‘Poor project planning and oversight’ blamed for Canadian security project delays

21 Nov 18

Canadian projects to boost security abroad and protect staff on missions are years behind schedule, owing to weak management and oversight, the country’s auditor general has said.

The country’s foreign office, Global Affairs Canada, operates 175 missions in 110 countries. The audit, part of the auditor general’s 2018 Fall Reports, published this week, focused on whether it met its physical security needs – such as fences or gates – at missions abroad to protect its staff and assets.

The auditor general found that physical security projects were “significantly delayed, mostly because of poor project planning and oversight”.

The report said: “The physical security measures at each mission did not always match the threat level. For example, one mission in a high-threat environment had no X-ray machine for visitor screening, yet missions in lower-threat environments did.

“None of the six missions had a preventive maintenance schedule to ensure that security equipment continued to work properly.”

The audit found that 22 out of 25 projects under way in the department’s recent investment plan were late or delayed during implementation. “Some were years behind schedule,” the audit report said.

“We received 13 physical security projects that were started between 2010 and 2015 and were delayed.

“Nine of these projects were an average of three years behind schedule as of August 2018 and were taking almost twice as long to complete as originally planned,” it said.

Global Affairs Canada has received CA$652m in funding over the past decade to upgrade physical security at missions, with about CA$425m for capital projects, the audit report said. But by the completion date in 2017, CA$103m had still not been spent, it highlighted.

The audit also found that the majority of funding in 2017 had been allocated to just three of the 25 physical security projects.

It said: “Global Affairs Canada should formalise its process for identifying, prioritising, and approving physical security projects at its missions to ensure that funds are appropriately allocated across missions.”

It also found that there was no senior-level oversight committee to challenge planned investments and processes to monitor how projects progressed.

The report called for the department to identify the root causes of project delays. 

In response to the audit, the Canadian minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said: “In October 2017, the Government of Canada announced $1.8bn in funding to strengthen security measures at our embassies, high commissions and consulates.

“This much-needed funding has already enabled Global Affairs Canada to make crucial investments in security, infrastructure upgrades, emergency readiness and training programs. It will also allow the full implementation of the report’s recommendations.”

Freeland added that the department has taken “important steps to strengthen its security measures”.

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