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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 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.
Opportunities to improve the Treasury Board submission process fall into three areas:
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.
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.
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.