Evaluation of the Internal Trade Secretariat Corporation
3. Findings (Continued)
3.2 Performance (Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Economy)
Issue 3 — Has the ITSC provided effective support services to federal stakeholders in facilitating progress towards implementation of the AIT?
Operational & Administrative Services
The ITSC provides administrative and operational support to those responsible for implementing the AIT. A review of the Operating Plan and Budget documents provides examples of the ITSC support to parties. These include the organization of annual meetings of the CIT and annual general meetings of the ITSC, including preparation of agendas, logistics, documentation, summary records; follow-up actions; as well as several face-to-face meetings of the Internal Trade Representatives (ITRs) and other committees or groups. In addition, the ITSC has organized between 30 and 60 conference calls each year for the ITRs and AIT Committees, and participated in 20 to 30 conference calls on labour mobility.
The IC and federal partner interviewees identified some challenges facing the ITSC, given the need to service thirteen parties in different time zones. Despite this, all of them consider the ITSC to be effective in providing administrative and operational support to the Committee on Internal Trade (CIT), the ITR (Internal Trade Representatives), the BoD (Board of Directors), and the various committees. The interviewees indicated that the ITSC has provided objective and professional services. Interviewees particularly highlighted the high level of the ITSC's staff knowledge and support and availability to parties.
The interviewees noted that the services offered by the ITSC are generally timely. However, they recognized that sometimes there are delays which are beyond the control of the ITSC. (e.g., delays in sign-offs of documents). As a result of these external delays, sometimes the ITSC is not able to meet its established quality standards (e.g., Records of Decisions circulated within 2-3 business days). The interviewees suggested that the ITSC might have some unrealistic targets and may wish to re-examine their service standards.
Dispute Resolution Services
An integral part of the Agreement is a dispute resolution process whereby parties undertake to resolve disputes in a conciliatory, cooperative and harmonious manner. The ITSC is responsible for administering this mechanism. Through this process, the ITSC provides administrative support for Proceedings (e.g. making arrangements for oral hearings and meetings of the Presiding Body); maintains the record of each Proceeding; forwards copies of any request for a Panel pursuant to all the other Parties and Participants; enters into the record all reports, decisions, orders and directions made by the Presiding Body; and forwards to Participants in a Proceeding copies of all such reports, decisions, orders and directions or other written communications of the Presiding Body.10
IC and federal partners interviewed suggested that the ITSC plays an important role in dispute resolution by providing clarity and objectivity. They all believe that the ITSC has been effective in managing the dispute resolution mechanism. The following is an illustrative comment:
"The dispute resolution aspects of service delivery are excellent. People are very good at redirecting efforts and smoothing out the processes."
Information & Communication Services
One of the roles of the ITSC is to inform both internal and external stakeholders of the objectives and achievements of the Agreement, as well as increase general public understanding. The document review showed that the ITSC responded to over 400 inquiries from AIT parties and the general public in 2009–2010. Further, the ITSC prepared, revised, published, updated or assisted in drafting protocols of amendment, AIT Chapters, press releases, AIT Annual Reports, etc.
Based on the interviews of IC staff and federal partners, the ITSC has been effective at keeping the stakeholders informed about the current state of affairs, helping parties to administer the implementation of the AIT, keeping them on track, disseminating the internal trade information quickly, and ensuring an effective liaison function.
Some interviewees indicated that the ITSC did a good job at providing communication services and that these services were timely. Others suggested that it was not its strongest service. These interviewees believe the communication aspects and the outreach to external stakeholders could be improved and could be more professional. However, the interviewees noted that some stakeholders do not want the ITSC to play a communication role, so expanding this role may not be appropriate.
Interviewees also identified particular information and communication tools that the ITSC has managed and which have supported stakeholders in their role. First, REGISTREX11 has been developed by federal and provincial/territorial governments under the AIT to make it easier for corporations to do business anywhere in Canada by providing a single window for registration and reporting. Second, MARCAN12 was developed by federal and provincial/territorial governments under the AIT to provide links to websites that may publish tender notices for procurement opportunities within the Canadian public sector. It also provides information on rules, general complaint procedures, procurement contact as well as statistics on government procurement. Third, the ITSC has hosted and managed the Labour Mobility Coordinating Group website.13 Finally, the interviewees recognized the usefulness of the AIT website,14 managed by the ITSC, which contains public documentation such as the AIT and the protocols of amendment, dispute resolution, panel reports as well as the members' portal where they can easily find documents such as Records of Decisions. However, a few interviewees noted that the AIT website could be more user friendly and extended to all working groups.
Issue 4 — Have the ITSC services been delivered in a cost-efficient manner?
Evidence from a review of ITSC budgets and interviews with stakeholders revealed that the ITSC has been successful in managing its activities in a cost-efficient manner.
The ITSC has demonstrated consistent efforts to manage and reduce costs. The ITSC has reviewed all suppliers to use them more efficiently, has converted to an in-house payroll system, does its own annual reports and summaries, and now prints the binders internally instead of having them printed externally.
Interviewees reported that ITSC is cost-efficient and streamlined. The review of ITSC budgets15 provided evidence of overall cost savings. Specifically, the ITSC has been able to reduce its expenditures over the past few years from approximately $740,000 in 2005–2006 to approximately $525,000 in 2010–2011, requiring declining contributions from the federal and provincial/territorial governments.
Issue 5 — Is the ITSC's governance structure satisfactory?
To help assess the governance structure question, the evaluation relied on interviews, a review of documents as well as a comparison undertaken with others intergovernmental secretariats.
ITSC Governance Structure
The ITSC current governance structure is formed around the CIT, a committee of ministers comprising representatives from all provinces and territories16 and the Minister of Industry. The CIT meets annually, and as necessary, to review progress under the AIT and its chairmanship is rotated each year on the basis of a roster of Parties. Decisions are taken by consensus.
Internal Trade Representatives (ITRs) are senior trade officials appointed by each Party to the AIT and meet regularly as a committee or in working groups to direct the work of implementing the AIT. ITRs are also appointed by each Party to the AIT to serve as a BoD and to provide general guidance to the Executive Director in the administration and operation of the ITSC. The BoD manage the property and business of the Corporation and have power to authorize expenditures on behalf of the Corporation and to delegate to officers of the Corporation the right to employ and pay salaries to employees.
The AIT established a Secretariat to act as a neutral and independent coordinating support body to committees and working groups under the AIT. The Secretariat is headed by an Executive Director who reports to a Chair and BoD.
All IC staff and federal partners interviewed are satisfied with the current governance structure and suggested that no changes are required. ITSC staff, on the other hand, made two key comments. First, they suggested that a conflict of interest may exist for ITRs with their dual roles as board members and clients of the ITSC. Second, they suggested that the BoD members are relatively inexperienced in the functions which a corporate board plays and this presents an opportunity for improvement.
For this review, the ITSC was compared with similar organizations that also deal with intergovernmental affairs and manage information, complex processes and working groups, and negotiations with stakeholders. These organizations are as follows: the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat (CICS); the Council of the Federation (CF); and the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment (CCME). (See Annex D for details.)
Excluding the CF, the other organizations have substantially the same mandate of supporting senior executives and committees or working groups in fulfilling their mandate. They also provide similar administrative services (e.g. meetings planning) to these groups. The CF has a different mandate and acts as a forum of discussion for promoting interprovincial-territorial cooperation.
The comparison revealed that each organization plays a role in intergovernmental relations, has a permanent status and acts as a neutral body. These features facilitate the preservation of corporate memory and allow for independent management. The CICS differs in its reporting relationship as it reports directly to governments because of its Agency status.
The governance structures of the ITSC, CF and CCME are similar; represented by a Committee of Ministers, generally composed of provincial/territorial and federal Ministers (except for the CF) that set the strategic directions. Their Board of Directors (or Steering Committee) have corporate functions and supervise the Secretariat. However, while the BoD of the CCME and CF consists of Deputy Ministers, the ITSC one does not but rather is composed of senior trade officials. The CICS has no BoD.
The comparative review revealed that the governance structure of the ITSC is similar to those of other secretariats that support federal-provincial/territorial governments in achieving common objectives. While two of the other secretariats in the comparison have a DM-level Board of Directors, IC staff and other federal partners suggested that the current governance structure for the ITSC is appropriate. In addition, the ITSC is the smallest secretariat in the comparison in terms of staff and annual budget.
10 AIT, Chapter Seventeen. (Return to reference 10)
15 Internal Trade Secretariat, Operating Plan and Budget, 2005–2006 to 2010–2011. (Return to reference 15)
16 Nunavut has an observer status. (Return to reference 16)
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