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Audit of the Permanent Mission of Canada to the Organization of American States, Washington, DC

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(November 2007)

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

An audit of Canada's Permanent Mission to the Organization of American States (PRMOAS) in Washington, DC (the seat of Organization of American States governance) was conducted in May and June 2006, at the same time as the audit of the bilateral mission in Washington. The two missions were last audited in December 1999.

The OAS (Organization of American States) has 34 member nations, of which Canada is the second-largest financial contributor and an influential participant. The OAS is the principal multilateral forum in the Western hemisphere, providing an opportunity for Canada and other member nations to promote their fundamental interests in the region and to discuss bilateral and multilateral issues of common concern, economically, politically, environmentally or otherwise. Canada's primary areas of interest within the OAS are the promotion of democracy, security, prosperity and quality of life in all member states. The OAS is seen to be effective, overall, in dealing with key regional issues, and its priorities are increasingly reflecting Canada's own interests, including democratic development, human rights, good governance, regional and human security, socioeconomic equity and sustainable development.

Under a new Secretary General, the OAS is making efforts to restructure with a view to improving efficiency, transparency and overall policy coordination in its three core areas of integral development: human rights, democratic governance, and multidimensional hemispheric security. The restructuring process has had an impact on PRMOAS's strategic plans and has generally increased staff workloads. This said, the Mission is functioning very well and coping admirably with the ever-changing demands and priorities that it faces.

PRMOAS is co-located with our bilateral mission to Washington in a centrally-located Chancery near the Capitol in downtown Washington, DC. Through PRMOAS, Canada is active in OAS fora and is perceived as an influential member of the organization. Canada is seen as a "bridge-builder" and a credible participant in the OAS and, within this framework, we actively work with the United States on issues of common concern and engage with key regional partners and like-minded countries on multilateral issues.

The overall impression of the Audit Team was that PRMOAS was operating *** with *** staff members and a clear operating strategy. ***. The majority of PRMOAS's administrative duties are undertaken by the bilateral mission's Administration Section, as dictated by a financial and services Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two missions.

A total of three audit recommendations are raised in the report; two are addressed to the Mission and one is addressed to Headquarters (HQ). Management has responded to each recommendation indicating action already taken or decisions made, as well as future action. Of the three recommendations, management has stated that two recommendations have been implemented. For the remaining one recommendation, management has indicated the initiatives in progress or the intended future action.

Scope, Objectives, Mission Resources

Audit Scope and Objectives

The scope of the audit included a review of the PRMOAS objectives, their delivery and management of the Mission. The Mission's administration functions were largely carried out by the bilateral mission in Washington, with whom PRMOAS is co-located. The audit objectives were to:

  • assess management controls and systems, procedures and activities that make up the program;
  • determine the extent of compliance with legislation, regulations and operating policies;
  • assess the reliability and adequacy of information available for decision-making and accountability purposes;
  • ensure resources are judiciously used and that the Department is receiving value-for-money; and,
  • make recommendations, where warranted, to improve the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of programs.

The focus and extent of on-site work was based on an assessment of materiality and related risk. This was done through communication with HQ bureaux, including briefings by line management and the functional bureaux, review of relevant HQ and mission documentation and past audit findings, as well as an analysis of recurring trends and systemic issues.

During the audit, audit issues and lines of enquiry were further refined from information gathered through interviews with the Head of Mission (HOM) and managers, individual interviews with staff, and results of other documentation reviewed.

The level of audit work for a given area was therefore based on issues and information identified and gathered at all levels: HQ, mission management, and mission operations.

Audit methodology included interviews with all Mission personnel, a review of a sample of financial documentation, grant and contribution files, hospitality files, activity reports, strategic plans, and meetings with the Organization of American States, based in Washington, DC.

Mission Resources Fact Sheet - PRMOAS

Physical Resources
AssetsPrivately LeasedCrown Owned
Chancery (co-located with the Washington bilateral mission
Official Residence1
Staff Quarters5
Vehicles1

Financial Information 2006/2007

Table 2: Mission Resources Fact Sheet Financial Information
Financial Information 2006/2007
Total$1,271,864
Operating Budget (N001)$467,071
Capital Budget (N005)$18,300
CBS Salaries and Overtime Budget (N011)$386,387
LES Salaries Budget (N012)$400,106

Human Resources (FTEs)
 CBSLESTotal
Head of Mission (HOM) Office235
PRMOAS437
Total6612

Mission Management

1.1 Structure, Policies and Functioning

1.1.1 PRMOAS is a small mission, led by a Canada-based Staff (CBS) Head of Mission (EX-03), with four Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) CBS and six Locally-engaged Staff (LES), as well as one CBS CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) Officer. The Audit Team found the Mission to be *** managed. *** and staff reported *** with their job packages. Tasks were generally evenly distributed among staff members who worked together *** in a strategic, horizontal fashion. Communication among all staff at the Mission was ongoing, open and effective.

1.1.2 Priorities were set at the Mission based on current events of concern to the OAS, such as political or environmental crises in the region. As PRMOAS is one mission working within and largely reactive to the greater OAS structure, results tended to depend primarily upon the pace set by the OAS. Despite the fact that the Mission's work is necessarily reactive, mirroring OAS priorities, PRMOAS had a proactive Country Strategy in place to promote Canada's interests within the organization. Reporting requirements and measurement of results were clearly outlined in the Mission's Country Strategy and were linked to specific objectives and activities, and all tasks undertaken by Mission staff were in line with the PRMOAS Strategy.

1.1.3 Tasking from the Headquarters Latin America and Caribbean Bureau (RLD) was felt to be reasonable. However, PRMOAS has been consistently heavily tasked by other government departments (OGDs) due a high level of interest across a wide variety of topics (environment, energy, economics, intergovernmental affairs, security, etc.), resulting in a considerable workload of high-priority assignments. Staff feel the pressure of these competing priorities and the need to be consistently reactive as dictated by the OAS model.

1.1.4 Staff feel that there are good reporting mechanisms within the Mission, but that the challenges associated with reporting and measurement of results reside with the OAS. At the time of the audit, the OAS was in the process of implementing the Policies, Programs and Follow-up Section whose mandate was to enhance reporting and performance measurement within the OAS.

1.1.5 Despite the challenges outlined above, the current PRMOAS team is seen to be successful, due in part to good working relationships with the Washington bilateral Mission and the *** to clear strategic objectives and performance indicators as identified in the Mission's Country Strategy. Staff operate *** together and have a strong sense of their clients and key stakeholders. The planned addition of a new LE-09 position in the summer 2006 as well as an officer back-up system for each thematic issue will contribute to the team's ability to achieve its strategic objectives. It is expected that the staffing of the new LE-09 position will allow other officers to increase focus both on the hemispheric security priority and on the new Public Diplomacy strategy, among other strategic priorities.

1.1.6 The PRMOAS Public Diplomacy (PD) strategy is clearly outlined in the Mission's overall Country Strategy. Details are provided with respect to linkages between strategic policy objectives and the Public Diplomacy strategy, including the identification of key audiences, messages and events to be targeted and undertaken to achieve strategic objectives associated with the PD strategy. At the time of the audit, PRMOAS was planning to enhance PD activities, including increasing the number of activities with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the area, as well as with the Public Affairs section of the Washington Secretariat in the bilateral Mission, where feasible. The Audit Team was informed that where possible, PRMOAS participates in relevant PD events organized by the bilateral Mission and reports back on these events; however, the process is not systematic.

Recommendation to the Mission

1.1.7 Approach the Washington bilateral Mission to coordinate both Missions' Public Diplomacy plans and determine which PD objectives and activities warrant and/or would benefit from dual participation in these events.

Mission Action and Timeframe

1.1.7 This recommendation has been overtaken by subsequent developments in that PRMOAS has not been funded for a formal PD Program as had been anticipated. However, the Mission is now in regular contact with the responsible officers at the bilateral Washington mission with a view to identifying opportunities for PRMOAS to take advantage of its planned events planned, in furtherance of Mission objectives.

Administration

2.1 Overview

2.1.1 PRMOAS relies on the Washington bilateral Mission for provision of the majority of administrative services, which are funded through a cost-sharing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). At the time of the audit, the MOU was being revised, which may serve to alleviate some of the administrative burden on one senior PRMOAS officer. The assumption of these tasks by the bilateral Mission could allow this officer to focus more on program and public diplomacy work.

2.1.2 There is currently one officer managing all grant and contribution (G&C) programs under the responsibility of the Mission. These G&C agreements and payments must flow through DFAIT, which negotiates agreements between OGDs and the OAS. The role of coordinator takes a significant amount of the officer's time, particularly considering the size of the Mission and its other priorities.

Recommendation to the Mission

2.1.3 The MOU between PRMOAS and the Washington bilateral Mission should be finalized and should clearly delineate responsibility for all administrative tasks.

Mission Action and Timeframe

2.1.3 The MOU has been reviewed by both sides and various revisions have been made. The document was finalized in March 2007.

Recommendation to RLD

2.1.4 Examine, in conjunction with the Mission, the feasibility of managing G&C programs directly from Headquarters.

RLD Action and Timeframe

2.1.4 Given the critical coordinating and oversight role which the Mission plays in interfacing with the OAS Secretariat on contributions, it is not immediately evident that all Grants and Contributions to the OAS can be managed entirely and directly from Headquarters.

Management from Headquarters is feasible and done in certain cases, as for example for major contributions to OAS bodies such as DFAIT's contribution to the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD). However, it cannot always be done, as the Mission has a role in many cases in assisting in the coordination and interfacing with the appropriate interlocutors in the OAS Secretariat, and in the signing of agreements on behalf of DFAIT/Government of Canada. To relieve pressure on PRMOAS and reduce workload for the Mission, the Division of Inter-American Affairs and Regional Policy (RLA) will act as a coordinating focal point in DFAIT for G&Cs programs with the OAS, monitoring and tracking with other relevant DFAIT divisions the management and accountability of G&Cs. RLD is developing an action plan involving consultation and coordination with other relevant Bureaus and Divisions at Headquarters, as well as PRMOAS, to implement RLA's coordinating function by 30 January 2008.

2.1.5 PRMOAS is co-located within the Washington bilateral Mission Chancery building. Office accommodations are well-appointed and maintained and are appropriate for ongoing operations. PRMOAS accommodations are managed through the MOU with the bilateral Mission.

2.1.6 As is the case at missions in the US, CBS are required to secure their own accommodations. Staff at PRMOAS indicated that there are advantages and disadvantages associated with this arrangement, however they appeared to be satisfied with their accommodation and had been able to find housing within their allowances at the time of posting. The Washington bilateral Mission provides housing search assistance services and lists of real estate agents and rental companies; however, staff indicated that although appreciative of this service, they found accommodations on their own via house-hunting trips, word of mouth and local newspapers. Staff indicated that a volatile real estate market and higher rental rates may pose a challenge to incoming CBS seeking affordable housing within reasonable proximity to the Mission in coming years, given current allowances. This may necessitate greater use of the bilateral mission housing assistance in the short and medium term.

2.1.7 PRMOAS's financial requirements are managed by Washington bilateral Mission through the MOU. The Audit Team found that hospitality was properly conducted, relevant and adequately justified. Staff indicated that financial services provided by the bilateral mission are adequate.

2.1.8 Performance Management Agreements (PMAs) and Performance Management Programs (PMPs) were completed for all staff.

Office of the Inspector General


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Date Modified:
2012-10-23