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Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

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Inspection of The Canadian Embassy Buenos Aires

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(December 2008)

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

An inspection of the General Relations (GR), International Business Development (IBD), Consular and Administration Programs was conducted in Buenos Aires from June 9 to 17, 2008. The Mission was last audited in March 2000.

The Canadian Embassy in Buenos Aires is a medium-sized mission with 14 Canada-based staff (CBS), and 39 Locally-engaged staff (LES), and acts as a hub for the mission in Montevideo, Uruguay. The Mission is well run, and benefits from an experienced team with sound frameworks and committees in place that allow for effective management of all operations. The team also displayed open communication and strong leadership. While there are some areas to address, overall the Mission was found to be generally in compliance with departmental policies and procedures. It was noted that morale amongst the LES is considered to be low primarily due to issues surrounding salary levels. Export Development Canada’s analysis indicates that the unofficial annual inflation rate is estimated to be running at 25%, which is eroding the purchasing power of the LES wages.

Canada and Argentina share a number of priorities regarding the region: anti-terrorism, human rights and the ***. The GR Program’s focus and reporting flow from objectives outlined in the Country Strategy. While the Program is operating well, given the upcoming transfer of an FS-01 position, there will be a need to review the roles and responsibilities of the Section’s staff.

The IBD Program is effectively managed, is providing a good level of service to its clients and has witnessed growth of almost 32% in Canadian exports to Argentina over the last year. It has also seen an increased work load and a rise in visits from sector organizations, government departments and provincial representatives. Hospitality diaries related to trade oriented activities were not always completed with sufficient information. As well, it was noted that the allocation of priority sectors could be more equitable, and that refresher training on tools such as TRIO would be beneficial to the Program.

The number of Consular cases is increasing, primarily as a result of an increase in tourism. Program meetings were not being held regularly, and it is recommended that these be held in order to facilitate information sharing, priority setting and the recording of key decisions, work plans and priorities for the Section. The role of the Honorary Consul in Paraguay (overseen by the Mission) may expand should citizenship regulations change as there is a community of approximately 9,000 Canadian Mennonites in the Country.

The Administration Program is running well and providing a good level of support to Mission programs. It is recommended that the Program:

  • Hold regular staff meetings;
  • Update job descriptions (some of which had not be updated in 15 years);
  • Create a Mission-wide training plan using the information highlighted in staff’s Performance Management Program (PMP);
  • Have cable television fees paid by the occupants rather than the Mission; and,
  • Develop a long-range capital acquisition plan.

A total of 62 inspection recommendations are raised in the report; 57 are addressed to the Mission and five 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 62 recommendations, management has stated that 28 recommendations have been implemented. For each of the remaining 34 recommendations, management has indicated the initiatives in progress or the intended future action.

Mission Management

1.1 Overview

1.1.1 The Embassy in Buenos Aires is a medium sized mission with 14 Canada-based staff, and 39 Locally-engaged staff, and acts as a hub for the mission in Montevideo, Uruguay. The Mission was found to have open communication and *** leadership. It is well run, and benefits from an experienced team with sound structures and committees in place that allow for effective management of all operations. The Mission was found to be generally in compliance with departmental policies and procedures.

1.2 Management Issues

1.2.1 It was noted that morale amongst the LES was low, primarily due to the issues surrounding salary levels and the benefits package. Export Development Canada’s analysis indicates that the unofficial annual inflation rate is estimated to be running at 25%. As a result of such levels of inflation the purchasing power of LES wages is being eroded at a fast pace. Concerns of staff must be addressed by Mission Management in consultation with the Locally Engaged Staff Services Bureau (HLD) in a manner that allays the deep rooted mis-trust by the LES of the methodology and transparency of the salary review process.

1.2.2 *** .Support by senior management at the Mission was highlighted to have been inconsistent over the years. Staff indicated that they do not have a direct contact person in HLD whom they can consult to obtain answers or to assist with issues.

1.2.3 Hospitality files were reviewed for 2007 and 2008. Since the arrival of the new HOM more attention is being paid to the objectives and evaluations of events. Hospitality files should, however, be separated and maintained individually by each CBS and LES officer using hospitality funding.

1.2.4 The Mission has a sound committee structure in place which deals with the various aspects of Mission operations. Whenever possible, minutes/decisions of these committee meetings should be circulated to all Mission staff.

1.2.5 The Inspection Team was made aware of a reference level shortfall in the operations budget, which needs to be addressed by the Mission in consultation with the International Platform Branch (see section 5.4 of this report).

Recommendations for the Mission

1.2.6 The Mission in consultation with HLD, should review the LES pay and benefits package to ensure that concerns of employees are addressed and that the methodology used in determining the benefits package is transparent and clear to all employees.

1.2.7 The Mission should ensure that hospitality files are separated and maintained individually by each officer.

1.2.8 Minutes of Mission committees should, whenever possible, be circulated to all Mission staff.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

1.2.6 The Mission will request HLD to provide more transparency on Birches information and the methodology to determine salary increases. In progress for November 2008.

1.2.7 Noted. In progress for November 2008.

1.2.8 Noted and this will be done where feasible.

Recommendation for HLD

1.2.9 HLD should review the information used as a basis to determine salary increases, particularly in countries where there is high inflation and there has been a rapid devaluation of the currency.

HLD Action and Timeframe

1.2.9 HLD is presently working to develop a new salary revision strategy. Following consultation with stakeholders in Ottawa and in missions, the new strategy will be implemented during fiscal year 2009-2010. Using data provided by the Hay and Birches groups, which conduct research all over the world, HLD will revisit the review process, the markers used by foreign governments and the private sector, and the benchmarks used to compare LES jobs with the market, the objective being to better forecast pay trends.

General Relations Program

2.1 Overview

2.1.1 The General Relations and Public Affairs program review covered the following aspects:

  • the Program’s plans and activities;
  • implementation;
  • organizational structure and means; and
  • deliverables.

2.2 Planning of Activities

2.2.1 The activities undertaken by the Program, whether in general relations or public affairs, largely stem from the Country Strategy established by the Mission. This strategy in turn reflects the priorities the government has established for the Americas. A review of activities and projects revealed that the Section is focussed on the set objectives and endeavours to attain them with the means at its disposal.

2.2.2 This being said, the Program should review the themes for which it wants to engage the local government and stakeholders. A brief analysis of the Country Strategy shows that the Mission has a multitude of paths it would like to take, but that is does not necessarily have the resources it needs or an implementation plan.

2.2.3 The Program has the opportunity to review the themes of its strategy with regard to the following elements:

  • depletion of the Public Diplomacy Fund and replacement with a reduced Post Initiative Fund (PIF) dedicated to further Canadian interests (advocacy); and
  • elimination of an FS position within the Program.

2.2.4 These factors will affect how the Program approaches the planning and delivery its projects. They will also enable the Program to concentrate its activities on a few themes that could create a niche for the Mission.

Recommendation for the Mission

2.2.5 The GR Program should determine the importance of various themes and directions that require a commitment in order to emphasize its priorities and concentrate its efforts.

Mission Action and Timeframe

2.2.5 Since funding for the new structure has not yet been determined (in consultation with Headquarters), we do not yet know what human resources or responsibility levels will be available, and therefore we cannot yet finalize this exercise. In progress for December 2008.

2.2.6 The GR Program Manager has a *** vision and understanding of the various ramifications and linkages between themes and projects. The Program, however, would benefit from an action plan based on the priorities and objectives established for the Mission. Argentina’s civil society is dynamic and the groups and individuals identified by the Mission as being influential make up a good network of contacts. The implementation plan would help tie the objectives to activities and projects, and target those groups and partners best able to promote Canada’s interests.

2.2.7 An analysis of cultural and academic activities revealed the strength of the Program’s expertise and the extent of its network throughout the country. The Canadian Studies network is *** effective and it is often used by the Mission to promote the Canadian system all-around and to effectively relay the Canadian message to partners and various players, including a wide public from varied backgrounds.

2.2.8 Overall, the Program has a good understanding of the Mission’s objectives and how they fit in with Canada’s priorities. The approach used in developing contacts seems to work well and the principles and means the Program can use to achieve committed public diplomacy are well understood.

2.2.9 However, in light of changes made to the cultural approach, the Program will have to re-examine how it positions itself to make a smooth transition from its former role as organizer of cultural events to a reduced role as activity facilitator.

2.3 Organizational Structure and Resources

2.3.1 The current organizational structure includes a General Relations Program Manager, assisted by an FS-01 and five LES positions. With the elimination of the FS position, restructuring has become very important to the reassignment of duties and the redistribution of the Section’s workload. As previously mentioned, the new structure must take the following factors into account:

  • the Public Diplomacy Fund is depleted and, consequently, cultural or events-based projects, formerly organized by the Program, have become increasingly rare;
  • the size of the Program and the number of staff involved, as well as the need to cover two countries;
  • the workload; and
  • the challenges Canada faces in the Mission’s area of accreditation.

2.3.2 The recently proposed structure does not represent any cost savings, but it does have the advantage of using the knowledge and experience of Locally-engaged staff and their increased participation in political reporting and promotion of Canadian interests. The proposal, in response to the elimination of the FS-01 position, changes the structure of the Program from an LE-09, an LE-07, two LE-05s and an LE-04 to one in which there are two LE-09s, two LE-07s and one LE-05. These changes would require approximately $56,000 in additional funding.

2.3.3 The restructuring appears to be appropriate, and should entail job reviews for the Locally-engaged staff to better align their responsibilities with the Program’s objectives and activities. The Program should manage the transition by holding meetings more frequently and, where necessary, by adjusting responsibilities after the transition.

Recommendation for the Mission

2.3.4 In light of the new structure, job reviews should be held to reflect the new responsibilities and proposed changes.

Mission Action and Timeframe

2.3.4 The Program has undertaken job reviews for the Section’s employees, but as indicated in paragraph 2.2.5, since funding for the new structure has not yet been decided, we cannot yet finalize this exercise. In progress for December 2008.

2.4 Deliverables

2.4.1 The Program did its part with regard to the reporting agreement. A significant number of political reports were delivered to various entities. However, since resources will be diminished, the Program’s reports should be better-targeted and focus on the ties and implications for Canada through a more analytical approach. The same can be said for the electronic publications the Mission so rarely uses for external communications. The website is also a good means of communication and the team in charge should use this means wherever possible to reach its contacts and promote its activities.

2.4.2 The publications inventory, readership and number of articles are good indicators of the Program’s level of activity.

Recommendation for the Mission

2.4.3 The Program should use technological means to reach the Mission’s networks and it should use its website as a communications tool.

Mission Action and Timeframe

2.4.3 The Program already has email distribution lists so we can tell our contact networks about Canadian government policies and Canadian activities in Argentina. When the new platform announced by HQ comes into effect, we will be in a better position to maximize our site’s effectiveness and will ask the Website Committee to study this opportunity. In progress for November 2008.

International Business Development Program

3.1 Overview

3.1.1 Overall the International Business Development Program in Buenos Aires is *** managed by an EX-01 Senior Trade Commissioner (STC). The Program also comprises one FS-02 Trade Commissioner (TC), three LE-09 Trade Commissioners (TC), and an LE-06 Trade Commissioner Assistant (TCA) and two LE-05 TCAs.

3.1.2 The IBD Program has witnessed growth of almost 32% in Canadian exports to Argentina over the last year, and has seen an increased work load and a rise in visits from sector organizations, government departments and provincial representatives.

3.2 Program Management

3.2.1 Planning is based upon environmental scans, HQ priorities, consultations with other government departments, the provinces, and an assessment of what worked, and what did not work in the previous year. This feeds into the Country Strategy which then feeds back into the IBD plan and is then used to develop specific activities and objectives for individual staff members’ Performance Management Programs. The budget is based upon previous year’s budget and leveraged funds.

3.2.2 While absenteeism had been a problem *** the STC, leading by example with an open door policy,*** communications, and transparency of decision making, has improved the situation.

3.2.3 Hospitality diaries related to trade oriented activities were reviewed and it was noted that they are not always completed with sufficient information to assess the value of the expenditure.

3.2.4 The distribution of priority sectors could be more equitable in that one TC holds responsibility for two priority sectors with significant activity. There is the risk that the TC could be overwhelmed by an increasing workload. There is a further risk that an increasing level of activity in certain sectors could lead to a reduction in recording results.

Recommendations for the Mission

3.2.5 The Program’s hospitality diaries should be completed such that objectives are specific and reflect priorities, and that the results of activities, such as number and quality of key contacts, can be assessed and incorporated into the planning of future activities.

3.2.6 Consideration should be given to the re-distribution of priority sectors

3.2.7 The Program should examine pooling TCA resources to allocate available resources according to need, rather than sector.

3.2.8 The Mission may also wish to look at the possibility of the use of interns.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

3.2.5 Revised guidelines discussed with IBD staff and implemented September 2008.

3.2.6 Extensive discussion held with trade officers and adjustments/reassignments made to responsive sectors. Investment coordination responsibility changed to different officer in order to better distribute responsibilities and agreement reached on new workload balance. Continuous monitoring and six month review to be done. Partially implemented and in progress for October 2008.

3.2.7 Option discussed with trade officers and some adjustments made to TCA responsibilities including increased "pool" resourcing of one TCA. Sectoral allocation remains preferred option for other two TCAs given group dynamics and expertise. Partially implemented and in progress for October 2008.

3.2.8 Intern hired for third quarter and IBD Program plans on maintaining interns throughout the year. Implemented September 2008.

3.3 Tools

3.3.1 During the course of the Inspection, it was noted that TRIO had only recently been implemented, and proved to be a challenge as the data import from legacy systems was not clean. Considerable effort had to go into the re-input of data. In order to address this issue, the Program Manager had engaged temporary support to clean up and re-enter data.

3.3.2 Officers are not consistent in their use of TRIO. Staff indicated that they feel they do not have sufficient time to master TRIO.

3.3.3 The TCs and TCAs have received the required training, but could benefit from refresher training in TRIO and training in core office systems for word processing, data analysis, and presentation.

Recommendation for the Mission

3.3.4 The Mission should evaluate the training needs of the IBD staff, and record them in PMP so that they may be included in the Mission-wide training plan.

Mission Action and Timeframe

3.3.4 Training needs discussed with all IBD staff and reflected in PMPs. Mission-wide informatics training survey conducted and plan is in process of being implemented. In progress for October 2008.

Consular

4.1 Program Management

4.1.1 The Consular Program is overseen by the MCO, with a Senior Consular Officer and Consular Assistant working under his guidance.

4.1.2 While no section meetings occur for the Consular Program, Consular staff do not feel this is necessary as the MCO has an open-door policy. The Inspection Team, however, believes that these could be useful in order to facilitate information sharing, priority setting and the recording of key decisions, work plans and priorities for the Section.

4.1.3 The Consular Program has a high workload, which varies depending on the season (highest during the southern hemisphere summer). Consular cases are increasing, mainly due to increasing tourism and an aging Canadian population travelling to Argentina. The Mission and the Consular Affairs Bureau (CND) should continue to monitor this increasing workload to determine if existing resources are adequate.

Recommendations for the Mission

4.1.4 Regular Consular Section meetings, with an agenda and recorded minutes, should be held at least once per month.

4.1.5 The volume of consular cases in Argentina should be monitored to determine whether existing resource levels will continue to be adequate in the near to medium term.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

4.1.4 Meetings will be held once per month. Implemented October 2008.

4.1.5 Will review resource levels on an ongoing basis. Implemented October 2008

4.1.6 In Asunción, Paraguay there is an Honorary Consul (HonCon) whose role is overseen by the Mission. The presence and activities of the HonCon in Paraguay are especially important considering there is a community of approximately 9,000 Canadian Mennonites in the country.

4.1.7 The HonCon did not receive a performance review, nor a performance agreement for the last fiscal year. It is important that this be done annually in order to provide a formal mechanism for feedback and priority setting for the HonCon.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.1.8 Performance agreements and assessments for the HonCon should be performed annually.

Mission Action and Timeframe

4.1.9 In progress for December 2008.

4.1.10 The MCO considers his Consular staff to be knowledgeable and able; however, he believes that they would benefit from refresher training in a regional or HQ setting every five to seven years. It was noted that GR and IBD officers travel to HQ or regional training sessions every few years for training on new procedures, priorities and systems, and that there is a perceived imbalance between the attention paid to training in these areas versus the Consular area.

4.1.11 Similarly, the HonCon and his assistant have indicated an interest in refresher training in Canada as many procedures and requirements have changed since his first training (especially post-September 11, 2001 security enhancements). Similar to the possibility of providing refresher training to Locally-engaged consular officers, the Department should consider the need for refresher training for HonCons.

Recommendation for CND

4.1.12 Given the interest noted in many missions, CND should review the need to provide refresher training for long serving Consular staff (including HonCons and their staff).

CND Action and Timeframe

4.1.12 The development of refresher training for consular staff is part of our action plan for fiscal year 2009/2010. CBS as well as LES who have been working in the field for many years need to update their knowledge/skills. Starting January 2009, a consultant will develop a "Consular Services and Emergency Management Training Initiative" that will include specific refresher training. We will be collecting suggestions/recommendations from a variety of staff from Emergency Response Centre Division (CEC), Case Management (CNO), Consular Informatics Division (CLC), Consular Client Services Division (CLS), Policy and Contingency Planning Division (CEP), and more. Several workshops such as, Dealing with Post Trauma situations, CAMANT note writing, etc. will be developed. They will be similar to the current Torture Awareness Workshop.

4.1.13 The dry seal is currently stored ***. This seal should be kept *** until required for use.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.1.14 The dry seal should be kept *** until such time as its use is required, and returned *** when it is no longer required.

Mission Action and Timeframe

4.1.14 Implemented October 2008.

4.1.15 Consular outreach activities have been minimal in other parts of Argentina. The Program should consider performing outreach activities whenever there is an opportunity.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.1.16 The Mission should devise a plan for Consular outreach activities in other regions of Argentina.

Mission Action and Timeframe

4.1.16 The Mission will explore opportunity for a trial outreach visit to Mendoza area in early 2009. In progress for fall 2009.

4.1.17 The Senior Consular Officer expressed the desire for clearer guidelines on the provision of notary services, specifically on the range of services offered and the fees for each of these services.

Recommendation for the Mission

4.1.18 The Mission should liaise with CND to determine whether the guidelines being used are current and adequate. Where doubt exists, the Mission should liaise with CND and seek further guidance.

Mission Action and Timeframe

4.1.18 The Mission will address this issue during the regional consular conference in Buenos Aires in October 2008.

Administration

5.1.1 Although the MCO and DMCO meet with staff on an ad hoc basis and both employ an open door approach with staff, the Program would benefit from holding weekly staff meetings. These meetings will serve to provide LES employees with an opportunity to be involved in the decision making process and to voice their opinions regarding Mission operations.

5.1.2 While the MCO and DMCO have established a *** working relationship, no formal mentoring plan has been prepared for the development of the DMCO. Holding regular meetings (with other staff from the various sections in administration present) would provide an opportunity for the DMCO to be exposed to all aspects of the administration program.

Recommendations for the Mission

5.1.3 Regular Administration Program staff meetings should be held.

5.1.4 A formal mentoring plan should be developed and implemented for the DMCO.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.1.3 Staff meetings will be held monthly. Implemented October 2008.

5.1.4 The DMCO is exposed to full range of Mission operations and is responsible for day-to-day management of property, finance, and consular functions. The DMCO and MCO will collaborate on developing a formal plan for the new DMCO arriving in July/August 2009

5.2 Human Resources

5.2.1 The Human Resources portfolio of the Mission is managed by the MCO, who is assisted by the LE-05 Administrative Assistant. There is an active LES Committee in place although the same employees have been on this committee for several years. Elections should be held amongst the LES to elect a new committee membership on a predetermined basis. The Committee meets with the MCO on a quarterly basis (or more frequently if necessary) and with the HOM at least twice per year.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.2.2 The Mission should ensure that regular elections for the LES Committee are conducted

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.2.2 The Mission has advised the LES Committee of the need to hold regular elections.

5.2.3 A review of job description files indicates that the majority are out of date. Some have not been reviewed/updated in over 15 years. A process to update these job descriptions on a regular basis, for example every four years, should be initiated to ensure staff are being properly tasked and remunerated for the work that they are actually performing.

5.2.4 The Mission’s Classification Committee consists of the program managers from Administration, General Relations, IBD, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The MCO or DMCO sit on every classification action board to ensure consistency and proper application of guidelines. There have not been any classification action requests in the past 1 ½ years.

5.2.5 LES personnel information and position number file information are currently being maintained on one file. The Mission should ensure that separate files for leave, position, and personnel related information are created and maintained for each LES employee.

5.2.6 Competition files were reviewed (one from 2004 and one from 2007). They were complete except for the memo of final recommendation to the HOM concerning placement and overall assessment of candidates.

5.2.7 ***. In the event an employee is accepted to act in a higher classified position, a clause in the letter of offer should indicate that the acting appointment could be for a shorter duration depending on the Mission requirements.

Recommendations for the Mission

5.2.8 The Mission should initiate a process to update all LES job descriptions on a regular basis and once completed ensure that they are reviewed regularly.

5.2.9 The Mission should ensure that separate files for leave, position, and personnel related information are created and maintained for each LES employee.

5.2.10 The Mission should ensure that competition files contain all relevant data in order to ensure transparency and fairness.

5.2.11 The Mission should ensure that letters of offer clearly outline the duration of employment and benefits data be given to the employee prior to the employment date.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.2.8 The job description review has been initiated with projected completion date of March 31, 2009.

5.2.9 To be completed by January 2009.

5.2.10 Implemented October 2009.

5.2.11 Implemented October 2009.

5.2.12 Performance reviews are now being conducted for all staff. The Mission is anticipating that all reviews will be completed for the fiscal year 2007/2008 by the end of June 2008 and that new objectives will be set following the completion of this exercise. It was noted in a random review of LES personnel files that recent reviews were not available. ***.

5.2.13 The Mission does not have a formal training plan although individual training requirements are listed in the employees PMP. Each program should arrange to submit a training plan for all their employees to the DMCO, who has been designated as the Training Coordinator. Once completed, the plan should be submitted to the Committee on Mission Management (CMM) for approval and budget allocation.

Recommendations for the Mission

5.2.14 The Mission should ensure that annual performance reviews be conducted for all staff.

5.2.15 The Mission should ensure that training plans be coordinated and submitted to the CMM for approval and budget allocation.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.2.14 PMPs for staff are being completed and the Mission will observe the June 30, 2009 deadline.

5.2.15 The DMCO is working to prepare a formal plan for completion January 2009.

5.3 Physical Resources

5.3.1 The Property, Maintenance and Materiel Services Section is managed by the DMCO. He is assisted by an LE-06 Property Assistant, an LE-05 Materiel Assistant, a Chancery Maintenance Supervisor, and two Handymen. The Program manages a Crown-owned Chancery, a Crown-owned Official Residence (OR), as well as 12 Crown-leased staff quarters (SQs).

5.3.2 The lease renewal dates for the SQ’s are well spaced (four each year) which not only provides some flexibility in SQ assignment but also reduces the risk concerning budget planning and dealing with lease increases, particularly given the inflation rate that Argentina is now experiencing (estimated at between 25 - 35% annually). The Mission, in consultation with the Physical Resources Bureau (ARD), should consider the purchase of some apartment SQs. An assessment of purchase prices and rental market values should be undertaken by the Mission and the findings communicated to ARD for analysis.

5.3.3 The OR and SQs are usually inspected upon each change of occupant. In order to ensure that the OR and SQs are being properly maintained, an annual inspection of these properties should be conducted by the DMCO with assistance from the Property Assistant and the building manager.

5.3.4 SQ leases are prepared and signed off on the Spanish language copy only. The Mission should prepare an English or French version translation of these leases and they should be kept on file for future reference.

Recommendations for the Mission

5.3.5 The Mission, in consultation with ARD, should consider the purchase of some apartment SQs. An assessment of purchase prices and rental market values should be undertaken by the Mission and the findings communicated to ARD for analysis.

5.3.6 An annual inspection of the OR and SQ properties should be conducted by the DMCO with assistance from the Property Assistant and the building manager.

5.3.7 The Mission should prepare an English or French version translation of SQ leases and they should be kept on file for future reference.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.3.5 The DMCO is conducting a market analysis of rental and purchase prices for properties in zones where the Mission has SQs. Results will be shared with ARD. In progress for February 2009.

5.3.6 This will be implemented as a Mission service standard October 2008.

5.3.7 Existing leases will be translated by February 2009. All new leases will have either a French or English version.

5.3.8 Interviews indicated that the two Handymen were not being fully tasked and were capable of taking on additional responsibilities. However, commercial contractors were being used to undertake major repairs for properties. The Mission should assess the requirement for two handymen positions and determine whether their time and skills can be better utilized.

5.3.9 Generic service standards have been developed for the Property Section and are posted on InfoBank. The Mission should also share these standards with spouses and provide an update regarding procedures for service requests.

5.3.10 The Property Section does not have an electronic work order system in place and this has led to some problems in dealing with service and work order requests. With the anticipated launch of an electronic service request system by HQ within the next few months, the Mission will be in a better position to manage and react to service order requests.

5.3.11 Cable television fees for seven leased properties are currently being paid for by the landlord (and in effect by the Mission) as they are included in the monthly rental amount paid by the Mission. Cable fees for five other leased properties are paid by the occupants. The Mission should ensure that monthly cable television fees for all SQs are paid by the occupant.

5.3.12 The Mission purchases all cleaning supplies for the OR. A pre-established percentage of the cost for OR supplies should be agreed upon by the HOM and Administration and cost recovery be undertaken as required.

Recommendations for the Mission

5.3.13 The Mission should assess the requirement for two handymen positions and determine whether their time and skills can be better utilized.

5.3.14 The Mission should ensure that service standards and updates regarding procedures for service requests are shared with spouses.

5.3.15 The Mission should ensure that monthly cable television fees for all SQs are paid by the occupant.

5.3.16 The Mission should ensure that the HOM is reimbursing a percentage of the cost for supplies used at the OR.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.3.13 This is being assessed as part of the wider review of job descriptions, in progress see response 5.2.8.

5.3.14 In progress for December 2008.

5.3.15 In progress for November 2008.

5.3.16 Administration will discuss with the HOM a reasonable percentage for reimbursement. In progress for November 2008.

5.3.17 Inventories for the OR, SQs and Chancery have been completed. All have been signed off by occupants except for the Chancery inventory. The DMCO should take responsibility for this inventory and sign off as account custodian.

5.3.18 An inventory of surplus assets being stored in warehouse facilities has been prepared, however no staff member has taken responsibility for these assets by signing off on the inventory. The DMCO should sign off as account holder for these assets.

5.3.19 EXT182 (Materiel Transfer Voucher) should be used to record the movement of assets. This form should be used whenever assets are moved from one location to another, in particular from SQs to warehouse facilities.

5.3.20 A review of the Crown assets disposal files was undertaken. Records are well maintained, however the Mission should ensure that a reconciliation of the warehouse inventory and assets sold is conducted following Crown assets disposal sales. The Mission should ensure that ARD approval is sought and received prior to any donation of Crown assets which exceed a maximum of $200 of their original value.

5.3.21 The Mission does not have a long range capital acquisition plan in place. The Mission would benefit from the development of such a plan for furnishings, appliances and other equipment. The plan should be presented each year to the CMM for approval.

Recommendations for the Mission

5.3.22 The DMCO should take responsibility for the Chancery inventory of equipment and furniture and sign off as account custodian.

5.3.23 The DMCO should sign off as account holder for the assets which are being stored at the warehouse facilities.

5.3.24 The Mission should ensure that an EXT182 form be used to record the movement of assets from one location to another, in particular from SQs to warehouse facilities.

5.3.25 The Mission should ensure that a reconciliation of the warehouse inventory and assets sold is conducted following Crown assets disposal sales.

5.3.26 The Mission should ensure that ARD approval is sought and received prior to any donation of Crown assets which exceed a maximum of $200 of their original value.

5.3.27 The Mission should prepare a long range capital acquisition plan for furnishings, appliances and other equipment. The plan should be updated as required and presented each year to the CMM for approval.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.3.22 Implemented October 2008.

5.3.23 Implemented October 2008.

5.3.24 Implemented October 2008.

5.3.25 A reconciliation will be done after next auction.

5.3.26 ARD approval will be sought for future donations.

5.3.27 A capital acquisition plan is being prepared for fiscal year 2009/2010. In progress for February 2009.

5.3.28 Vehicle operating logs and maintenance/fuel purchases are being well maintained, however a monthly verification of mileage driven and usage should be conducted by the Administration Program Assistant to confirm authorized use of the vehicles.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.3.29 The Mission should ensure that a monthly verification of mileage driven and official vehicle usage be conducted by the Administration Program Assistant.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.3.29 Implemented October 2008.

5.3.30 A review of the Contract Review Board (CRB) files was conducted. A number of procedural issues were noted that need to be corrected:

  • Currently, contract documents are not being entered into IMS, per regulations set forth in the new contract framework;
  • Amendments to some contracts do not contain signatures of the contractor and embassy officials;
  • Payments for contracts should be more weighted towards the end of the contract period (deliverables);
  • There is no clear approval document indicating that the security contract (over $84,000) was approved by the Departmental CRB (SPP);
  • The low dollar contract template is being used for contracts which are valued above $25,000;
  • English or French translation of contracts should be provided to the CRB to ensure clear understanding of contract details; and
  • The CRB does not maintain a contract register which would contain all relevant information concerning the awarding of contracts.

5.3.31 The CRB should physically meet to discuss larger value contracts rather than conducting the review via e-mail. This will provide members of the board with an opportunity to raise specific questions if required.

Recommendations for the Mission

5.3.32 The Mission should ensure that contract documents are entered into IMS as per regulations set forth in the new contract framework.

5.3.33 The Mission should ensure that contract amendments contain signatures of the contractor and embassy officials.

5.3.34 The Mission should ensure that payments for contracts be more weighted towards the end of the contract period.

5.3.35 The Mission should ensure that any contract which is valued at over $84,000 be approved by the Departmental Contract Review Board.

5.3.36 The Mission should ensure that the appropriate template is used for contracts.

5.3.37 The Mission should ensure that English or French translation of contracts be provided to the CRB to ensure clear understanding of contract details.

5.3.38 The Mission should maintain a contract register and file which contains all relevant information concerning the awarding of contracts.

5.3.39 The Mission should ensure that the Mission CRB meet physically to discuss larger value contracts rather than conducting the review via virtual means.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.3.32 Implemented October 2008.

5.3.33 To be implemented for future contract amendments.

5.3.34 The Mission will implement this in future contracts.

5.3.35 The Mission will submit contracts over $84,000 to the Departmental CRB in the future..

5.3.36 The appropriate contract template will be used.

5.3.37 In progress for December 2008.

5.3.38 A contract register will be established.

5.3.39 The CRB will meet in person for larger value contracts.

5.4 Finance

5.4.1 Financial operations at the Mission are overseen by the MCO and a LES Finance staff of three, comprised of a Senior Accountant, Accounting Assistant and Accounting Clerk. It is noted that the Mission’s accountants provide *** financial support for the Montevideo mission. At the time of the Inspection visit, they had been providing interim service to Santo Domingo for the past four to five months.*** .

5.4.2 It was noted in the review that the Mission has been experiencing an operational budget shortfall of approximately $275,000 per annum since 2003/2004 as a result of changes that were made to the Mission’s reference levels after the Argentine Peso was devalued in early 2002.

5.4.3 The operational shortfall results in the Mission returning to HQ annually for emergency funding. It also adversely affects the Mission’s ability to undertake focussed budget planning and monitoring activities. It was also noted that the Mission has been receiving only part of its annual budget and that the remainder is provided throughout the year. This practice impacts budget planning; specifically, it does not allow for year-long commitments (such as rents) to be committed in IMS.

Recommendations for the International Platform Branch (ACM)

5.4.4 Working in close consultation with the Mission, the operational budget allocations should be reviewed for accuracy and adjusted as required.

5.4.5 The practice of providing only partial funding to Missions should be reviewed, and if it is to continue, a means by which significant, year-long commitments can be recorded, as per policy requirements, should be determined and communicated to Missions.

ACM Actions and Timeframes

5.4.4 ASM working with both the Mission and AAM (the International Platform Branch Area Management Office) will review the reference level anomaly and take corrective action to ensure the Mission’s budget is appropriate and sustainable going forward. The review exercise will in part be conducted through the formal budget exercise to establish final Common Service and Program budgets for fiscal year 2009-2010 and beyond, in alignment with, and reporting to, the newly established organizational structures at HQ, namely the International Platform Branch and Geographic Group.

5.4.5 The mechanism to holdback typically five percent of all missions' operating budgets was one means of addressing unfunded (non-reference level) operating pressures such as forced moves and security costs in excess of the reference level base. This mechanism reallocated funds to cover the most urgent pressures, with the FINSTAT used to reallocate through-out the year. However, recognizing that this approach can cause difficulties as noted in this inspection recommendation, Mission Client Services and Innovation (ASD) will leverage ACM's financial position to create an equivalent five percent contingency reserve for unfunded operational pressures through overprogramming/cash managing an equivalent dollar amount from elsewhere within the branch that does not remove funding from missions, i.e. they will be given full and appropriate budgets to meet their operating requirements.

5.4.6 It was noted that the bank run is currently done by the *** .Concerns with respect to personal safety and security of assets related to this activity were expressed ***. The Mission Security Officer (MSO) and Deputy MSO (DMSO) should review the security of the bank run and consider alternatives to improve it where possible ***.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.4.7 The Mission should review the current bank run process to determine whether safety enhancements are realizable and/or feasible.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.4.7 ***. The system has been reviewed and all parties are satisfied that risk is mitigated to the extent possible. Implemented October 2008.

5.4.8 A stock of *** cheques is held ***. This represents about ***. A working stock of cheques *** should be provided to the Finance Section and the remainder should be stored ***.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.4.9 MCO or DMCO should lock surplus *** in the*** and provide a working stock to the Accounts Section monthly.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.4.9 ***.

5.4.10 It was noted that Value-Added Tax (VAT) refunds have been outstanding from the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Comercio Internacional y Culto - MRECIC) for over one year. The DMCO has recently met with MRECIC officials and has been assured that the refunds are imminent.

5.4.11 The previous recording of the difference between what was requested as a VAT refund and what was received was being done incorrectly. The Section was charging the entire difference to Exchange Rate Gain/Loss when the difference between what was requested versus what was received should have resulted in a combination of the total being charged to Exchange Rate Gain/Loss and VAT Expense. HQ has asked the Mission to correct these previous entries. The Mission informed the Inspection Team that once the next refund is received from MRECIC the Finance Section will work closely with HQ to identify the correct procedure and subsequently correct the previous errors.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.4.12 The Finance Section, in consultation with the Foreign Operations and Banking Division (SMFF), should correct the previous entries for VAT reimbursements that were coded incorrectly.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.4.12 VAT is now being processed correctly. Implemented October 2008.

5.4.13 Currently, the Mission maintains ***petty cash accounts and *** acquisition cards. The risks created by maintaining such*** of acquisition cards and petty cash accounts should be weighed against the efficiencies they create. *** .

Recommendation for the Mission

5.4.14 The Mission should review the number and usage of petty cash and acquisition cards. ***.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.4.14 The Mission has reviewed petty cash structure and acquisition card usage, and is satisfied with current procedure.

5.4.15 Financial records were organized in a logical and efficient manner, and a review of a sample of files indicated that Financial Administration Act requirements were being met. In some cases, however, the date field was not being completed when signed and in other cases the “Verified by Accountant” signature field was incomplete. To improve oversight and accountability, all indicated signature fields on all forms should be filled out.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.4.16 All signature fields on all financial records should be completed before the record is processed and filed.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.4.16 Implemented October 2008.

5.5 Information Management/Information Technology (IM/IT)

5.5.1 The IM/IT function is led by a Regional Foreign Service IT Professional (FSITP) and is supported by a Locally Engaged IT Professional (LEITP). The FSITP serves Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Santiago, as well as covering Lima and La Paz while the Lima FSITP is on leave

5.5.2 Inconsistent use of the Remedy system, which records service calls and metrics concerning the time required to resolve IT issues was noted by HQ and the FSITP. The FSITP indicated that taking the time necessary to enter all required information into Remedy distracted him from more pressing matters, including client service.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.5.3 The FSITP should liaise with HQ to address any issues with respect to Remedy usage and provide constructive feedback on its benefits and limitations.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.5.3 The FSITP will provide his feedback to the Information Management and Technology Bureau (AID). In progress for November 2008.

Recommendation for AID

5.5.4 AID should consider formalizing a Remedy feedback system whereby users can submit feedback and suggestions for improvement to the current system.

AID Action and Timeframe

5.5.4 AID has a procedure in place for processing feedback and suggestions for Remedy. Information Technology Client Support (AIS) will remind all IT Professionals of the process. Action taken 2008-11-18.

5.5.5 During the review it was noted that no formal IM/IT section workplan is created at the Mission; however, an IM/IT Steering Committee is in place. The Committee was reinstituted by the current FSITP. This is seen as an effective means to consult and plan with all sections of the Mission in order to prioritize IM/IT acquisition and training requirements. IT training requirements identified through this Committee should be an input into the Mission-wide training plan.

5.5.6 Interviews indicated that a significant number of the service requests received by the IT staff at the Mission are of a routine nature such that, there are concerns with respect to the level of basic computer literacy of some staff. Program managers should reinforce the need for their staff to become adept at using the systems which they require to do their jobs effectively. If such training is required, this should first be discussed by the manager and subordinate and included in the PMP. The need can then be incorporated into the Mission-wide training plan.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.5.7 General IT competencies for Mission staff should be assessed as part of the annual PMP process. Where possible, the Mission should seek to efficiently address common training needs by providing in-house group training.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.5.7 The Mission is developing an IT training program. In progress for November 2008.

5.5.8 Back-up tapes should be stored ***.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.5.9 Back-up tapes are currently stored in ***.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.5.9 ***. In progress for December 2008.

5.5.10 A functioning satellite phone is located ***. There are trained back-up users identified. No other satellite phone is located in the city ***.

Recommendation for the Mission

5.5.11 A satellite phone should be acquired for***.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.5.11 The Mission will contact the Management Services Unit (ISDF) to explore possibility of purchasing two satellite phones. In progress for November 2008.

Appendix A: Inspection Scope and Objectives

The scope of the inspection included a review of Mission management and the General Relations, International Business Development, Consular and Administration programs.

The inspection 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 HQ bureaux, including briefings by line management and the functional bureaux, review of relevant HQ and mission documentation, past audit findings, and an analysis of recurring trends and systemic issues.

During the inspection, inspection issues and lines of enquiry were further refined from information gathered through interviews with the HOM and program managers, a meeting with the LES Committee, individual interviews with staff, and results of other documentation reviewed. The level of inspection work was therefore based on issues and information identified and gathered at all levels, HQ, Mission management and Mission operations.

Appendix B: Mission Resources Fact Sheet

Table 1: Mission Resources Fact Sheet of Physical Resources
Physical Resources
AssetsCrown LeasedCrown Owned
Chancery-1
Official Residence-1
Staff Quarters12-
Vehicles-5

Table 2: Mission Resources Fact Sheet Financial Information
Financial Information 2007-2008
Total$2,919,068
Operating Budget (N001)$1,026,557
Capital Budget (N005)$136,085
CBS Salary Budget (N011)$730,200
LES Salary Budget (N012)$1,026,226

Appendix C: Organization Chart

Organization Chart


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Date Modified:
2012-10-17