The Abidjan embassy's general relations (GR), international business development (IBD), consular services and administration programs were audited in the period April 22 - May 5, 2004. The last audit of the administration, consular services and international business development programs was conducted in 1997 the GR program was not audited at that time.
Generally speaking, this mission has an excellent team that can do its work effectively even amid crises.
The Head of Mission (HOM), here since the summer of 2003, ably oversees this mission, which is still feeling the pressure from the crisis of September 2002 and the recent prohibited demonstrations of March 2004.
Stress, especially affecting local staff, is more striking as they are obliged to lend assistance to various family members who are economically distressed by the current crisis. The HOM has asked Departmental Headquarters (HQ) to send a trained counsellor to help all staff members handle the stress better. Frequent meetings with all personnel are helping staff members to get a better idea of the current situation and find out what action the mission could take in an emergency. However, the chancery's downtown location near potential demonstration sites is not helping to shore up staff confidence. The British and Americans have already left the downtown area for safer locations. Staff morale fluctuates with the ups and downs of the crisis. Yet the morale of Canadian staff members was good when we were there.
The political program is very active and effectively managed. With the HOM, this manager has established an ambitious cultural program. As of now the co-operative program is limited to humanitarian aid.
With the collapse of trade activity and the ongoing uncertainty, the human resources assigned to international business development were cut from four officers to a local one. This program is on the back burner and suffering from the lack of a manager and a strategy reconciling staff cuts with program priorities.
The immigration program, which processes visa applications from 16 African countries, remains very active with a growing workload. It is planned to transfer an added Canadian officer for the summer of 2004, and at the time of the audit the mission had the benefit of a Canadian officer on temporary assignment.
The new military attaché program, operational since the summer of 2003, helps the mission to gauge the ongoing conjuncture.
The consular program is also very active and effective. It has an exceptional staff that find the time to advise a number of other missions in Africa.
The administration program is also very effective. Its manager has the necessary latitude to handle the risks of the current crisis.
Note that every single staff member we met voiced warm appreciation of the new team posted to Abidjan, especially the HOM and Management/Consular Officer (MCO).
Since the last audit in 1997, this mission's role anchoring the three Sahel missions has been considerably reduced. Today, only Niamey remains completely under Abidjan's aegis; Bamako and Ouagadougou have become virtually autonomous missions except for processing passport applications. However, these missions still have access to the expertise of our resources at Abidjan to help them when needed.
The recommendations in the report are intended to improve the mission's management and compliance with regulations.
The report contains a total of 14 recommendations arising from the audit; 11 addressed to the mission and three for Departmental Headquarters (HQ). Management has responded to each recommendation with current and projected actions and decisions. Management states that 10 of the 14 recommendations have been given effect. For the other four, ongoing initiatives or future actions are reported.
The audit looked at the mission's management and the general relations, international business development, consular services and administration programs at the Canadian Embassy in Abidjan. The appendix to this report lists the sectors and components studied as part of this audit.
The audit's objective was to:
|Complex and Annex||1(1)|
(1) The 4th Floor is currently leased to an independent company.
|Operating budget (N001)||$1,863,000|
|Capital budget (N005)||$167,200|
|CBS salary budget (N011)||$520,561|
|LES salary budget (N012)||$931,300|
1.1.1 The Head of Mission (HOM), here since the summer of 2003, has worked to cut the large number of Canada-based staff scheduled to leave in the summer of 2005. This placed the success of the programs in jeopardy, as it involved 9 of the 12 Canada-based staff members. The HOM arranged for some of them to leave earlier, which will help with program continuity. Working with immigration program officers, the HOM has also focussed on a management problem that was adversely affecting this program's performance.
1.1.2 The ongoing crisis is fostering a chaotic atmosphere and undermining staff morale. As noted above, the stress is more obvious in locally employed than Canadian staff members. Discussions among LES about the country's policies are sometimes prickly; they foster stress and reduce mission effectiveness.
1.1.3 The mission should meet with the LES group to find a way of ending political debates in the workplace.
1.1.3 Done. Meetings with the LES group are held every two months. This specific item is placed regularly on the agenda and our "zero tolerance" policy is re-emphasized. A discussion giving examples of inappropriate behaviour followed the first airing of the topic. The LES committee was also asked to provide ongoing follow-up with its members
1.1.4 The current crisis is taking up most of the HOM's time and preventing him from visiting the countries of accreditation as often as anticipated. Monitoring political developments and the safety of the Canadians in Côte d'Ivoire are this mission's major priorities.
1.1.5 All management team members have built up the contacts they need to keep abreast of the evolving crisis. An emergency plan that worked during the 2002 evacuation is updated as needed. Canadians are still advised not to visit this country,\ owing to the risks to their safety. Communications between the managers and the HOM and with HQ are good. The Management Committee meets regularly and records are kept.
2.1.1 The First Secretary (Political) runs this program. He is also responsible for co-ordinating this program in Niger. He is supported by a local program officer and an assistant who divides her time between this program (45%), the Quebec Office (50%) and the International Development Program (5%). In Niger, a LES member spends 40% of his time on this program.
2.1.2 Although this is his first overseas posting, this manager has shown first-rate political reporting ability in a Côte d'Ivoire situation that was explosive, to say the least. Based on an impressive fund of foreign experience in other duties, he can produce pertinent analyses that reflect a good knowledge of the field, where he has made numerous useful contacts. Methodical and highly organized, he has shown a lot of nerve in situations that were often critical, like the disappearance of a French-Canadian journalist that sparked much interest in the Canadian and French governments. Having worked with the HOM to assemble an advisory task force to co-ordinate joint action, he handled this file successfully, backing the HOM's work in a sensitive matter. In short, he has shown excellent potential for the future, even though just starting out as a diplomat.
2.1.3 Coming to Public Affairs, he has shown great creativeness and originality in building his program with minimal financial and human resources. Despite the ongoing crisis, this program saw eight activities in 2003-2004. Educational, cultural, social and athletic events revealed Canada to a number of Ivorians. In Niger, activity centred around the Journée internationale de la Francophonie with radio programming and an exhibit of books from Canadian publishers.
2.1.4 One thing he has done is launch a remarkable educational program on Canada, unique of its kind, that should become a template for fine-tuning in some of our embassies. Showing great imagination, he undertook to transform the conference room into a gathering place where small groups of students from various nearby schools are invited to collect information about Canada. These sessions are followed by an original competition in which winners get prizes for correct answers after doing research on various research sites placed at their disposal. An example to be followed as a good practice that demonstrates unquestionable ability to set up an original, inexpensive program that delivers maximum impact in terms of a major embassy thrust.
3.1.1 Our trade balance with Côte d'Ivoire is negative. Our cacao, timber and tropical fruit imports amount to CAN $70.3 million, whereas our exports of grain, electrical machinery and books and newspapers were only $19.8 million in 2002. Despite the crisis, a few Canadian firms are still active here. Most of them are small businesses involved in the Ivorian market.
3.2.1 The crisis ongoing since September 2002, with the transfer of African Development Bank (ABD) operations to Tunis, have meant fewer resources assigned to the IBD program. In the summer of 2003, the position of the Canadian officer dealing with the ABD was transferred to Tunis and the Canadian manager's position moved to Dakar. Meanwhile, one of the two locally employed commercial agent positions was cancelled. The team now consists of a local commercial agent (LES-9) supported by a Level 5 local assistant. The two of them are delivering this program, not only in Côte d'Ivoire, but also in Niger, Benin and Liberia. The embassy office in Niger supports IBD by devoting 30% of a person-year to trade work. Relations between these two missions are peaceful and effective. The lack of a Canadian mission in politically stable Benin seems to be impeding the growth of this program. In Liberia, the market is still in chaos and too dangerous for us to be proactive. This program's limited resources call for reactive, not proactive management, reflecting the uncertainties of the crisis raging in Côte d'Ivoire.
3.2.2 The plan to have the IBD program manager in Dakar run the program in Abidjan as well has not eventuated. Nor does there seem to be a general GGTT strategy to reconcile workforce reduction with a redefining of IBD priorities in Abidjan. The meeting of IBD program managers from West African missions scheduled for Accra in June 2004 will help to identify solutions for these problems. Meanwhile, the HOM is meeting with the LES agent every week to build and track this program's objectives and developments. Together they have worked out a plan based on such key sectors as construction, the environment and electricity. The Client Service Fund (CSF) was $7,500 in 2003-2004, used for three activities promoting Canadian expertise in the key sectors. Abidjan's IBD program has stuck with the same six basic services as all other missions and, with the workforce reduction, its CSF allocation has been cut to reflect this and the ongoing political crisis.
3.3.1 Credibility audits of Benin firms are currently taking up 25% to 30% of this section's time. For some while, Canadian firms are being taken when they provide their banking information or deposit sums of money as guarantees. A more effective way of responding to these requests should be devised as part of the general strategy advanced below.
3.3.2 Implement a general strategy reconciling the reduced resources of the Abidjan IBD program with a redefining of program priorities.
3.3.3 Clearly identify the manager in charge of this program.
3.3.2 The June 2004 meeting in Accra reestablished, for example, the star-satellite relationship between Dakar and Abidjan. As a result of this meeting, an agreement was drafted to define everyone's roles and responsibilities, considering the resources in each mission's trade division. Note that the Canadian manager in Dakar was never supposed to oversee the Abidjan IBD program or those in the other satellites; this is cleared up in the agreement. The IBD priorities in Abidjan and the other satellites are now defined with the help and support of the Dakar manager. To free up the time of the commercial agent in Abidjan, the Canadian Business Guide for Benin posted on InfoExport will be modified in 2005 to include a warning about the types of fraud practised there and the "Phonebuster" number.
3.3.3 The HOM is the manager with oversight of this program. We recommend maintaining this direct link between the locally employed commercial agent and the HOM.
4.1.1 The consular program comes under the MCO and is run by a consular officer, a locally employed staff member (LES) who has been working in this Embassy for a number of years. A LES switchboard operator also performs clerical duties for consular services. The MCO, who has worked in other missions, has been posted to Abidjan for almost a year and, with this highly skilled and organized consular officer, forms a model team for managing and delivering consular services.
4.2.1 Considering the highly troubled situation in Côte d'Ivoire, few Canadians have been visiting this country as tourists for quite a while. Canadian travellers are advised not to go to Côte d'Ivoire. However, business people, missionaries and Canadian officials still live in or come to this country. The ROCA database for Côte d'Ivoire is updated every day (about 600 individuals). There is an emergency plan and the consular team is supported by a team of emergency co-ordinators (15 in Abidjan, 8 outside it) with whom there is frequent contact. The consular team is familiar with the COSMOS system and makes good use of it despite lags in system performance from Africa. The data for the COMIP system are current. The consular officer reported that the descriptions in the COMIP system, where time spent on consular matters is recorded, were not always clear, and time spent on cases was often underestimated, as they cannot describe everything they do.
4.2.2 Activities involving citizenship account for only about 10% of the workload.
4.2.3 The Abidjan team is also directly and fully responsible for consular services in Benin (Cotonou) and Liberia (Monrovia). It supports consular activities in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. The Abidjan team, and especially the consular officer, is also available at any time to answer questions about consular services from the missions in Senegal (Dakar), Guinea (Conakry), Cameroon (Yaoundé), Ghana (Accra) and Gabon (Libreville). There is no formal agreement between these missions and Abidjan, but Abidjan's expertise is acknowledged and prized by the teams in other missions.
4.3.1 The team serves Canadians efficiently in terms of service standards. The Abidjan team processes passport applications for Côte d'Ivoire and the Sahel posts in Mali (Bamako), Niger (Niamey) and Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou) as well as for Benin (Cotonou) and Liberia (Monrovia). The team issues slightly more than 200 passports a year. The passport count is done by the MCO every month and the HOM every quarter as required. Consular receipts, including passport issuing fees, are passed to accounting for all amounts of $100 or more. Passport components and seals are adequately safeguarded.
4.4.1 We found the Abidjan consular program to be altogether exemplary. It is delivered with obvious thoroughness by a small, conscientious, proud and dedicated team. On-job interaction between the consular officer and the MCO is highly effective. There are procedures and controls for all facets of the consular program, including passport delivery. Operational strategies seem to be well tested and effective, reflecting sustained effort and consistency in the quality of services rendered. Moreover the team exhibits experience and sensitivity that can accommodate the various requirements and surprises that a crisis like the one going on in Côte d'Ivoire will necessarily involve. Here is a template to be held up to other missions.
5.1.1 The program is managed by an experienced, dynamic MCO. He is supported by a good team of three Canada-based staff (assets and materiel, informatics and technical, and security) and 19 LES.
5.1.2 As already stated, the MCO has the experience and flexibility to deal with the problems of the current crisis. He provides skilful oversight to his team and programs. He shares his time fairly between consular services, security and administration and adjusts quickly to priorities generated by the crisis and mission requirements.
5.1.3 He maintains very good relations with the HOM, his team members and HQ. He also maintains very good relations with our mission in Niamey, which comes under Abidjan, and our missions in Bamako and Ouagadougou. He helps these small missions train their local employees, sharing the expertise of his team.
5.2.1 Under the MCO, the day to day oversight of human resources falls to the new officer in this area. She was previously the MCO's administrative assistant. In general, this function is well managed. ***
5.2.2 As regards workplace health and safety, nothing was reported by the LES. However, several LES said they had serious concerns about getting to work. These employees live on the other side of the lagoon that divides Abidjan. The troubles in Côte d'Ivoire mean occasional danger when passing through some neighbourhoods and crossing the lagoon bridges to reach the Embassy.
5.2.3 Appraisal reports were almost all current or should be completed in the next few months. No negative comments were heard about LES pay and benefits.
5.2.4 Most LES think their positions should be reclassified, the feeling being that the duties they perform exceed their official job descriptions. Taking the LES together, some claims are dubious, others are worth looking at, and reclassification should be seriously considered for a few employees.
5.2.5 Consideration should be given to a reclassification review for the Abidjan mission.
5.2.5 Considering the extent of the job and following talks with SIX, the mission asked for support from HLD, which was unfortunately unable to include Abidjan in its work plan. The security situation in Abidjan will necessitate a review of the staffing and status of many of our local positions in the months to come. The mission would have preferred to go through this review inclusively and on the spot with HLD backup. Failing this, the mission will review classifications on a case by case basis, taking the mission's specific circumstances into account.
5.2.6 When we visited Abidjan, a new LES committee was being put together. Such a committee had already existed, but a number of LES were unhappy with the team that was supposed to represent them and could not see what they would get out of participating in that committee. This fresh committee is being organized with the new HOM's support and the communications that can be achieved between the Canadian team and the LES should be useful to all staff members.
5.2.7 The Canadian team must ensure that the LES committee does a proper job of representing the staff, Ivorian and non-Ivorian, and that the committee has at least one woman member. To build up this committee's credibility, it has to be more than decorative; it must be able to perform in social events as well as where the common interests of the LES community are involved.
5.2.7 Done. This committee has been operating and fully representative since August 2004. The committee meets regularly with the HOM and MCO for continuing dialogue. The committee's mandate has been revised to its members' satisfaction.
5.3.1 Under the MCO, the accounting section is made up of a chief accountant and three assistants. The Deputy Management/Consular Officer (DMCO) also helps with the mission's financial management. At the time of our visit, an assistant accountant position was staffed on a temporary basis and the mission was setting up a competition to fill it permanently.
5.3.2 The mission manages its budgets well, and has responded to HQ's requests for cuts by returning $400,000 from abolishing Canada-based positions and selling outdated items like vehicles and generators.
5.3.3 There are good in-house controls and good division of duties at all levels. Payment requests are accompanied by documentation; intake files are complete; emergency funds, official receipts, counter cheques, petty cash funds, etc., are all well monitored.
5.3.4 In October 2003, a SMFF team came in to help the mission complete bank reconciliations that had been outstanding for several years. This situation was caused by technical problems with converting the Finex system to the IMS, the overly long (one-year) gap between IMS implementation and the training of the chief accountant, and the unfortunate destruction of documents when evacuating the mission in 2002. SMFF completed its review with the available documents and decided to write off transactions where documents had been destroyed. However, lack of communication between the mission and SMFF delayed the input of accounting data needed to update the IMS and complete the bank reconciliation statements. Review of sample adjustments helped to persuade the mission of their veracity and finalize this file.
5.3.5 SMFF also reviewed all financial controls and made recommendations for their improvement. The mission has already given effect to most recommendations in this report and is working to meet uncompleted recommendations. However, the mission must advise SMFF of local limiting factors that make it inappropriate to give effect to certain recommendations in this report.
5.3.6 Advise SMFF of local limiting factors that make it inappropriate to give effect to certain recommendations in the SMFF report.
5.3.6 Done continuously since October 2003. Since September 2004, when the mission accounts were approved, communications have been optimal.
5.3.7 We may well wonder about the need to have four accounting positions. Up to now, this section handled accounting data from Bamako, Ouagadougou, Niamey, Cotonou and even, for a while, Lagos. Today, only the Niamey and Cotonou data are entered in the IMS. And our relations with Côte d'Ivoire are limited by the crisis raging there since September 2002. This reduced activity is reflected in the number of "transaction lines" input in the IMS, down 29% since 2001-2002. There are also operating inefficiencies between the Niamey accountant and the one in Abidjan entering the Niamey data in the IMS. It would be better for the Niamey accountant to be trained and given access to the IMS than to maintain two accounting systems for Niamey, one official and the other not. ***
5.3.8 Assess the need to maintain four accounting positions in Abidjan and adjust the number of positions accordingly.
5.3.9 training that mission's accountant to input accounting data directly into the IMS.
5.3.8 Done. As of February 2005, three accounting positions remain.
5.3.9 the accountant has been trained in Abidjan and could input the data into the IMS if HQ (SMFF) agrees.
5.3.10 The procedures for collecting, managing, accounting and depositing consular and immigration receipts are working well. Clients deposit all immigration receipts directly in a bank account established for this purpose. This is a workable control that reduces the risk of embezzlement. All immigration receipts put into this account are entered in the IMS on a weekly basis. However, the value of services rendered by the immigration section (form 1203A) is not being compared with amounts deposited to establish whether the discrepancy between them is reasonable. Bank deposits should normally exceed the value of services since some clients are late depositing their visa applications.
5.3.11 The MCO should compare the amount of clients' direct bank deposits with the value of immigration services every month to determine whether the discrepancy between the two is reasonable.
5.3.11 Done. Since September 2004, the MCO and a CIC officer have been comparing deposits and services every month. Their signed certification is part of the accounts and thus goes to HQ.
5.4.1 The mission's asset and materiel section is well managed by the DMCO. She is supported by two LES, an asset manager and a property manager. The asset manager oversees a local staff made up of a labourer/driver and storeman. The property manager oversees a refrigeration specialist and a technical services supervisor. The mission has been looking to fill this last position, which is currently vacant. The storeman position, also vacant, will be done away with as the mission feels it is no longer needed for its operations. The work environment is highly complex and calls for constant effort from the mission to see that work is continued and completed.
5.4.2 The property manager oversees work performed in the chancery and Canadian staff accommodations. The asset manager's responsibilities include materiel procurement and management. The principal program work is planned and the DMCO ensures good communications within the group. The mission's asset management plan for FY 2004-2005 is current. Service standards have been set out for this function to distribute the work and facilitate the handling of requests from Canada-based staff. This is an excellent initiative by the DMCO.
5.4.3 Asset management operations are generally well performed. Checklists are kept for all assets and warehouse inventories are checked every month.
5.4.4 The Crown-owned official residence is well located and maintained. The HOM uses it often for official purposes. This residence meets the mission's requirements very well.
5.4.5 The housing stock includes six homes and four leased apartments. Talks with occupants revealed that most Canada-based staff are pleased with their accommodations and the maintenance service provided by the mission's administrative branch. Accommodations are well maintained and meet departmental standards except for two houses. House LP092 is inconveniently located and too big for mission requirements. The plan is to replace it when the lease runs out in August 2004. Previously, LP072 was occupied by a family. This house is too big for the current occupant and not ideally designed for family use. We advise the mission to replace this accommodation when the lease runs out in July 2005.
5.4.6 Recently, the mission looked into the possibility of buying houses and thus reducing its leased premises. The current conjuncture is not good for buying and the market is limited to two city neighbourhoods that provide safe environments. For now, the mission should stop looking for homes to buy.
5.4.7 The chancery, which is owned by the Government of Canada, occupies the sixth and seventh floors of Abidjan's Trade Centre. These floors provide enough space for embassy personnel and visitors with some vacant offices left over. For some years the mission has been leasing the fourth floor to a private firm. This floor was purchased with the two others for the mission's future requirements. This space is not and will not be required by the mission. It is therefore recommended that the mission, working with SRD, look into the possibility of selling the fourth floor; two potential buyers were mentioned.
5.4.8 The chancery is located in Abidjan's "Plateau" neighbourhood. This area has seen a number of demonstrations in recent years. Bridges are usually closed for these demonstrations, which makes for intense congestion downtown. This situation limits access to neighbourhoods on the other side of the lagoon and represents a risk for employees restricted to the chancery. The embassies of the United States and Great Britain have already moved away from Plateau for similar reasons.
5.4.9 The mission owns 11 vehicles including a moped and a four-wheel-drive truck. The vehicles are in good condition and well maintained. The mission also carefully monitors vehicle use and maintenance costs with kilometrage and owner's logs. Logs are checked on a monthly basis with discrepancies reported to the MCO.
5.4.10 For the moment, stop looking for accommodations to buy. Review the real-estate market next year.
5.4.11 Replace LP072 when the lease runs out (July 2005).
5.4.12 With SRD, look into the possibility of selling the fourth floor of the chancery.
5.4.13 As soon as possible, begin looking for a safer location for the chancery.
5.4.10 Done in August 2004.
5.4.11 The lease will be terminated in the summer of 2005 when the occupant leaves.
5.4.12 The mission will get a new valuation of the floor in the light of the political events of late 2004. SRD will then be contacted.
5.4.13 The search has begun. SRSK's approval will be needed before going ahead.
5.5.1 This function is well handled by an EL (electronics technologist) supported by a locally engaged AS (systems manager). The EL, who comes under the regional manager in Nairobi, is also in charge of our missions in Dakar, Niamey, Bamako, Conakry, Libreville and Yaoundé. This last responsibility takes half of his time. Up to 2003, the mission had a Canadian EL and AS. The Canadian AS is now posted to Dakar but lacks EL training, so the Abidjan EL supports Dakar. The Abidjan EL and AS have been properly trained. The EL will qualify as an FSITP (Foreign Service IT Professional) in the fall and the AS is taking the LEITP (Locally Engaged IT Professional) course. The section provides good service to its clients.
5.5.2 EL visits are on request and according to missions' equipment maintenance schedules. A report outlining the type of work performed is produced after each visit and sent to the regional manager in Nairobi.
5.5.3 Abidjan falls into the classic mission category with regard to the SIGNET system. The mission is having problems with information transfer rates on the network. The network's bandwidth seems inadequate for mission requirements. HQ is advised to review the situation and identify solutions for this problem.
5.5.4 The mission makes the requisite backups and keeps them in a controlled space. The mission also keeps effective track of loaned computers. Computer hardware records are also current.
5.5.5 Identify solutions for the bandwidth problem and produce an action plan with a schedule.
5.5.5 The Abidjan bandwidth was increased from 128K to 256K in November 2004. This represents a threefold increase for the data portion of the MITNET (64K to 192K). This increase means that Abidjan now meets the departmental standard.
The following tables show the sectors and components reviewed in each program to check compliance with policies and procedures and assess effectiveness and usefulness. Each section and item listed reflects the specific audit manuals posted on the Intranet site of the Office of the Inspector General (ZID). These manuals list the detailed audit criteria and procedures.
The on-site work was based essentially on an ongoing assessment of relevance and attendant risks. The team relied on contacts with HQ branches that included briefing sessions put on by middle management and the functional branches handling each of the sectors listed below, relevant HQ and mission documentation studied prior to the audit, the conclusions of earlier audits and recurring trends and problems.
During the audit, the audit's questions and areas of interest were defined on the basis of information collected in interviews with the HOM and program managers, a confidential poll of all employees, a meeting with the LES committee, individual meetings with staff members and the review of transactions and other documents.
The audit level in any sector thus reflects the problems found and information collected at all levels - HQ, mission management and mission operations. Therefore, not all sectors got the same attention. Major and high-risk problems, especially those cited by management, were studied at greater length and with greater care. Lack of time and other factors sometimes ruled out an audit of all sectors. Sectors not audited are cited in the section of the report on our audit scope and objectives.