputy ministers from selected federal organizations; (iv) review of administrative, financial, and statistical data; and (v) a survey of analysts at the Secretariat and in federal organizations. A limitation of the methodology was that Treasury Board ministers could not be interviewed because data collection was undertaken during an election period.
The evaluation covered all steps of the current submission process involving the Secretariat:
- the support that the Secretariat provides to federal organizations;
- guidance developed by the Secretariat, such as that found in A Guide to Preparing Treasury Board Submissions (the Guide);
- the communication of decisions regarding submissions; and
- the tracking of conditions placed on approved submissions.
The evaluation did not include federal organizations' internal processes for preparing Treasury Board submissions. Furthermore, the evaluation covers only "Part A" submissions.2
This is the first formal evaluation of the Treasury Board submission process; therefore, it was not possible to anticipate, at the outset, all the evaluation issues to be addressed and lines of inquiry to be pursued. Because the data-gathering exercise uncovered evaluation issues that were not initially apparent, new lines of evidence were introduced, such as additional document reviews, additional interviews, and validation sessions with Secretariat senior management. The research for the evaluation was conducted between November 2008 and March 2009.
The current Treasury Board submission process is relevant, appears to be effective, and has key strengths; however, some important opportunities exist to improve and enhance its effectiveness and efficiency, which should be addressed through a combination of action and further investigation.
- The submission process is relevant to the government's good public management needs. Determining whether there are other effective and efficient alternatives to accomplish the same outcomes was outside the scope of the evaluation.
- There is widespread belief among stakeholders that the submission process is successful at ensuring that federal organizations present submissions that comply with legislative authorities and Treasury Board policies.
- There is widespread belief among stakeholders that the submission process is successful at ensuring that federal organizations put forth appropriate submissions.
- Treasury Board decisions appear to reflect the advice of the Secretariat to a high degree, which is indicative of Treasury Board's confidence in the quality of that advice.3
Opportunities for improvement:
- There is a need to finalize the logic model for the Treasury Board submission process to support performance measurement, clear communication of the process's ultimate outcome, and further study.
- A majority of federal organizations are satisfied with the support and advice they receive from the Secretariat's program analysts; however, there are specific areas of concern (e.g. consistency of advice).
- The evidence on the quality of draft Treasury Board submissions is mixed.
- The Secretariat does not account for the costs of the submission process.
- The Secretariat's efforts to educate federal organizations and its own staff about the details of the submission process appear to be falling short of their intended results.
- Rather than a shared, centralized system, analysts at the Secretariat use their own private filing systems to manage documentation related to Treasury Board submissions.
Opportunities to improve the Treasury Board submission process fall into three areas:
- finalizing the logic model for the Treasury Board submission process;
- deepening the Secretariat's understanding of certain aspects of the process itself and practices related to it and implementing improvements to the process wherever possible; and
- providing the Secretariat's analysts with more and better tools to enhance the effectiveness and economy of the submission process.
Logic model for the Treasury Board submission process
1. The Secretariat should finalize the logic model for the Treasury Board submission process to support performance measurement, clear communication of the process's ultimate outcome, and further study.
Deeper understanding of the submission process and related practices, leading to improvements
2. The Secretariat should examine in detail, and address where necessary, survey results relating to the advice its analysts provide to federal organizations during the submission process.
3. Secretariat should examine how human resources issues, especially turnover among program analysts, affect the Treasury Board submission process and knowledge management.
4. The Secretariat should account for the costs of managing the submission process-at least for the department if not for the entire public administration.
Development of more and better tools for the submission process
5. The Secretariat should review, and improve where necessary, its professional development, training, and outreach activities related to the Treasury Board submission process.
6. The Secretariat should explore options for a more systematic approach to information and knowledge management in the Treasury Board submission process.
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