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Audit of the Canadian Consulate General, Milan

(September 2001)

Executive Summary

An audit of the International Business Development (IBD), Consular and Administration Programs was conducted in Milan during the period March 29 to April 2, 2001. The previous audit of the Mission took place in May 1993.

Mission Management

The Consul General is providing excellent leadership and direction. All staff are hardworking, dedicated and professional employees working together to meet all program objectives. Morale is high and teamwork is strong.

Mission Management - Detailed Report

International Business Development (IBD) Program

In Italy, the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) operates as a team with offices in Milan and Rome. Each Mission contributed to the Italian IBD Program through the joint preparation of the Canada-Italy Strategic Plan, the Italy Investment Strategy and the Assignment of the Italian Business Development Responsibilities by offices.

Regular Inter-Mission meetings between Milan and Rome would benefit the IBD Program in Italy. Because both Missions report to Ottawa, the need to integrate action plans through periodic retreats is important. Both Missions should evaluate these plans with respect to program delivery effectiveness and results.

In Milan, the Trade Commissioner and his staff are very experienced and knowledgeable concerning their sectors, the objectives of the Section and the Trade Program. The work environment is very collegial and professional. The Mission has made significant progress in the application of the New Approach. All Trade Officers have received training on the subject and the Mission has implemented measures such as an info-centre and targeted out-calls, which are in keeping with the principles of the New Approach.

IBD - Detailed Report

Consular Program

The Consular Program is effectively managed by the Vice Consul/Assistant Trade Commissioner. The Audit Team believes that the Department should examine the feasibility of centralizing passport delivery for all of Italy in Rome.

Consular - Detailed Report

Administration Program

The Administration Program is effectively managed by a competent and experienced LES MAO. An Accountability Agreement between the HOM and the MAO should be prepared that clearly articulates annual work plans and provides a means to measure performance.

Administration - Detailed Report

Mission Management

1.1 Overview

1.1.1 The Consul General is providing excellent leadership and direction. All staff are hardworking, dedicated and professional employees working together to meet all program objectives. The Consul General will be departing shortly after the audit visit. It is advisable that the new Consul General be in place as soon as possible. A twelve month gap between previous appointments placed undue pressure on the Mission.

1.1.2 Mission planning is effective. The HOM EX Performance Contract, Program Manager Objectives, staff objectives, work plans, associated activities and expected results are in place. Objectives are clear and measurable with criteria for success identified. Mission staff meet weekly for a round table. All staff found this to be an effective communication vehicle.

1.1.3 The CMM meets quarterly for the budget review. All other meetings are scheduled as required to discuss specific issues - personnel, staffing, LES, etc. The Contract Review Board, Health and Safety and Housing Committees meet as required.

Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)

1.1.4 The Mission has been providing bookkeeping services to the small CTC Office in Milan. Since the CTC has become a Crown Corporation, the Office in Milan has decided it no longer wishes the Mission to provide this service. As such, the CTC is arranging to establish its own personnel payroll structure outside the Consulate. In addition, they are looking at the possibility of transferring all other financial processing out of the Consulate. Currently CTC financial transactions represent approximately 30 percent of all transactions. If the transfer proceeds as planned, the Finance Section will have additional capacity to use elsewhere.

Recommendation for the Mission

1.1.5 Identify any additional capacity gained from the CTC transfer of work and determine where it should be utilized.

Mission Response

1.1.5 Based on experience to date, Milan Administration estimates the elimination of CTCs 30 per cent share of the Mission financial transactions would represent a potential 10 percent time saving in the context of Mission Accountants overall responsibilities. If and when CTC proceeds to transfer financial transactions, the Mission will review staff responsibilities with a view to re-balancing the overall division of duties to enhance administrative efficiency.

LES Retirement

1.1.6 The Mail/Communications Clerk is *** but has not announced a formal date. In the mean time, the Mission should review the job package in light of the Missions views that many of the current activities could be redistributed. The redistribution as already begun.

Recommendation for the Mission

1.1.7 The Mail/Communications Clerk position should be reviewed as to its requirement.

Mission Response

1.1.7 The review of the job package and redistribution of current activities has indeed already been under way to support implementation of the New Approach Info Centre and this will continue. A full review of the position requirement will be undertaken when the position becomes vacant.

International Business Development (IBD) Program

  • 2.1 Overview
  • 2.2 Management of the IBD Program
  • 2.3 Operational Support to Canadian Businesses

2.1 Overview

2.1.1 The IBD Program in Milan is responsible for trade promotion and investment activities in its territory, as agreed to and outlined in the Assignment of the Italian Business Development Responsibilities by the Milan and Rome offices. It is headed by a Consul/Senior Trade Commissioner who is supported by a Vice Consul/Assistant Trade Commissioner, three Commercial Officers and five Commercial Assistants. Some staff in the Commercial Section have other program responsibilities. For instance, the Assistant Trade Commissioner, in addition to his Commercial responsibilities, supervises Consular staff and is also the Mission Security Officer, while one Commercial Assistant works on both Consular and Commercial activities.

2.2 Management of the IBD Program

2.2.1 Mission planning is effective. All Commercial staff have an accountability statement containing objectives, work plans, associated activities and expected results. Objectives are clear and measurable with criteria for success identified. All staff have extensive workloads, however, they view it as being manageable. The Mission is an open, employee-friendly working environment. Overall, the morale is high and teamwork is strong.

2.2.2 The IBD delivery strategy for Italy has changed several times. This is because of ongoing discussions, with Rome and Headquarters, regarding where the IBD leadership and resources are best located, which have resulted in changing reporting relationships, organization structure and work distribution. The current strategy is well articulated in the Canada-Italy Strategic Business Plan and the Italy Investment Strategy. These plans have been discussed and agreed to by both Milan and Rome. Both Missions are monitoring their respective results on a quarterly basis. After a reasonable period of execution both Missions should evaluate these plans with respect to program delivery effectiveness and results. Because the Italian IBD Program has two missions reporting to Ottawa there is a need to integrate both Mission action plans. This integration can be accomplished with regular Inter-Mission meetings. Retreats away from the office enable staff from both missions to engage in discussions away from office responsibilities. Discussions on objectives, results and strategic planning are important for all staff to explore in a group environment. Issues such as the effectiveness of Italian IBD Program reporting structure, where and how many resources (CBS/LES) should be allocated to Milan and Rome, business development sector responsibilities and budget and cost implications should be addressed in the context of the above plans. These discussions should ideally follow each Mission's quarterly monitoring exercise. Each quarter may prove to be too costly and excessive, but a mid and final year discussion would seem appropriate.

Recommendation for the Mission

2.2.3 Regular Inter-Mission meetings between Milan and Rome should be instituted to provide a forum for discussions on objectives, results and strategic planning.

Mission Response

2.2.3 Milan strongly supports closer coordination and, in consultation with Rome and with support from CFSD, is organizing a joint Inter-Mission team building and strategic planning retreat in the autumn of 2001.

2.2.4 The relationship between the Milan and Rome Commercial Sections are generally positive. There are on-going exchanges between the Program Managers, the info-centre, and, where necessary between other officers. One exception is Cultural Affairs, where there is little communication between these two offices.

Recommendation for the Mission

2.2.5 In light of the potential synergies between Cultural Affairs promotion and cultural industries business development, the Cultural Affairs staff of both missions should coordinate their strategies on a regular basis.

Mission Response

2.2.5 Milan fully endorses a more integrated approach to Cultural Affairs promotion and cultural industries trade development and has discussed this with the new Cultural Affairs Counsellor for Italy, who has committed to regular coordination activities following her arrival in Rome in September.

Sector Assignment

2.2.6 The Italy Business Development responsibilities are assigned to officers in Milan and Rome. Individuals responsible to take the lead for a particular business development sector have been identified. Some officers are also regional liaison coordinators responsible for monitoring general developments in their assigned region. The Audit Team is satisfied that employees generally follow this distribution, however, there are views in both Milan and Rome that the Information Technology and Communication (ITC) sector would be better led from Milan, than Rome. Options could include - moving an officer position from Rome to Milan or assign responsibility for the ITC sector in northern Italy to an officer already located in Milan. Again, questions of this nature should be addressed in the quarterly country action plan review, as well as Inter-Mission meetings.

Recommendation for the Mission

2.2.7 The Mission, in consultation with Rome, should determine the optimal location for the ITC sector leadership.

Mission Response

2.2.7 Restructuring of ITC sector responsibilities is still relatively recent. The Mission continues to monitor and review in consultation with Rome to determine the optimal allocation of sectoral resources.

2.3 Operational Support to Canadian Businesses

Canada Day Sponsorships

2.3.1 The Rome PERPA Program has the lead for all "Canada Days" events in Italy while Milan participates and contributes, when the event furthers its objectives. The PERPA Section of the Rome audit report articulates in more detail the rationale behind Canada Days and recommends that, now that some experience has been acquired by the Mission, it is time for it to take stock and refine the "Canada Days" package.

2.3.2 Milan views these events as highly beneficial to promote better understanding of Canada and to promote Canada as a trade/investment partner. Long term benefits are seen as including new contacts and increased recognition of Canada. On the cost side, these events do require a substantial amount of resources and preparation time. A sponsorship kit is required where sponsor benefits are clearly laid out, understood and paid for in advance of the event.

Recommendation for the Mission

2.3.3 The Commercial Section should develop, in consultation with Rome, a sponsorship kit that clearly articulates the benefits and responsibilities of each sponsor.

Mission Response

2.3.3 Milan will collaborate with Rome in the review of "Canada Days" experience and the development of a sponsorship kit.

New Approach

2.3.4 All officers are familiar with the six core services, additional services, and client definition. Core services are set out in visitor welcome kits as well as visibly displayed in the Consulate's waiting area. The Business Mission Agreement (BMA) is being used and promoted and all officers understand its purpose. There has been one instance where the client-partner declined to sign a BMA and the Mission has been encouraged to ask the Post Support Unit (PSU) to intervene when such obstacles occur. The Mission should be commended for setting out an annual list of targeted out- calls.

2.3.5 Not all intelligence acquired by the officers is routinely channelled back to Canadian clients. Some responses to enquiries from Canadian clients are off the shelf, lacking the intelligence and personalized guidance that officers are able to deliver. For example, when a client asks for a key contact search, there have been instances where the reply from the Section contained only an off the shelf list, or a list of contacts without information or intelligence on such matters as the contact's interest in Canadian products, future purchasing intentions, competitive position and presence in the local market. While the off the shelf response is acceptable in some situations, generally speaking, officers need to consider their mandate to provide value added when responding to requests for key contacts.

2.3.6 The Mission applies some flexibility to the interpretation of the New Approach guidelines: some non-core, logistical support services are provided to clients, taxing the limited resources of the Mission. All staff are aware of the functions of the PSU and are familiar with Horizons. All officers are also mindful of the five-day response standard.

2.3.7 Like Rome, there is a limited number of new clients visiting Milan. This problem is not specific to Italy, but appears to be one common to most West European countries.

2.3.8 An Info-Centre has been created to handle general trade-related inquiries. Relations between it and the Rome Info-Centre are open and frequent. All staff have reviewed the results of the latest client survey and have taken concrete steps to improve the results, such as establishing a tracking system to track all incoming inquiries and ensure that responses are sent.

2.3.9 The Mission complains that Win Online is too slow. Local contact information is maintained on Mission Win whereas Canadian Client information is maintained on Win Online. Citrix is used by staff, however, access, speed and stability are not ideal and cause frustration contributing to disuse.

Recommendations for the Mission

2.3.10 The Mission, in consultation with TCE, should take the necessary steps to ensure that all officers move to WIN Online.

2.3.11 The Mission should review its intelligence/market knowledge feedback process so business clients can maximize its usefulness.

Mission Responses

2.3.10 The Mission will continue to work with HQ to resolve system-related problems that hinder complete and efficient use of WIN Online or other HQ-based programs.

2.3.11 Milan is committed to improving MI/I flows to Canadian clients and has established outcall and reporting targets in staff accountability agreements. Milan will continue to review this, on an ongoing basis, to identify further means of improvement.

Budget Limitations

2.3.12 The Commercial Section believes its travel budget is too low and will likely be exceeded this fiscal year unless some additional funding can be acquired. The Mission has had to cancel some outreach activities as a precautionary measure. As the New Approach becomes more entrenched within the Section, officers will make more out-calls (i.e., border-in and border-out) and will require more travel and hospitality funds. This problem is not specific to Milan.

Recommendation for the Mission

2.3.13 The Commercial Section should track and periodically report to functional and geographic bureaux any anticipated shortfalls in its operating budget (travel, hospitality and overtime) and their effect on further implementation of the New Approach.

Mission Response

2.3.13 The Mission will request increase to travel reference levels if tracking demonstrates insufficient funds to implement New Approach objectives.

CONSULAR PROGRAM

  • 3.1 Management of the Program
  • 3.2 Passport Services

3.1 Management of the Program

3.1.1 The Consular Program is well managed by the Vice-Consul/Assistant Trade Commissioner, with assistance from one full-time LES Consular Officer. There is also a Consular Assistant who works half-time with the Commercial Program. The Vice Consul/Assistant Trade Commissioner uses 20-25 percent of his time managing the Program. The Mission provides a high quality service in line with the Consular Service Standards.

3.2 Passport Services

3.2.1 The Mission delivers approximately 800 passports annually. The Consular Officer is responsible for producing passports and entering applications into COSMOS PMP, as well as providing regular consular service. The Mission has 111 active Consular cases, comprised primarily of arrests and cases involving loss or theft against Canadian Citizens. The half-time Assistant is responsible for preparing notary services, answering enquires and citizenship applications.

3.2.2 The Audit Team believes that the Mission should consider centralizing passport services in Rome. Rome has a passport office sufficiently staffed to manage the increased work load. Centralizing passport processing in Rome would free up the half-time position in Milan for other functions. The Consular Officer could concentrate on case work and could process citizenships. The Mission is concerned that it would lose valuable contact with clients, however, contact can still be maintained if passport applications are dropped off at the office and forwarded to Rome for processing. The two Missions, in conjunction with JPD and JWS, should examine the feasibility of centralizing passport delivery in Rome.

Recommendation for the Mission

3.2.3 The Mission should, in consultation with Rome and Headquarters, review centralizing passport delivery in Rome.

Mission Response

3.2.3 Issue has been reviewed by both Missions in consultation with HQ, with the conclusion that high standards of client service are best assured through the maintenance of existing arrangements.

ADMINISTRATION PROGRAM

  • 4.1 Management of the Program
  • 4.2 Human Resources
  • 4.3 Physical Resources
  • 4.4 Finance
  • 4.5 Information Management

4.1 Management of the Program

4.1.1 The Administration Program is well managed by an experienced LES Mission Administration Officer (MAO) who has been in the position since 1990. The Program has a small team comprised of an Accountant, Administration Assistant, Communications Clerk and LES Systems Administrator.

4.1.2 The Audit Team observed good interaction between Administration and the rest of the Mission. Clients expressed satisfaction with Administration services.

Accountability Agreement

4.1.3 The MAO has regular meetings with the HOM, works well with the Program Managers and takes an active part in the CMM meetings. The MAO advises the HOM on high level issues that may affect staff or resources. The MAO does not have an Accountability Agreement with the HOM. A formal agreement would benefit both the MAO and HOM, as it would clearly articulate annual work plans and assist performance appraisal.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.1.4 Establish an annual Accountability Agreement between the HOM and the MAO.

Mission Response

4.1.4 Will be done following new HOM arrival in September.

4.2 Human Resources

4.2.1 The Human Resource function is well managed by the MAO. The Audit Team reviewed the Organization Chart, Salary Scale and Personnel Utilization Reports. All records were found to be current.

LES Committee

4.2.2 The Audit Team met with the LES Committee representatives. The Committee commented on the positive affect of the weekly general staff meetings. Issues brought to the attention of the Audit Team included classification of LES positions, status of an employee's claim from Canada's Workers Compensation and specific benefit questions. The team discussed the issues with the MAO who is aware of the issues and is actively discussing them with HRL. The Committee meets as needed and interacts well with the MAO and HOM. However, there is no CBS designated as the contact for the Committee. Given that this is a small Mission and the MAO is also an LES, designating one CBS to interact with the Committee would clarify the line of communication between the LES and CBS.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.2.3 One CBS should be designated as the point of contact for the LES Committee.

Mission Response

4.2.3 The Mission will action upon arrival of the new HOM.

Staffing

4.2.4 The staffing process is well managed. The Audit Team reviewed the LES personnel files and recent staffing actions and found all files up-to-date, with one exception. The Mission recently hired a new employee *** without documenting justification for this decision. If recruitment at the base salary is a problem, HRL should be consulted.

4.2.5 The LES Systems Administrator (SA) is a CBS spouse. He received LES SA training in Canada on SIGNET and OCTEL. Mission clients are satisfied with the service he provides. The MAO indicated that recruitment and retention of persons from the local market for this position has been difficult. The previous SA stayed only five months. The incumbent is expected to fill the position until summer 2002. The Mission should consult with HRL to determine if salary marker data supports the present salary for an LE-07 SA.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.2.6 Consult with HRL to ensure that the salary scale for LES positions is sufficient to recruit suitable applicants.

Mission Response

4.2.6 The Mission will follow up with HRL in September.

Charwoman (Cleaning Lady/Servant)

4.2.7 The incumbent's position was changed from part-time to full-time in early 1980. The Mission did not have authority to do so and documentation on file disclosed Headquarters disapproval, however, the incumbent continued to work full-time and receive the appropriate salary. In 1991, the Official Resident (OR) Servant resigned and the incumbent began working at the OR as the OR Servant. The Mission did not transfer the incumbent to the OR Servant position and continued to pay her as the Chancery Senior Servant. Eventually the salary of the incumbent's position exceeded the OR Servant position pay scale. In 2001, the Mission moved the incumbent from the Chancery Senior Servant position to the OR Servant position and reclassified the position to OR Senior Servant to eliminate the salary disparity.

4.2.8 The Chancery Senior Servant position vacated by the incumbent was never deleted and the salary savings were used to contract Chancery cleaning staff.

Recommendations for the Mission

4.2.9 All future office and non-office position classification actions and salary increases should be completed in accordance with the departmental guidelines.

4.2.10 Delete the Chancery Senior Servant position.

Mission Responses

4.2.9 Noted.

4.2.10 Mission has initiated action to delete position.

4.3 Physical Resources

4.3.1 The Physical Resources function is effectively managed by the MAO, supported by the Administration Assistant who is also the part-time Receptionist. The Property function works well with the active involvement of the MAO. The Mission has an up-to-date Mission Property Management Plan (MPMP), SRSF Work Plan and PRIME database. Property files consist of lease records, materiel records and inventories. The Mission maintains good property records.

4.3.2 The Chancery, Official Residence, two Staff Quarters (SQ), and three parking spaces are all Crown Leased. The Mission leases according to an OR profile of one 4+1 apartment and an SQ profile of two 3+1 apartments. It is cost effective to maintain all three apartments, because they will accommodate the majority of family configurations and the high fit-up costs associated with changing the profile. The rationale is documented in the MPMP. The SQs were not visited because of time constraints.

4.3.3 The Mission tends to use the same suppliers and contractors for small projects. The Mission should conduct an annual review of suppliers and contractors to ensure it is receiving the best price.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.3.4 An annual Standing Offer should be negotiated with suppliers and contractors.

Mission Response

4.3.4 The Mission is in the process of actioning by creating a databank of qualified suppliers and contractors.

IMS and Property Reporting

4.3.5 The Accountant and MAO use IMS reports to track SQ costs based on Internal Order numbers. The Administration Assistant has been trained to use IMS but requires training on the MM module. This training can be received at the Mission via a Distance Learning Program. In the future, all Headquarters and Mission purchasing will be completed through the MM module. Because MM will provide enhanced reporting from IMS, the Accountant and MAO should also consider training.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.3.6 Ensure that the Property/Materiel Assistant receives the MM module training.

Mission Response

4.3.6 The Mission submitted MM module training applications for the MAO, Administrative Assistant and Accountant some months ago and awaits HQ confirmation on when training will be delivered.

Chancery

4.3.7 The Mission indicated that the Chancery is showing signs of wear and tear because many of the recommended repairs noted in the 1994 SRSF Visit Report have not been started, because the Mission has not received funding. The Audit Team considers it necessary to proceed with the recommended repairs to improve the Chancery work environment. Until funding is received, these repairs along with others, will remain on the SRSF Work plan for 2002 to 2005.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.3.8 The Mission should contact SRSF to identify the appropriate funding source and develop a 2002 project work plan within a specified time frame.

Mission Response

4.3.8 The Mission will update the 2002 work plan and seek funding support in the fall.

4.3.9 ***

4.4 Finance

4.4.1 The Mission Finance function is well managed by the MAO who is supported by a capable Accountant. The budget is effectively managed by the MAO with good financial controls in place. Monthly bank reconciliations are completed. The Accountant and MAO work closely together and complement each others abilities. Both are using IMS effectively and are exploring better methods of producing reports for the Program Managers. The Accountant would benefit from taking the CFSI LES Accountant training in Canada.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.4.2 The Accountant should attend the next available CFSI Accountant training in Canada.

Mission Response

4.4.2 An application will be submitted for the first available course.

Property Security Deposits

4.4.3 The Mission has seven separate security deposits for its four leased properties, totalling $37,464. Each time an apartment lease is renewed and the rent increases, a new advance is issued for the rent differential. Although each advance is identified by a PRID number, more than one security deposit for the same property is not necessary. The previous deposit should be closed and a new one issued for the aggregate amount.

4.4.4 The Audit Team notes that security deposits are not required for properties leased in Rome. The MAO should review this practice with like-minded Missions in Milan and assess if it is required in all cases.

Recommendations for the Mission

4.4.5 The Mission should ensure that only one security deposit is established for each property.

4.4.6 The Mission should review if it can renegotiate leases without providing a security deposit.

Mission Responses

4.4.5 Although the financial system shows four security deposits for the same property, the deposit is actually one. The Mission will contact the financial division to correct this discrepancy.

4.4.6 The Mission was able to avoid a security deposit for the most recently leased property and will continue to make efforts to do so for future leases.

4.5 Information Management

Management of the Function

4.5.1 Information Management is managed effectively by the MAO and the Systems Administrator (SA). Concerns were raised by staff regarding the effectiveness of the Mission's remote connection to Rome. The MITNET bandwidth from Milan to Rome is small. As a result, access, speed and stability are not ideal and cause frustration and contribute to disuse. Corporate applications such as CITRIX, Win Online and Netscape are not used because of the slow response times. Consideration could be given to connecting Milan direct to Paris, similar to other Missions in the region.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.5.2 The Mission, in consultation with Rome and SXTM, should review the feasibility and costs associated with a direct MITNET link to Paris.

Mission Response

4.5.2 The Mission will consult with Rome, the Regional Systems Manager and SXTM to review the feasibility and costs associated with the different options available such as a direct link to Paris or an upgrade of the Rome-Milan connection.

Second Server

4.5.3 The Mission has the standard SIGNET 2000 server as well as a second server supporting a LOTUS Notes application that is no longer used.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.5.4 The second server should be disposed.

Mission Response

4.5.4 The Mission is finalizing transfer of Lotus Notes databases and will dispose of the server once this step has been accomplished.

4.5.5 Commercial files are maintained in the registry and are well maintained. Administration files are no longer held in the registry, but maintained in the Administration Section and are distributed among the offices within that Section. The Administration files are not subject to a regular disposal function and therefore available working space in the office is becoming smaller. Although this is a small office, an effective and efficient operating registry is of primary importance. This should be kept in mind when reviewing the redistribution of the Mail/Communications Clerk responsibilities.

Mission Resources Fact Sheet

Human Resources (FTEs)

ProgramCBSLESTotal
HOM Office134
IBD1.56.58
Consular0.31.51.8
Administration0.26.56.7
Total317.520.5

Physical Resources

AssetsOwnedLeased
Chancery 1
OR 1
SQs 2
Vehicles1 

Financial Information

LES Salaries$914,230
Operational + Capital955970
CB Overtime10000
Total$1,880,200

Office of the Inspector General

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Date Modified:
2008-11-26