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Audit of The Canadian Embassy Almaty

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(February 2008)

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

An audit of the General Relations (GR), the International Business Development (IBD), the Consular and Administration Programs was conducted in Almaty from May 22 to 25, 2007. The previous audit of these Programs took place in November 1998. The Mission is also accredited to the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.

The Embassy in Almaty is a small office with three Canada-based Staff (CBS) and 12 Locally-engaged Staff (LES). The Mission faces a number of management challenges over the next few years which include the move from Almaty to the capital Astana, the upcoming departure of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Program, the transfer of responsibility for the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) to DFAIT, and the integration of the new General Relations (GR) position, which will be located in Astana before the rest of the Mission relocates. Of particular concern for the Mission during and after the move to Astana will be how to address the significant client service and operational needs in Almaty.

High workload and the resulting resource pressures have had an impact on *** the Mission’s ability to meet its set objectives. The Mission’s Country Strategy is a comprehensive document, detailing very broad objectives and requesting the commensurate resources to carry out these objectives. However, given its limited resources as a small mission and *** priority in the Department, Mission management will need to further prioritize its activities and better manage its resources including the deployment and well being of employees.

The GR Program, which currently is only comprised of the HOM and an LES Assistant, has a very ambitious agenda, as evidenced by a broad Country Strategy, mandate letter, and reporting agreement, all of which need to be more focussed. Canada has specialized interests in the region that are growing, but the Program needs to be selective about what it takes on and commits to deliver. A CBS GR Officer is scheduled to arrive in Astana ***, which will help ease some of the workload on the Program and facilitate the relocation. However, the Program will still face resource and classification constraints that will need to be examined by the Mission and Headquarters.

The IBD Program is active and functions ***, though a number of resource pressures are impacting operations. The Program Manager has additional responsibilities for managing the Consular Program and is involved in the security portfolio. Ideally, the Program Manager position should be fully committed to the IBD Program to ensure that Canada's commercial interests are being served effectively. Over-time hours logged by the LES Officers are high. Though each officer is assigned a number of non-priority reactive sectors, it is important to ensure priority sectors are the focus, and to concentrate on niche opportunities in those sectors. The lack of a dedicated Commercial Assistant position has also contributed to the heavy workload for officers in the Program. In addition to resources, a major concern in the Program is the move to Astana, as this may strategically weaken Canada's commercial efforts in Kazakhstan.

Recommendations for the Consular Program include actions to strengthen revenue control processes and safeguarding of assets. The mission in Moscow provides supervisory and processing support for Almaty, though passport processing has temporarily been transferred to Ankara, due to document shipment restrictions. When the Mission relocates to the capital city, there will be a need to establish an Honorary Consulate in Almaty where the majority of Canadian citizens reside. As the CIDA presence in Tajikistan may be affected by the department’s review of its countries of concentration, the Mission has indicated that it will assess the feasibility of creating an Honorary Consulate located in Dushanbe.

The Administration Program is delivering on its mandate, though procedural improvements are necessary in certain areas to improve internal controls and workflow. The recent heavy workload has been a particular challenge for the Program, resulting in high levels of overtime, which are not sustainable in the long term. There are also areas where responsibilities overlap and more than one individual was tasked with the same activity, thus reducing the efficiency of the Program. A workload analysis should be performed to ensure that tasks are appropriately distributed and consolidated where possible. Key issues for the Program are mainly Human Resource and Property related, and include the lack of LES benefits and the need for an LES relocation package before the move.

A total of 66 audit recommendations are raised in the report; 59 are addressed to the Mission and seven are addressed to Headquarters (HQ). Management has responded to each recommendation indicating action already taken or decisions made, as well as future action. Of the 66 recommendations, management has stated that 33 recommendations have been implemented. For each of the remaining 33 recommendations, 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 Mission Management and the General Relations (GR), International Business Development (IBD), Consular and Administration Programs.

The audit objectives were to:

  • Assess management controls and systems, procedures and activities that make up the programs;
  • 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 Headquarters (HQ) bureaux, including briefings by line management and the functional bureaux, review of relevant HQ and Mission documentation, and past audit findings, and 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 HOM and Program Managers, a meeting with the LES, individual interviews with staff, and results of other documentation reviewed. The level of audit work was therefore based on issues and information identified and gathered at all levels: HQ, Mission Management and Mission operations.

Mission Resources Fact Sheet - Almaty

Table 1: Mission Resources Fact Sheet of Physical Resources
Physical Resources
AssetsCrown LeasedCrown Owned
Chancery1-
Official Residence--
Staff Quarters3-
Storage Facilities--
Vehicles3-

Table 2: Mission Resources Fact Sheet Financial Information
Financial Information 2005/06
Total$1,340,252
Operating Budget (N001)$699,609
Capital Budget (N005)$66,100
CBS Budget (N011)$231,320
LES Salaries Budget (N012)$343,223

Organization Chart

Organization Chart

Mission Management

1.1 Overview

1.1.1 The Embassy in Almaty is a small office with three Canada-based Staff (CBS) and 12 Locally-engaged Staff (LES). In addition to Kazakhstan, the Mission’s territory includes the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.

1.1.2 The Mission faces a number of management challenges over the next few years which include the move from Almaty to the capital Astana, the upcoming departure of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Program, the transfer of responsibility for the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) to DFAIT, and the integration of the new General Relations (GR) position which will be located in Astana prior to the relocation of the Mission. High workload and the resource pressures related to the move, have had an impact on *** the Mission’s ability to accomplish its objectives. More management focus and attention is required to mitigate these pressures ***.

1.1.3 A clear distinction needs to be made between the responsibilities of the HOM and those of the section heads to enable the section heads to perform their duties to the fullest extent and provide the HOM with all of the necessary and desired support and advice.

1.1.4 Of particular concern for the Mission is how to address client service and operational needs in Almaty after the move to Astana. The majority of clients for the Consular Program are in Almaty, as are the head offices for most of the Kazakhstani businesses that interact with the International Business Development (IBD) Program. At the time of the Audit, there were no medium to long term plans to keep an office open in Almaty, though it is clear that some type of presence is necessary to effectively and efficiently carry out the work of the Mission. At a minimum, travel budgets for most programs will need an upward adjustment to reflect increased requirements to travel from Astana to Almaty.

1.1.5 The Mission’s Country Strategy is a comprehensive document, detailing very broad objectives and requesting the commensurate resources to carry out these objectives. As outlined in the GR and IBD sections of this report (sections 2. and 3.), Kazakhstan has not been identified as a priority country for the Department. The Mission is small and its resources are limited. To make best use of these resources, the Mission needs to prioritize its activities to a greater extent. The Mission will also need to be strategic in its request for additional resources by targeting one or two critical areas, recognizing that department-wide programming cuts will decrease the likelihood of the Mission receiving additional resources.

1.1.6 The Mission's mandate letter asked the Head of Mission (HOM) to provide perspectives to the Deputy Ministers on how Canada is pursuing its priorities, along with the finalized copy of the FY 2007/08 Country Strategy. This has not yet occurred and should be addressed by the Mission. This activity presents an excellent opportunity for the Mission to refine and tighten its strategic focus.

1.1.7 Based on individual and group interviews with all Mission staff, ***. A number of factors, both within and out of the Mission’s control, have contributed to this sentiment among staff. The uncertainty surrounding the upcoming move to Astana, lack of a relocation package, adjustment to new management, and absence of key benefits such as medical insurance as part of the LES remuneration package are important concerns for staff ***. The recent departure of two LES from the Mission has also had an effect on both the perception *** and workload for the remaining staff.

1.1.8 Upon arrival, the HOM established a regular schedule of meetings in order to promote communications at the Mission. The Committee on Mission Management (CMM) meets weekly and all-staff meetings are held at a minimum monthly, if not more frequently. A well received staff retreat was conducted by the Mission, where overviews of the programs were presented and upcoming plans were discussed. The CMM forms the basis of the Mission committee structure (for example, acting as the Housing Committee) given the limited number of programs and staff.

1.1.9 Another priority for the HOM has been to ensure that departmental systems and procedures are being followed, such as reinforcing that overtime be preauthorized. To aid this process, in the fall 2006 a number of temporary duty visits were organized to review Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) processes, provide input into contingency planning and review security measures, and the Mission has implemented the majority of suggestions made during these visits.

1.1.10 During the Audit, the Acting Inspector General made a presentation concerning the services offered by the Values and Ethics Division (ZVE). Mission management is encouraged to be vigilant in fostering open communication with all staff, including LES, in order to ensure that any ethical dilemmas or potential harassment situations are reported at the outset before issues escalate. As a best practice, the Mission should incorporate a value and ethics session each fall as part of the rotation process, so all staff, not just new staff, can be updated on policies and procedures.

Recommendations to the Mission

1.1.10 The Mission should work with the Geographic Bureau (RED) to prioritize objectives and resource requests in its Country Strategy, to better reflect Headquarters expectations of the Mission and the current resources available.

1.1.11 Sectoral responsibilities within the Mission should be reviewed.

1.1.12 The HOM should endeavour to respond to the Deputy Ministers with respect to her Mandate Letter once the FY 2007/08 Country Strategy is finalized.

1.1.13 Management should make presentations to all staff on Values and Ethics on an annual basis. These presentations could be scheduled in the early fall, coinciding with the arrival of new CBS, to ensure all CBS and LES have similar understanding of management expectations regarding values and ethics.

1.1.14 The Mission should review its budget for travel to and within Almaty after the relocation. A business case should be made to HQ to increase the budget as appropriate.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

1.1.10 March 2008. Mission has enlarged consultation since HOM arrival with HQ and RED (Central, East and South Europe Bureau) to establish realistic objectives for Mission-wide issues and programs requiring full coordination, in addition to prioritizing on an ongoing basis.

1.1.11 The Mission actioned this in September 2007 and intends to do so again in 2008. A proposed "Astana" organization chart will be sent to RED and Bilateral Commercial Relations: Europe, Africa and Middle East (WME) by end February 2008, together with Mission Resource Management Division (RSR). This will also be noted in the Country Strategy as the organization chart ultimately reflects the overall strategy for Canada in the region, and the capacity to deliver on it.

1.1.12 March 2008. The update to the Deputy Ministers is critical to the understanding of Mission role, issues of mandate, and future strategic directions, taking fully into account limitations of actual presence on the ground, practices on security and reporting which had to be improved and aligned with actual realizable opportunities. Focus of revised Country Strategy 2006-2007 took up the challenge of ensuring activity consistent with a very tight strategic focus. Regular all staff meetings *** and regular CMM meetings with minutes, ensured that Program Managers and LES were on the same page with regards to HQ priorities and resource pressures. Expanded network of contact with international organizations and embassies compensated for lack of resources on obtaining critical security and political intelligence.

1.1.13 First session was done upon arrival of HOM in the fall of 2006. Handbooks were also distributed. This was also subject of the all-staff retreat. Annual sessions will continue to occur, and the next session is planned for April 2008.

1.1.14 A business case has been submitted to HQ for fiscal year 2007-2008, which resulted in additional funding. The next business case will be submitted in April 2008, to coincide with next fiscal year planning, already in discussion with HQ.

General Relations Program

2.1 Overview

2.1.1 The General Relations (GR) Program in Kazakhstan is responsible for promoting Canada's regional peace and security objectives in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. The Program is also responsible for political and security reporting and conducting public diplomacy activities.

2.1.2 Currently, the commercial agenda is the main driver in Canada’s relationship with the region, especially in Kazakhstan. There are, however, a few areas on the political agenda where Canada could have opportunities for influence or cooperation. Several areas are worth reporting on periodically, for example domestic economic reforms in Kazakhstan and its attempts to play a leadership role both regionally and in multilateral institutions. Regional issues, including transnational crime, counter-terrorism efforts, potential security threats, and scope for military cooperation also deserve monitoring. Canada’s ongoing interests in the stability and reconstruction of Afghanistan can also be advanced by the Mission through selective advocacy.

2.1.3 The Program, which currently is only comprised of the HOM and an LES Assistant, has a very ambitious agenda. The region, even though it is important, is not a declared high priority for the Government of Canada. Canada has specialized, interests in the region, and the Program needs to be selective about what it takes on and commits to deliver. Even with a more restricted mandate, the Program has limited resources with which to address its priorities. In this light, the reporting agreement that the Mission has established with HQ should be reviewed. A CBS GR Officer is scheduled to arrive ***, which will help ease some of the Program’s workload pressures.

2.1.4 The Program also has the potential to benefit from the synergies with CIDA's resident CFLI responsibility which will be transferred to DFAIT in 2007/08, as well as HQ driven initiatives such as the Global Partnership Program (GPP) and the International Crime and Counter-Terrorism Program (ICTC), both of which are highly active in the region.

2.1.5 The Mission would like to receive from HQ more frequent feedback on its efforts. The Geographic Bureau (RED) needs to engage the Mission more systematically and the two should review periodically the implementation of the Mission’s mandate and Country Strategy. Occasional conference calls could contribute to advancing the Bureau's and the Mission's shared agenda.

Recommendations to RED

2.1.6 RED, in conjunction with the Mission, should review the HOM mandate letter and the reporting agreement to ensure they are focussed on a limited number of priorities.

2.1.7 RED should improve communications with the Mission to provide better direction and feedback, as well as to hear the Mission’s perspectives and concerns.

RED Actions and Timeframes

2.1.6 RED has shortened and clarified the operative sections of the HOM’s mandate letter to provide a better sense of priorities and entail a more appropriate workload. The reporting agreement has been revised to the same end.

2.1.7 RED will be meeting the HOM in Ottawa in early January 2008. Eastern Europe and Balkans Division (REE) will be visiting the Mission later in January 2008. Both occasions will be used to review the recommended changes to the HOM’s mandate statement and the Mission’s reporting agreement. Similar discussions will be scheduled periodically in future.

2.2 Resources

2.2.1 The Program is small with one full-time LES Political and Public Affairs Assistant (PPA) (LE-05). The Head of Mission (HOM), as head of the Program, generally undertakes most of the political reporting with some support from the PPA. Reporting is succinct and targeted. The HOM does not have a dedicated HOM Assistant and uses the Receptionist to support her other activities as required. ***. In 2007/08 the Program will benefit from the addition of a generalist CBS GR position, also at the FS-03 level. This position will play an important role during the relocation of the Mission.

2.2.2 As part of CIDA’s consolidation exercise to reduce the number of countries in which it has active programs, the Agency will likely be withdrawing from Central Asia in FY 2007/08 and so responsibility for the Canada Fund will be transferred to DFAIT. Any management of a significant Canada Fund budget and its associated projects will require sufficient resourcing. The Mission plans to address this, temporarily, through an individual contract. Combined with the planned move to Astana, there is a need to develop a strategy for assuming this role and the Mission may need to consider an LES Officer level position. Such a position would provide local language and regional knowledge and would also be able to support the reporting mandates of the HOM and the CBS GR PM.

2.2.3 With the addition of the PM position and LES Officer contractor it will also be important to clearly delineate the areas of responsibility for each staff member in the Program, including the HOM position, to minimize the potential for overlap. This is likely to be complicated by having resources for the Program spread across two locations, pending the proposed move to Astana. The Mission currently plans to place the PM position and the contract LES position for the Canada Fund at an office in Astana. This may very well establish the required presence in the capital, but will place resources in a less than ideal location to do their work. It may be more appropriate to consider relocating the HOM position, and the LES contractor, to Astana to give greater weight to the Embassy being in the capital, while the PM position remains in Almaty until the complete operation fully relocates to the capital. An important consideration regarding the location of the position is that the PM position will also assume responsibility for managing the Consular Program, which for the time being, will remain in Almaty. The Mission should review the work descriptions of the various positions, existing and proposed, to ensure that work topics are appropriately allocated and located.

2.2.4 The Consular Assistant position, currently split evenly with the IBD Program, will be managed by the GR Program Manager, and so will also add some administrative capacity to the Program; however, this again could be complicated by having the Program spread across two locations, Almaty and Astana, for an undetermined period of time. A temporary (contract) assistant may also be needed in Astana to support the provisional Embassy. Ultimately, the Mission should review the administrative needs of the GR Program, and the wider Mission, and develop a plan to address the issues identified.

2.2.5 Classification is a significant issue with respect to two specific positions involved in the Program, the PPA and the Receptionist (LE-04). In the absence of an LES GR Officer position, the Assistant is being used to conduct officer level work on some of the security and democratic development files. As the HOM does not have a dedicated HOM Assistant, work is assigned to the Receptionist, the PPA, and other staff in the Administration Program to support her activities as required. The Mission has hired a contract Receptionist in order to free the LES Receptionist to act as a dedicated HOM Assistant. In this role, the incumbent is performing duties beyond the scope of her job description and performance expectations are high. Potential exists to upgrade the GR Assistant position so it combines both functions, HOM Assistant and GR Program Assistant. The Mission, in consultation with HQ, should look at the structure and staffing profiles of other Missions regarding this position.

Recommendation to RED

2.2.6 RED should consider funding an incremental LES Political Officer position to support the Canada Fund and the reporting mandates of the HOM and the new PM.

RED Action and Timeframe

2.2.7 RED will consider funding an LES Political Officer position, in the context of overall priorities in the region, once the current moratorium on resource issues is lifted.

Recommendation to the Mission

2.2.7 The Mission should clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the HOM, GR PM, and the LES GR contractor. The locations of these positions, Almaty or Astana, should also be considered.

2.2.8 The Mission should review the job package of the PPA to encompass the role of HOM Assistant.

2.2.9 The Mission should review the classification and workloads of the positions working in the GR Program and for the HOM.

2.2.10 The Program, in consultation with RED, should develop a transition plan for the integration of the CFLI.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

2.2.7 The GR PM is based in Astana and is currently joined by a *** LES Assistant, (a position which is currently under review and may be cut due to lack of funding). A *** contract Receptionist is providing basic administration support. The GR PM is devoting significant time to train new staff and become familiar with substantive files, as well as other local procedures. Roles are clear, GR PM manages Section and assigns workload and provides feedback. HQ to resolve funding question related to LE-05, with the Mission, February 2008.

2.2.8 The HOM has reviewed the PPA job packaged. The PPA hired *** (in Astana) was made aware of the responsibilities currently linked to the position, and has been coached on an on-going basis by the Program Manager. The review of the job package is part of the ongoing exercise in addressing a number of long outstanding HR and financial resourcing issues at this Mission. Discussions continue with RSR and RED, and the organization chart for Astana is a critical instrument in the discussions.

2.2.9 In May 2007, during the audit, HOM was over-tasked by political and security work. The arrival of the GR PM *** eased much of this burden. The decision regarding future funding of PPA (LE-09) is expected by March 2008. Once resourcing is known, work that has begun to outline priorities, in line with the Country Strategy, will be fine-tuned.

2.2.10 The Mission will develop a plan by October 2008 for the integration of the CFLI. At that time, we will have concrete dates for the move to Astana (fall 2008 or spring 2009), and final resourcing for the upcoming fiscal year, both human and reference levels. CIDA has agreed to extend funding of the CIDA LES for fiscal year 2008-2009 or until the Mission moves to Astana.

2.3 Operational Issues

2.3.1 As part of refining the Mission’s strategic focus, the Program will need to work with all programs in the Mission, and HQ, to develop a key themes and common messaging document. This should be a document that is used by all staff, from the HOM down, to enunciate and advocate Canada's policy objectives and the Missions priorities. Canada also has significant economic interests in the region and it is important that these talking points reflect the priority topics of all programs.

2.3.2 The Program has taken the lead on a Mission outreach calendar. This helps ensure that local contacts are approached strategically and not contacted numerous times by different Mission staff. It also helps coordinate the overall activities of the Mission's programs so synergies can be explored. The Mission should ultimately explore a common Client Relationship Management (CRM) system.

2.3.3 The Program prepares a media summary/topical events sheet on important events in the region and on matters that may be of interest to Canada. Currently, the document is only viewed by the HOM. This is an important document that should be shared with all Mission staff. Staff will be able to see how the activities of the political, commercial, and development programs intersect and the value that the Embassy, and their own efforts, provides for Canada.

2.3.4 Given the small size of the Program and high levels of informal communication amongst its members, the GR Program does not currently hold formal team meetings. With the arrival of the CBS Officer, regular GR team meetings will need to be implemented to address priority setting and planning. This will become especially important if the Program is split across two locations, Almaty and Astana, for any period of time to ensure that both branches are properly coordinated.

2.3.5 Objective setting and annual appraisals have not been done in the GR Program. Use of the Performance Management Program (PMP) needs to be reinforced. Job descriptions of all positions should be updated in conjunction with the annual performance appraisal cycle.

Recommendations to the Mission

2.3.6 The Program should take the lead on developing a communications strategy and common messaging document for the Mission.

2.3.7 The Program should encourage the use of the outreach calendar by all staff. At the same time, the Mission, working with HQ, should explore a common CRM solution for the Mission.

2.3.8 The Program should share its media summary will all Mission staff.

2.3.9 As the GR Program expands, it should begin to conduct more formal team meetings and keep records of decision.

2.3.10 The Program needs to ensure PMPs are completed. Job descriptions should be updated for each position at the same time.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

2.3.6 A communication strategy is being developed, including updating the Mission website, development of standard practice for issuing press releases and other public diplomacy tools. Given limited resources at the Mission, a realistic expectation should exist regarding scope of public and communications activities at Mission. March 2008.

2.3.7 Completed, all sections are using the program/outreach calendar.

2.3.8 Completed, the Mission forwards media clippings to all staff currently. Should the GR LE-05 position be retained, a brief weekly media summary will also be forwarded.

2.3.9 Completed, the GR Section in Astana meets formally on a weekly basis. There is also participation of the Section remotely in all staff meetings, and the GR PM participates remotely in CMM meetings.

2.3.10 PMPs are being completed and discussions are taking place with each employee. The arrival of a temporary duty MCO is assisting in ensuring that job descriptions are reviewed and updated to accurately reflect expectations and realities, consistent with HOM mandate, and Country Strategy. Target date for fiscal year 2008-2009.

International Business Development Program

3.1 Overview

3.1.1 The International Business Development (IBD) Program is responsible for business development activities in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. Though Kazakhstan is an important emerging market with significant potential, the country, along with its Central Asian neighbours, is not regarded as a priority by the Department and is resourced accordingly. However, client interest in the territory is increasing and the Program, with only 2.5 full-time equivalents (FTEs), is already stretched to capacity.

3.1.2 Kazakhstan is strategically located between the Far East, Middle East, Russia and Europe. It sits along very important east-west trade routes, energy supply routes and is well located to supply growing Chinese demands for raw materials and energy. Kazakhstan's economy is larger than those of all the other Central Asian states combined, largely due to the country's vast natural resources. The country possesses enormous oil and gas reserves and plentiful supplies of other minerals and metals. Kazakhstan is set to become one of the world's leading producers of a number of minerals. The ongoing development of the country's natural resources continues to drive growth which has averaged 9% per annum for the last half dozen years. As a result of the boom, other parts of the economy such as telecommunications, banking and construction are prospering as well. The country has embarked upon an industrial policy designed to diversify the economy away from over-dependence on oil by developing other industrial sectors. Policy changes are also driving growth in the education and professional training sector. In addition, Kazakhstan is aspiring to become a regional financial centre and has created a strong and well managed banking system. Economic growth is encouraged by high levels of foreign investment, a number of strategic government economic reforms and a recent history of political stability. Canada is one of the leading foreign investors in the country with approximately $2.3 billion of cumulative direct investment, mostly concentrated in mining. Agriculture also continues to be an important economic sector. Canada has a long-standing success in Kazakhstan in the agricultural equipment field and new opportunities are being uncovered in livestock.

3.1.3 Canada is the largest single foreign investor in the Kyrgyz Republic. Our $600 million mining investment accounts for approximately 40% of foreign investment and about 510% of the Kyrgyz Republic's GDP. Ongoing political turmoil requires constant monitoring and intervention.

3.2 Management of the Program

3.2.1 The IBD Program is very active and is *** managed. The team is comprised of a group of *** individuals that work *** together, *** and *** contribute to Canada's commercial development goals. The Program is led by a *** Commercial Program Manager (CPM) whose team ***.

3.3 Resources

3.3.1 The Program is delivered by a team of one CBS Senior Trade Commissioner (half of an FS-02 position), and two LES Trade Commissioners (2 x LE-09). As a short-term measure to assist with workload, half of an LES Consular Assistant position is being borrowed from the Consular Section and is informally shared with the IBD Section. Apart from the informal assistant arrangement, this gives the section 2.5 FTEs while other programs in the CCIL (Canada's Commercial Interests List) peer group have an average staffing level of 3.5 FTEs. The Program is also *** active well beyond where they are ranked with peer programs, and it is this ranking that impacts how resources are allocated across missions. The Program has approximately 3.5 times as many clients per officer and 5 times as many service transactions compared to its peers. These figures emphasize that the Program is under-resourced to support current activity and to help Canadian companies realize emerging opportunities.

3.3.2 The CPM is effectively only a part-time manager. Almaty is a small mission and the CPM has additional responsibilities for managing the Consular Program and is involved in the security portfolio. This does not always leave sufficient time to carry out commercial activities, which contributes to long hours and significant levels of over-time. Ideally, the CPM position should be fully committed to the IBD Program to ensure that Canada's commercial interests are being served effectively. The proposed plan to transfer responsibility for Consular matters to the new GR CBS position would contribute an additional half FTE to the Program. However, this proposal will not likely take effect in the short-term as the new GR position will be based in Astana while much of the consular workload will remain in Almaty. This will require the CPM to still be involved in the consular file to some degree, and so there will be limited increase in time available to the IBD Program until the move to Astana is complete.

3.3.3 The CPM position is classified as FS-02. Given the breadth of responsibilities placed on the position, the importance of the Program, and the addition of a GR Program Manager position at the FS-03 level, the classification of the CPM position needs to be reviewed.

3.3.4 The two LES Trade Commissioners handle a priority sector each: oil and gas and agriculture. Both of these sectors are considerably active in the Kazakhstan economy. It is important to ensure these priority sectors are the focus of the Program, as each officer is also assigned a number of non-priority, reactive sectors. The non-priority sectors assigned to each officer should be removed from the Virtual Trade Commissioner (VTC) and InfoExport websites and kept on an internal list. Over-time hours logged by the LES Trade Commissioners are high, averaging 85 hours per month per officer. Identifying niche opportunities within sectors, and reducing attention devoted to multi-sectoral work and reactive sectors, could help improve work-life balance.

3.3.5 Contributing to the high workloads of the officers is the fact that the Program does not have a dedicated Trade Commissioner Assistant (LE-05) position. Currently, the Consular Assistant is being used 50% by the IBD Program though not as an assistant, but to handle the third priority sector file, Education Marketing, as there is good potential in this sector and the economic results for Canada are evident. Typically, well functioning IBD programs have Assistants that have hybrid job packages combining some sectoral work and some administrative support work. However, in this case, the main focus of the Assistant's position is the Consular responsibilities. Using the remaining portion as a de facto junior trade commissioner leaves no capacity for administrative support work which ultimately is impacting operational efficiency. The Trade Commissioners have to spend large amounts of time carrying out administrative and logistical tasks which takes them away from their higher value-added work. From the employee's perspective, expectations of the position are also well beyond those normally performed at the LE-05 level and the position is being reviewed (paragraph 4.1.2). A dedicated LE-05 Trade Commissioner Assistant needs to be created for the Program and the job package should be sufficiently weighted towards for the performance of the support functions the Program requires.

3.3.6 An additional indication of the market opportunities in Kazakhstan is reflected in the level of activity in the Client Service Fund (CSF). Almaty's initial CSF allocation for 2006/7 was $25,000. By year's end the Program had received funding for additional projects in the amount of $57,000. This put the Program's level of CSF funding (activity) ahead of some key priority markets in the CCIL Tier III (Kazakhstan is currently listed as Tier VI - 60th place), a jump of at least 40 spots higher up the ranking table. Unfortunately, the CCIL table is based on past performance of economies and does not give sufficient weighting to potential future growth. Ideally, the initial CSF budget for the Program in Almaty should be increased so that it accurately reflects the pattern of activities being established.

3.3.7 The territory covered by the Program is large. Kazakhstan alone is about one third the size of Canada. Though most companies are headquartered in Almaty, the financial and corporate centre, natural resource exploitation and agricultural economic activities occur in all corners of the country. Most government agencies are in Astana, a two-hour flight from Almaty. Canada has significant investment interests in the Kyrgyz Republic. With no reliable air travel it is at least a three hour drive to Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, from Almaty. Regional outreach is important for the IBD Program for gathering commercial intelligence, identifying new opportunities and maintaining client relations. It is also important for the team to be able to travel to Canada to support certain projects, and to escort Kazakhstani commercial delegations. The IBD travel budget is currently only $20,000 which limits activities. When the IBD Program is relocated along with the Embassy to Astana, travel demands will increase dramatically as all officers will have to travel frequently to Almaty to meet clients and make connections to other centres.

Recommendations to WOE

3.3.8 The classification level of the Manager position should be reviewed.

3.3.9 The CSF budget for the Program should be increased in order to support ongoing economic activity.

WOE Actions and Timeframes

3.3.8 Given the breadth of responsibilities (trade, consular, security portfolios in three countries), the supervisory role of the Program Manager, the importance of the IBD Program and the fact that the GR Program Manager position in Astana is an FS-03, WOE agrees with the recommendation that the classification of the CPM position needs to be upgraded to an FS-03 .

3.3.9 Based on CSF spending trends at Mission, the amount currently being allocated to Almaty may not be sufficient to meet program needs. Given the rapid growth in the market and the considerable emerging opportunities, WOE will explore the possibility of an increased CSF allocation for Almaty, but notes that CSF funds are a fixed, centrally managed budget and that the global amount available next fiscal year is not yet known.

Recommendations to the Mission

3.3.10 The Program should ensure priority sectors are the focus of its activities until such time as more resources are made available.

3.3.11 A business case for the creation of a dedicated LE-05 Trade Commissioner Assistant position should be prepared for submission in the next Country Strategy exercise.

Mission Action and Timeframe

3.3.10 Sub-sector focus is indicated in the current IBD plan and this notion will be reinforced in the IBD plan for fiscal year 2008-2009.

3.3.11 A business case will be prepared in consultation with CMM and as a part of overall mission human resources realignments. In progress.

3.4 Operations

3.4.1 The Program complies with the applicable policies and practices of the Trade Commissioner Service. Most communication is done informally, however, regular bi-weekly team meetings are held to discuss plans, their implementation and on-going operations. In order to help promote coordination, aid in performance management and create a more forward-looking approach to meetings, the Program should set an agenda based on priorities and keep records of decisions. These records should be circulated to all Mission programs and HQ as relevant.

3.4.2 The Program takes an inclusive approach to planning, with all staff participating. This annual exercise has produced a solid IBD Plan for the territory. Program staff clearly understand the Program’s priorities and workplans.

3.4.3 Staff receive annual appraisals via the Performance Management Program (PMP). Responsibilities and objectives have been set for each employee, indicating expected results.

3.4.4 The team has been successful in tracking significant client interactions in WIN Exports. Information technology infrastructure is adequate and there were no noticeable delays. The Program should have an easy time migrating to TRIO, the new client relationship management application.

3.4.5 The CPM keeps a monthly performance scorecard that tracks five key performance indicators: number of registered clients, core services performed, tracked business results, number of identified leads, and number of market specific documents downloaded by clients. All these metrics are objective and come from established sources such as WIN Exports. This has shown to be a useful tool to monitor team performance and identifies trends. It is a useful best practice that should be shared with the Strategic Trade Planning and Performance Management Division (CBF) for potential posting on Horizons (International Trade's intranet) so it can be shared with other trade commissioners.

3.4.6 Hospitality funds of $10,000 are available and *** utilized by the CPM. The Trade Commissioners have hospitality allocations of their own, ***, with a limited number of client interactions outside of office meetings or telephone calls. Commercial hospitality funds should be used by the officers to gain market intelligence and cultivate networks of contacts in the territory. In Kazakhstan this may best be done through dinners and receptions. The Mission should review the current level of funding to determine if it is required by the officers to support the development of their contact base with respect to their priority sectors. Overall, hospitality diaries are *** completed, though some minor changes to how boxes 7, 8 and 9 of form EXT52 are documented would further demonstrate value for money. The forms should clearly link to the Program's strategic objectives, and indicate the value of events and the resulting potential follow-up actions.

Recommendations to the Mission

3.4.7 The Program’s staff meetings should have an agenda and records of decision should be kept.

3.4.8 The Mission should review the allocation of hospitality funding considering such aspects as local cultural and business practices.

3.4.9 Hospitality diaries should be completed with additional information demonstrating concrete links to the Program's strategic objectives.

3.4.10 The Program should share its performance scorecard with Strategic Trade Planning and Performance Management and, if deemed a best practice, document it for inclusion in Horizons.

Mission Action and Timeframe

3.4.7 Will be implemented when section is re-staffed. April 2008.

3.4.8 Constantly revised in consultation with HOM and MAO.

3.4.9 Following the audit debrief this practice was improved by CPM in May 2007.

3.4.10 Shared with CBF (now Strategic Trade Planning and Performance Management (PDC)), awaiting feedback from PDC.

3.5 Additional Strategic Considerations

3.5.1 There are two significant strategic issues that are impacting Canada's commercial relationship with Kazakhstan. One is the potential relocation of the Embassy to Astana. The second is the ongoing difficulty surrounding the issuance of visas for entry to Canada.

3.5.2 The principal reason Canada opened a diplomatic presence in Kazakhstan was due to the country's economic potential. The Mission was opened in Almaty shortly before the government announced the creation of a new capital in the far north of the country, Astana. When the government began to relocate to the new city, it expected that embassies would all follow. Canada, one of the few major countries yet to move, is experiencing regular and increasing pressure from the Kazakh government. Almaty is still, and will remain, Kazakhstan’s major financial and commercial city. Moving the IBD Program to Astana could weaken Canada's commercial efforts in Kazakhstan, making it more difficult to interact with the business communities, both Canadian and Kazakhstani, which are based in Almaty. It is anticipated that outreach may be curtailed because of the added complications of travel. Travel costs could increase and temporary office space may be required from time-to-time. Staff unwilling to relocate will mean expertise and established networks will be lost. Attending to issues in the Kyrgyz Republic will also be more difficult as there is no direct travel from Astana. HQ should re-examine the relocation of the IBD Program to Astana. Canada's peer countries, also its competitors for business and attracting the booming student and tourist population, have established Consulates or Consulates-General in Almaty. Similar situations exist for our multiple offices in the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Nigeria. Dubai, Ho Chi Minh and Lagos are the principal economic cities and history has shown that they were not as effectively served from the distant political capitals.

3.5.3 Another hindrance in Canada’s relationship with Kazakhstan is the issuance of visas. The timely issuance of visas is critical to all aspects of the commercial relationship. Canadian businesses need visas to train workers in Canada. Government officials, investors, and other key influencers require visas to attend meetings. Efforts to attract the growing student population and upper and middle class tourists rely on the timely issuance of visas. As visas for Central Asia are processed in Moscow, the visa issuance process takes a minimum of eight weeks, branding Canada as a difficult country to do business with. The Mission has been able to identify specific cases where business was either lost for Canada or relations between companies strained because Kazakhstani business partners had to surrender their travel documents for lengthy periods of time when applying for a Canadian visa. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) plays an important role in supporting and advancing Canada's prosperity agenda. Executive managers of International Trade at HQ need to continue to work with CIC to ensure that their program priorities are aligned with Canada's economic interests.

Recommendations to the Global Operations Bureau (WMM)

3.5.4 WMM should review the business case to relocate the Commercial Program, along with the Embassy, to Astana in order to ensure that services to the business community will be maintained and operational costs will not increase.

3.5.5 WMM should establish a working group with CIC to identify markets in which the issuance of visas present a limitation to conducting trade, investment, student and tourist attraction. A joint plan should be devised to present options to overcome these obstacles where possible.

WMM Action and Timeframe

3.5.4 Although Kazakhstan's capital has been moved from Almaty to Astana, including the transfer of government ministries, Almaty continues to be the centre of commercial activity in Kazakhstan for both domestic and foreign business interests. This important commercial role, as well as Almaty's much greater proximity than Astana to neighbouring markets of interest, particularly the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, suggests that our IBD Program will require some form of continued presence in Almaty after the transfer of our Embassy to the new capital. To assess the requirement, the Europe Commercial Relations Division (WOE) and the Mission will conduct a review of options and costs for retention of a presence in Almaty, including consideration of solutions applied by other countries with commercial interests in Kazakhstan comparable to Canada's, most of which have already transferred their Embassies to Astana but retain a significant official presence in Almaty. It is expected that this review will be completed by the end of April 2008, after which options will be presented for consideration by senior management.

3.5.5 CIC and DFAIT met at the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) level in December 2007 on visa issuance in third countries (Costa Rica, Panama, Kazakhstan). This issue is currently being studied by officials in both departments in preparation for a follow-up meeting in March or April of 2008, at which their findings and recommendations will be reviewed and decisions will be taken on follow up. Strategic Initiatives (WSI) is coordinating the study on behalf of the Global Operations and Chief Trade Commissioner (WMM).

Consular Program

4.1 Overview

4.1.1 The Consular Program is managed by the CPM (FS-02) and supported by the Consular Assistant (LE-05), with both positions currently devoting approximately 50% of their time to the Program. The new General Relations Program Manager position will be staffed by the fall 2007. This position will be assuming the role of Consular PM, and while overseeing the Program, will be located in Astana, which will require the CPM to still be involved in the day-to-day activities of the Program in Almaty in the short-term.

4.1.2 As indicated in paragraph 5.1.2, the Mission will be reviewing the roles and responsibilities of staff and this will include the tasking of the Consular Assistant, particularly as the position will be reporting to the GR PM. Once this occurs, the job description will need to be reviewed and up-dated. The Mission has submitted a classification request to the Locally-Engaged Services Bureau (HLD) regarding this position.

4.1.3 The Mission’s area of accreditation covers Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, where there is an Honorary Consul (HonCon) that supports the program in Bishkek. When the Mission relocates to the capital city, Astana, the Mission at a minimum will need to establish an Honcon in Almaty where the majority of Canadians reside. As the CIDA presence in Tajikistan may be affected by the department’s review of its countries of concentration, the Mission has indicated that it will assess the feasibility of creating an HonCon in Dushanbe.

4.1.4 The Mission annually handles 450 notarial service requests and processes 50 citizenship applications. The Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) indicates that there are approximately 340 registrants with the Mission (170 in Kazakhstan, 120 in Kyrgystan and 50 in Tajikistan). Canadian visitors to the Mission’s area of accreditation range from 2,000-3,000 per year. There are a total of ten wardens and deputies in the Mission’s warden network and the Mission held its last warden conference in April 2006.

4.1.5 The mission in Moscow is the supervising mission for Citizenship and Immigration Canada visa issuance, to which the Program provides assistance in issuing visas to designated clients. While there are only a limited number of CIC cases the Program is involved in, a significant portion of staff workload comes from fielding inquires from clients frustrated by the lengthy processing time involved with sending their applications to Moscow as noted in paragraph 3.5.3. The Mission plans to install a sound screen between the consular window and the reception window so interviews can be conducted in private.

4.1.6 The Program provides 200 passport services annually. The Mission’s passport processing has temporarily been transferred to Ankara, from its supervising mission in Moscow, as the Russian authorities are prohibiting identification documents from crossing their borders unaccompanied. As the Mission is not yet a passport issuing office, passports cannot be sent directly to them and so are routed to the processing mission for onward transmission to Almaty. Moscow and the Mission are organizing *** to resolve this issue. The Mission is also discussing with Passport Canada steps to be taken to become a passport issuing office as the current processing system does not allow for the meeting of the 15 day service standard. Passport Canada (PPTC) comment:
We understand that negotiations for courier services are no longer possible. Russian authorities have advised that new law prohibits transmission/transportation of any identity documents including passports, applications, and supporting documentary evidence. The prohibition encompasses mail services, couriers, etc. This new law had a profound effect on the passport program in that PPTC can no longer deliver personalized passports into Russia via courier *** which affects the 15 day service standard. Over the past year, Passport Canada has been discussing with Almaty the prospect of becoming a passport issuing office and have requested Almaty to identify the consular employees who will undertake the passport program as well as the training in order to become a full service mission.

4.1.7 Documentation such as the Mission’s Consular Contingency Plans and Duty Officer Manuals are up-to-date. With the exception of passport processing as noted above, the Mission is meeting other service standards. Service standards and fees should be displayed in the Consular booth/waiting area. The Program should also make available client feedback forms in the Consular booth/waiting area.

4.1.8 In order to strengthen revenue control procedures and asset protection, the Program should implement the following improvements:

  • Include a copy of Official Receipts issued with the consular revenue reconciliation form;
  • Reconcile consular revenue and transfer to the Finance Section weekly;
  • Promptly transfer any overages to the Finance Section;
  • Have the PM review and approve all reconciliation forms;
  • Obtain client signatures for the receipt of citizenship cards, and for passports as appropriate;
  • Install ***;
  • Install ***;
  • Secure ***; and,
  • Complete an inventory of the Mission’s wet and dry seals and do periodic reconciliations.
Recommendations to the Mission

4.1.9 The Program should display services, service standards and fees in the Consular booth/waiting area.

4.1.10 The Program should make client service feedback forms available in the Consular booth/waiting area and forward these forms to HQ.

4.1.11 Staff should include a copy of Official Receipts issued with the consular revenue reconciliation form.

4.1.12 Staff should reconcile consular revenue and transfer to the Finance Section weekly or more frequently when the equivalent of $500 is reached.

4.1.13 Any overages received by the Program should be promptly transferred to the Finance Section.

4.1.14 The PM should review and approve the reconciliation forms.

4.1.15 The Program should obtain client signatures for the receipt of citizenship cards, and for passports as appropriate.

4.1.16 The Mission should install a ***.

4.1.17 The Mission should install a ***.

4.1.18 The Program should secure ***.

4.1.19 The Program should complete an inventory of the Mission’s wet and dry seals and do periodic reconciliations.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

4.1.9 Done. January 2008.

4.1.10 Done. Summer 2007.

4.1.11 Done. Summer 2007.

4.1.12 The reconciliation /transfers will be adjusted to once a week, in accordance with policy requirement. February 2008.

4.1.13 Done. January 2008.

4.1.14 Done. January 2008.

4.1.15 Done. January 2008.

4.1.16 Completed with assistance of Administration. ***. January 2008.

4.1.17 Will be completed with the assistance of Administration. ***. March 2008.

4.1.18 Done. January 2008. ***. Mission will procure *** by the end of fiscal year 2007-2008.

4.1.19 Completed in consultation with Administration. January 2008.

Administration Program

5.1 Overview

5.1.1 The Administration Program is managed by a Locally-engaged Mission Administration Officer (MAO) (LE-09) who reports directly to the HOM. There is *** engagement from the HOM on administrative matters and she has worked closely with staff on many issues, particularly the upcoming move to Astana. Overall, the Program is delivering on its mandate, though procedural improvements are necessary in order to improve internal controls and workflow.

5.1.2 The recent heavy workload associated with the move to Astana and managing the HOM’s almost weekly trips to the capital has been a particular challenge for the Program. Overtime for several individuals has been extremely high and is not sustainable in the long-term. The Audit Team also noted certain areas where responsibilities overlapped and more than one individual was tasked with the same activity, thus reducing the efficiency of the Program and adding to the workload. Given the small size of the Mission, adding staff to the Administration Program should not be considered until a workload analysis is performed to ensure that tasks are appropriately distributed and consolidated where possible. Tasking on administrative matters should be done through the MAO as the first point of contact, allowing the MAO to delegate and distribute work appropriately within the Program and avoid double tasking.

5.1.3 Though the Mission is adequately staffed in Administration, the work associated with a move to Astana will require additional help. HQ has agreed to provide the Mission with a Canada-based Management/Consular Officer (MCO) on temporary duty for a posting cycle to assist with the move. A secondary benefit of adding an MCO to the Mission, even on a temporary basis, will be the capacity to refine procedures and bring best practices to the Mission.

Recommendations to the Mission

5.1.4 The Mission should perform a workload analysis within the Administration Program to ensure efficient and effective distribution of duties within the Section.

5.1.5 Tasking of staff in the Administration Program should be done through the MAO as the first point of contact.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.1.4 This review is currently being undertaken by the temporary duty (TD) MCO in consultation with RSR and Eastern Europe and Balkans Division (REE). Vacancy in the Section due to staff resignation, along with questions regarding the optimal organization chart structure (both during the lead-up to the move to Astana as well as the long-term structure post transition), have complicated the analysis and ability to proceed quickly. March 2008.

5.1.5 With the arrival of the TD MCO, tasking will be done through this position. Work order and driver requests will continue to be tasked through the MAO or other assigned staff. February 2008.

5.2 Human Resources (HR)

5.2.1 The HR function is managed by the MAO, who spends approximately 20-25% of her time on these activities. Recent staff departures and increasing workload in the Administration Section have led to a number of staffing actions, both temporary and permanent. A key challenge will be finding long term solutions to some of the temporary measures currently in place, such as the contract emergency receptionist, while working within the resource envelope available to the Mission. As mentioned in paragraph 1.1.4, additional requests for positions and reclassifications have been made in the Country Strategy, though to date, none have been approved. Overall, improvements in HR procedures and documentation are necessary to strengthen control and efficiency in the Section.

5.2.2 Based on a sample of files reviewed, the process used to staff positions was appropriate. The organization chart should be updated to reflect recent staffing changes. For some reclassification proposals, such as the Administration/Accounting Assistant, the Mission presents logical arguments supporting a higher level. However, for other reclassifications presented, Mission Management should examine whether positions are being over-tasked for their level. In certain cases, expectations may need to be set in line with the current position level, rather than reclassifying the position.

5.2.3 Documentation on employee files was not always complete, with position and employee information stored in various locations and files. The Section should institute a structured and standard approach to its HR files, consolidating information for each employee in one file. Separate position and competition files should also be maintained in order to demonstrate that appropriate procedures were followed in the creation and staffing of each position. Based on a sample examined and conversations with staff, appraisals were up-to-date and on file for the previous year.

5.2.4 Since the LES contingent at the Mission is relatively small, there is no official LES Committee. However, as a group, the LES meet often to discuss issues and present their concerns to Mission Management. The Audit Team met with the group, who outlined a number of longstanding issues they would like to see resolved. In addition to the request for an Astana relocation package, a benefits package was of primary concern. Though there have been delays on both sides (the Mission and HQ), the issue of a lack of medical benefits has gone on for several years. The Mission recently submitted a benefits survey from a like-minded mission, and is awaiting a response. According to the Mission, the majority of marker missions have already established employer-sponsored medical plans, and local conditions make this type of benefit a necessity. Deduction of taxes at source and participation in the local social security scheme were also high on the LES’ list of concerns. The LES Handbook is currently in draft and needs to be reviewed and approved by the Locally-engaged Staff Bureau (HLD).

5.2.5 Administration and tracking of leave and overtime needs improvement. Employee leave is recorded on employee files, which makes it difficult to find, and is not recorded in a central location to facilitate leave management. Similarly, overtime needs to be systematically tracked. Forms are complete and appropriately approved, but hours and amounts paid are not tracked centrally, making budgetary control and planning of overtime difficult.

5.2.5 With the addition of several new permanent and emergency staff, training has been an issue. Immediate position-specific training is necessary for the new GR Assistant and the Property Assistant/Signet Systems Assistant. Furthermore, the creation of an orientation package, using resources readily available from HQ and on the Intranet, would be beneficial to help all new employees adjust to their roles in the Mission. There is no formal training plan for the Mission this year, though a priority for Kazakh language training has been identified by Mission Management in order to prepare for the move to Astana.

Recommendations to the Mission

5.2.6 The Mission should re-examine the reclassifications proposed in the Country Strategy to ensure that they are the result of Mission requirements and not over-tasking of positions that should remain at level.

5.2.7 The organization chart should be updated.

5.2.8 A filing system for personnel and competition files should be created and implemented.

5.2.9 Overtime and leave should be tracked centrally by the MAO.

5.2.10 A Mission-wide training plan should be created, updated annually, based on the needs identified through the PMP process.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.2.6 Reclassification request packages have been sent to Moscow for review in 2007 but, as yet, there has been no action. This process has been held up given RGM's email notification that reclassifications have been put on hold due to severe budget cuts.
Re-examination of the reclassification requests will only be completed once answers on the long-term organization chart have been received from HQ. In absence of these answers, Mission feels that the submitted re-classification requests reflect the requirements and realities on the ground.

5.2.7 Existing organization chart has been updated. January 2008.

5.2.8 A filing system separating position, personnel, personnel security, and competitions will be established. February 2008.

5.2.9 Overtime tracking will be completed centrally by the Accountant. February 2008.

5.2.10 A Mission-wide training plan will be created. Mission has experienced severe attrition (seven LES out of ten LES positions this fiscal year), which has resulted in many staffing actions and urgent familiarization training of new staff to get them up to speed. As positions are re-staffed, managers will be responsible for creating learning plans with their reporting employees. April 2008.

5.3 Physical Resources

5.3.1 The Property function is overseen by the MAO with the assistance of the Property Assistant/Signet System Assistant (SSA) (LE-06), the Cleaner (GS-Cleaner), the part-time Janitor (GS-Janitor) and Driver-Messenger (GS-Driver). The Mission also contracts for the services of a Handyman and a seasonal Gardener.

5.3.2 The Property Assistant-SSA *** and the Mission supports her enrollment in the next available LES Property course. The Assistant’s property, materiel and dispatching duties will consume approximately 70% of her time. The Mission’s plan to review the roles and responsibilities of staff will include this position and there will be opportunities to shift tasking as the incumbent becomes more experienced. Following any transfer of responsibilities, the Mission will need to review formal custodianship of stored materiels and access to storage areas.

5.3.3 The Handyman has been on contract on a full-time basis *** and the Mission confirmed the continuous need for this function given the challenges found in the operating environment (such as poor construction techniques and limited support from landlords), which will also exist in Astana. The Mission should develop a business case to have this position regularized.

5.3.4 The major challenge for the Mission is the relocation of the Embassy and staff to the capital of Astana. Just prior to the Audit visit, the Mission was informed that the planned purchase and renovation of the identified property for the new Chancery will no longer go through as the construction standards of the building were not up to par. A property team from the Physical Resources Bureau (SRD) will be visiting the Mission shortly to review sites suitable for a design and build project instead. As there is a requirement to have a presence in the capital by the end of 2007, in order to ensure a strong bilateral relationship, the Mission plans to situate the new GR PM, an LES Officer, and a Receptionist in a temporary location in Astana by the fall 2007, and is examining available options.

5.3.5 The Canadian International Development Agency CBS will be departing *** as the region will no longer be covered from Almaty. As CIDA has not yet completed its country of concentration review, no decision has been made regarding the opening of a Post Support Unit (PSU) in Dushanbe. The CIDA LES term position will remain with the Mission ***.

5.3.6 The Mission’s property portfolio includes the Chancery and three Staff Quarters (SQs), as the Mission is designated a category three mission and does not have an Official Residence. ***. With the exception of some structural issues that the Mission has identified as needing attention from landlords, the properties are well maintained and are overall of appropriate size and layout. The Mission is re-opening discussions with the landlords to have the structural deficiencies addressed, given the delay in the move to Astana with the change in the Chancery project.

5.3.7 An upcoming challenge for the Mission will be managing potential increases in rental and other costs until the new Chancery project is completed in Astana. The Mission noted costs in the country are increasing as most values are pegged to the US dollar which is devaluing, and with the upcoming move there may be limited room to negotiate with current landlords.

5.3.8 As part of the HOM’s focus on augmenting systems in the Mission, the Section has been reviewing its process for completing vehicle logs and up-dating the distribution accounts of the Mission, with only SQ4860009 still to be completed. In order to improve the documentation retained by the Section and augment it’s planning processes, it should implement the following recommendations:

  • File work orders in each specific property file in order to be able to review the history of the property;
  • Have the HOM review and sign the Chancery distribution account;
  • Complete an inventory of items stored in the Chancery;
  • Retain justifications on files for any over or under housing situations;
  • Document any damage or accidents to Mission vehicles;
  • Review disposal guidelines (MM1:8 and 9:8) to ensure all procedures are followed;
  • Retain documentation for significant purchases (i.e. over $500);
  • Conduct yearly inspections of all properties to develop maintenance and capital replacement plans;
  • Develop and publish service standards for the Section;
  • Up-date the Mission Property Management Plan (MPMP) given the change in the Chancery project and the extension of time in Almaty; and,
  • Ensure all non-office staff (even if not yet on the PMP system) receive appraisals.
Recommendations to the Mission

5.3.9 The Mission should develop a business case for the creation of a Handyman position.

5.3.10 Following the review and transfer of responsibilities among Mission staff, the Program should review the custodianship of stored goods and access to storage areas.

5.3.11 The Section should file work orders in each specific property file.

5.3.12 The HOM should review and sign the Chancery distribution account.

5.3.13 The Section should complete an inventory of items stored in the Chancery.

5.3.14 The Section should document justifications on file for any over or under housing situations.

5.3.15 The Section should document any damage or accidents which occur to Mission vehicles.

5.3.16 The Mission should review disposal guidelines (MM1:8 and 9:8) to ensure all procedures are followed during disposal exercises.

5.3.17 The Section should retain documentation for significant purchases (i.e. over $500).

5.3.18 The Section should conduct yearly inspections of all properties and then develop maintenance and capital replacement plans.

5.3.19 The Section should develop service standards for its activities and publish them so all staff are aware of timelines and roles and responsibilities.

5.3.20 The Mission should update the MPMP to reflect changes and plans for the property portfolio.

5.3.21 The Mission should complete hard-copy appraisals for all non-office staff until the PMP system is able to accommodate their requirements.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.3.9 The business cases for the regularization of the Handyman and Driver positions have been developed and are being submitted to RSR/REE for consideration along with the proposed organization chart for the Mission. February 2008.

5.3.10 Inventories, custodianship and access to storage will be reviewed, updated and formalized. Current vacancy of the Property Assistant/Signet Systems Assistant restricts the implementation and this is expected to be more fully addressed once the vacancy is filled. March 2008.

5.3.11 Work order files have been created. The new Property Assistant/Signet Systems Assistant will be trained to keep records from the start. March 2008.

5.3.12 Distribution account will be updated and signed by HOM. March 2008.

5.3.13 Inventories, custodianship and access to storage will be reviewed, updated and formalized. Current vacancy of the Property Assistant/Signet Systems Assistant restricts the implementation and this is expected to be more fully addressed once the vacancy is filled. March 2008.

5.3.14 The over- housing situation noted at the time of the audit visit has been resolved with the disposal of this crown-leased SQ in spring 2007. A potential over-housing situation in Astana has been documented and concurrence obtained from the Property and Geographic Bureau prior to lease signing.

5.3.15 Vehicle reports and logs have been instituted, November 2007.

5.3.16 All future disposal actions will follow procedures.

5.3.17 Documentation of all future significant purchases will be retained on file.

5.3.18 Given upcoming move to Astana, SQs in Almaty will be inspected in summer 2008. SQ in Astana is newly acquired and was inspected before occupancy. A capital replacement plan will be established in the new fiscal year. Summer 2008.

5.3.19 Service standards will be developed. Given staffing shortages and move preparations however, the section will be under increased pressure and forecasts difficulties in meeting service standards during this period. Nonetheless, client requests will be acknowledged and updated accordingly. April 2008.

5.3.20 MPMP for fiscal year 2009 has been updated and submitted to HQ. January 2008.

5.3.21 All appraisals for non-office staff will be completed in hard-copy format. April 2008.

5.4 Finance

5.4.1 Financial duties are shared between the MAO, who performs mostly an oversight and monitoring role, and the Administration/Accounting Assistant (LE-04), who is responsible for the majority of the transactional and reporting duties. The amount of overtime worked by both these individuals, particularly the Assistant, is a major concern. Documentation examined during the Audit was *** organized and in order, though changes are necessary to improve certain controls and the segregation of duties.

5.4.2 Though no major anomalies were noted based on the sample of transactions examined, the recent high workload *** placed on both individuals increases the risk of errors or problems occurring in the Section. ***. Both individuals were heavily involved in duties associated with the chancery move and arranging the HOM’s frequent visits to Astana. A vacancy in the Property Assistant position, though recently filled, was the heaviest contributing factor to the overtime, particularly for the Administration/Accounting Assistant who took over many of that position’s duties in the interim. As a result, the Assistant’s previous split between her Administration and Finance duties, which was 50/50, shifted to 80/20. A stronger emphasis needs to be placed on financial management at the Mission. Introducing quiet hours for the Finance Section, and allowing the Assistant adequate time during the day to complete her financial responsibilities, should be a priority for Management.

5.4.3 The Mission has two bank accounts, in USD and Tenge (KZT), and two cash accounts also in USD and KZT. Bank and cash account reconciliations were examined for January and February 2007, contained all the required information and approvals, and reconciled to IMS. Since cheques are not used in Kazakhstan, transactions are in the form of hard-copy transfer or in cash, with the majority of payments in cash. The Mission has made good progress in decreasing the number of transactions in the cash accounts by increasing its use of transfers, and should continue with this initiative as local conditions evolve and more vendors are willing to accept this form of payment.

5.4.4 In addition to the two cash accounts, the Mission also has a petty cash of ***, though it was unclear what differentiated the payments processed through the petty cash from those processed through the KZT cash account. There was also some confusion as to who was responsible for maintaining and safeguarding the cash, since both the MAO and Assistant were making payments from it, ***. At the time of the Audit, the cash had been fully depleted, but receipts had not yet been recorded in IMS. The need for a petty cash, given the cash account, high workload, and current weak controls for the petty cash, should be reexamined. Until a decision is made, controls need to be strengthened.

5.4.5 In a small mission with few CBS, maintaining a proper segregation of duties and oversight is difficult, resulting in many incompatible roles performed by the same individual. ***. This is not ideal, but both the HOM and the Foreign Operations and International Banking Division (SMFF) have approved the arrangement given the lack of options at present. As the CBS complement increases at the Mission, the requirements for LES with signing authority should be reviewed. The HOM should also continue to thoroughly review the monthly bank reconciliations as a compensating control.

5.4.6 Further monitoring and improvements to internal controls are also needed in the following areas:

  • Asset and liability reports were not being monitored on a monthly basis as required;
  • Special Purpose Accounts (SPA) had not been monitored on a regular basis, resulting in outstanding balances in the accounts;
  • The Materiel Management module of IMS was not being used.
Recommendations to the Mission

5.4.7 The Mission should ensure tasking of the Assistant position permits adequate time to be devoted to financial duties. Quiet/open hours of operation for Finance should be instituted and communicated to all staff.

5.4.8 The Mission should consider discontinuing the petty cash float.

5.4.9 Asset and liability reports should be reviewed on a monthly basis.

5.4.10 Special Purpose Accounts (SPA) should be monitored on an ongoing basis, with excess funds cleared as stated in the departmental SPA policy. SPA agreements should be kept in the Finance Section.

5.4.11 The Mission should begin using the Materiel Management Module of IMS, as required by departmental policy.

5.4.12 If the Mission’s CBS complement increases, the requirement for LES with signing authorities should be re-examined.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.4.7 Tasking of the position is being reviewed to eliminate other administration support duties and to focus on finance and HR records. March 2008. Morning open hours of operation have been posted. November 2007.

5.4.8 Petty cash float is required due to limited usage of credit/cards at retailers. Mission will aim to reduce usage of petty cash in ongoing operations. A plan to accomplish this in the Office of the Embassy in Astana is expected to be implemented in February 2008.

5.4.9 Asset and Liability reports will be reviewed monthly along with monthly bank reconciliations. January 2008.

5.4.10 SPAs will be reviewed monthly along with monthly bank reconciliations. January 2008.

5.4.11 Mission Accountant recently completed MM training but no other staff has training and therefore cannot meet segregation of responsibilities in MM. Mission will look to provide new staff MM training as positions are staff and as time is available during this transitional year.

5.4.12 With arrival of TD MCO, section 33 will be signed by this position. Given that all receipts and invoices are in Russian, that there are only three CBS in Almaty with frequent travel to Astana, it is not feasible to permanently remove signing authorities from LES. This should be revisited once consolidation of two offices is complete. February 2008. Mission recommends that the MCO to be posted to Almaty/Astana be given Russian language training in order to improve ability to authorize receipts.

5.5 Information Technology (IT)

5.5.1 The Property Assistant/Signet Systems Assistant (SSA) (LE-06) is responsible for basic IT duties and trouble shooting at the Mission. Her responsibilities are split between IT and Property functions (30/70). The incumbent had been in the position for *** at the time of the Audit, and therefore was still adjusting to the new role. CBS support is provided by a Foreign Service Information Technology Professional (FSITP) in Moscow, who visits the Mission on a regular basis and as required. The majority of staff at the Mission indicated they were *** with the level of IT support received locally and from Moscow.

5.5.2 The incumbent had not yet been provided any IT training and none had been planned. Without any official training or reference materials, there was understandably some uncertainty with respect to the roles and responsibilities of the position. The Mission should immediately consult with HQ and Moscow to explore different training opportunities, such as the SSA course in Ottawa, or informal training from a regional FSITP. In the meantime, the SSA should be provided with reference material related to the basic duties of the position.

5.3 As a result of the recent staff turnover, no one in the Administration Section was aware of any IT-related contingency planning. The SSA indicated that there is a laptop at the HOM residence, but that it was broken and repairs had not yet been scheduled. Repairs should be initiated immediately, and a formal business continuity plan developed, including secondary communication methods that compliment consular and security plans.

Recommendations to the Mission

5.5.4 The Mission should consult with the Client Relations Division (SXEC) and Moscow to determine the most appropriate and timely training mechanism available for the SSA.

5.5.5 A basic business continuity plan should be developed for the Mission.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.5.4 Property Assistant/Signet System Assistant position is currently vacant. Advertisement of the position resulted in no candidates with both IT and Property. It is the opinion of the Mission that this mix of job descriptions is not sustainable. Mission has requested Information Management and Technology Bureau (SXD) to fund a full-time LEITP position to provide competent and ongoing service. Until then, Mission will not have on-ground IT support and will be forced to rely on Moscow and the call centre.

5.5.5 A business continuity plan will be developed at the time of the next visit of the Regional FSITP. February 2008.

Office of the Inspector General


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Date Modified:
2012-10-17