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Inspection of the Canadian High Commission Bandar Seri Begawan

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(July 2008)

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

An inspection of the General Relations (GR), International Business Development (IBD), Consular and Administration Programs was conducted in Bandar Seri Begawan from April 24 to 25, 2008. The Mission was last audited in 2005. The High Commission to Brunei is a small mission with one Canada-based staff (CBS) and five Locally-engaged staff (LES). This level four, single CBS post with resident accreditation is one of only four such offices in the Department's network.

Given its size and resource level, the Mission is functioning ***. It does not, however, possess the means to conduct significant proactive outreach and activities. This presents both a challenge and a *** for all involved.

The wide range of responsibilities placed on the sole CBS also presents challenges as it is *** for a single person to deliver and oversee all mission programs (GR, IBD, Consular/Passport, Finance, Human Resources, Property, Information Technology, and Security). The CBS-only responsibilities (diplomatic bags, passport review, signing authority), further constrain the ability of the Head of Mission (HOM) to focus on value-added activities. When combined with the small size of the LES team, the limited oversight role of Singapore and the direct reporting relationship to Headquarters (HQ) for most activities, there may be merit to revisiting the Department's delivery platform in Brunei. Benefits could be derived and risks mitigated by creating stronger links with IBD staff in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and providing stronger oversight and delivery responsibilities for consular, passport and other administrative responsibilities to Singapore.

If the Department is not in a position to increase resources or alter the presence in Brunei, consideration should be given to defining a more effective delivery platform that would reduce risk by:

  • Returning the accreditation to Singapore;
  • Reducing the CBS presence in Brunei to a Head of Program/Office responsible for GR and IBD; and,
  • Exercising administrative, passport, consular and security oversight in Singapore.

A total of 15 recommendations are raised in the report; 12 are addressed to the Mission, one to the hub in Singapore and two 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 15 recommendations, management has stated that nine have been implemented. For each of the remaining six recommendations, management has indicated the initiatives in progress or the intended future action.

Mission Management

1.1 The Mission in Brunei is headed by an FS-04 Head of Mission (HOM), the only Canada-based staff (CBS), who is supported by a team of five locally-engaged staff (LES). While the HOM reports directly to headquarters (HQ), a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is in place between the Mission and its hub in Singapore. The MOU was recently updated to incorporate provisions for temporary duty officers to replace the HOM while absent for extended periods. The Country Strategy notionally allocates the HOMs time at 60% General Relations (GR), 30% International Business Development (IBD) and 10% Administration. This time allocation, however, does not include consular activities and does not reflect the large and diverse range of CBS-only administrative responsibilities that must be completed over and above normal administration.

1.2 The HOM has overseen a period of transition ***. Based on interviews conducted, the Mission and its staff are operating in a *** environment and have taken a *** approach to meeting their objectives. Regular staff meetings occur and performance objectives have been set for staff. *** turnover in the HOM/Consular Assistant and accountant positions, however, has resulted in a significant loss of corporate memory. The new incumbents are working *** to fulfill their new roles, but would benefit from more direct oversight and guidance from the hub mission in Singapore.

1.3 Being a small mission, both the HOM and staff are faced with daily challenges to operations:

  • Key management and ‘CBS only' responsibilities cannot be shared (diplomatic bags, passport approval, passport inventory counts, signing authority, contracting, staffing, performance appraisals,***, contingency planning);
  • A typical HOM is not trained in the intricacies of key administrative controls, nor are the temporary duty officers that replace them on a regular basis; and
  • The small LES complement does not provide for back-up in the case of absences or preservation of corporate memory during staff turnover, necessitating guidance from the HOM for support on all programs, including Public Affairs, IBD, Consular, Human Resources, Finance, Security and Property.

These are the operational realities of a single CBS post with all departmental programs present. In order to properly discharge their administrative responsibilities as HOM and as the sole CBS, those being posted must be provided training and guidance on all key administrative responsibilities and controls. To not do so exposes the Department to unnecessary risk related to loss of funds and passport inventory. The HOM's time allocation should also be adjusted to reflect the time required to properly administer the mission and cover CBS-only responsibilities. A time breakdown of 25% GR, 20% IBD, 15% Consular and 40% Administration would be more reflective of these requirements.

1.4 The challenges noted above necessitate regular oversight from the hub mission to ensure that activities are in line with departmental requirements and that key controls are properly maintained and exercised. It is the opinion of the Inspection Team that more regular and frequent visits by Singapore staff to Brunei is required. This is of particular importance with the turnover of staff and administrative items identified in sections 4 and 5 of this report.

Recommendation to Singapore

1.5 Singapore, in consultation with Brunei, should augment the existing MOU to add the responsibility for oversight and mentoring of passport/consular operations.

Singapore Action and Timeframe

1.5 Singapore will consult with Brunei to augment the MOU as set out in the recommendation upon arrival of the new HOM. To be completed, October 2008.

Recommendation to the Asia South and Pacific Bureau (RAD)

1.6 RAD should revisit the formal time allocation of the HOM and ensure that it more accurately reflects the time required to effectively discharge CBS-only, administrative and consular responsibilities.

RAD Action and Timeframe

1.6 RAD expects the HOM to use his or her judgement to determine the best use of his or her time according to the strategic objectives outlined in the Country Strategy and other requirements related to administrative and consular activities. Additional oversight and mentoring of passport/consular operations by Singapore, including through more regular and frequent visits, would also help the HOM to better balance the time allocated to various responsibilities. Given limited human and financial resources, RAD also suggests that the Mission reduce public affairs activities.

1.7 The Mission is also facing financial challenges as reference levels for operations, capital and hospitality have decreased by 22% since 2004/05. This includes a 50% cut in hospitality funds during the 2007/08, from $15,000 to $7,500. This has led to a situation where the HOM is not always able to reciprocate hospitality received, negatively impacting on local perceptions of the HOM, the Mission and Canada. In examining the budget, it was noted that there was limited flexibility for discretionary expenditures. The table below provides a outline of reference levels over the last five years (excluding salaries and overtime).

Table 1: An outline of reference levels
Reference Levels2003/042004/052005/062006/072007/08
Totals$ 229,000$ 269,300$ 253,621$ 240,528$ 209,805
Operations$ 214,000$ 254,300$ 240,121$ 227,028$ 198,330
Capital$ 15,000$ 15,000$ 13,500$ 13,500$ 11,475

1.8 The Mission has attempted to work within an increasingly tight budget and intends to look for event partnership and sponsorship opportunities. While efforts are being made to make better use of limited funds, at some point one must assess the value of investing in people and physical assets, without providing the necessary funding to allow them to achieve their objectives. In cases where the Department is unable to invest the operational funds required to properly deliver mission programs, the investment in staff and assets could be seen as a less than effective use of scarce resources.

1.9 If the Department is not in a position to increase resources or alter the presence in Brunei, consideration should be given to defining a more effective delivery platform that would reduce risk by:

  • returning the accreditation to Singapore;
  • reducing the CBS presence in Brunei to a Head of Program/Office responsible for GR and IBD; and,
  • exercising administrative, passport, consular and security oversight in Singapore.

Recommendation to RAD

1.10 RAD, in consultation with the respective HQ groups, should revisit the platform for program delivery in Brunei to ensure it provides for effective program delivery, while minimizing risk.

RAD Action and Timeframe

1.10 RAD does not envisage post closure or change in accreditation or status of this mission. We believe that the Mission needs strengthening where resources permit. We also support the recommendation for additional oversight and mentoring of passport/consular operations by Singapore, including through more regular and frequent visits.

International Business Development (IBD)

2.1 The HOM allocates 30% of his time to IBD activities. The HOM is assisted by one full-time Trade Commissioner (TC) and 0.7 full-time equivalent (FTE) of an additional TC. The priority sectors are oil and gas, information and communication technology (ICT) and agriculture and agri-food. The Officer responsible for agri-food works closely with the regional officer based in Singapore. The HOM holds regular meetings with IBD staff and minutes are kept.

2.2 The TCs are working *** to identify opportunities for Canadian companies ***. A select group of Canadian companies are active in the market. With the small size of the market and the presence of more important partners in the region, the Program faces challenges in attracting attention of Canadian companies. The 50% cut in hospitality funds this year has further impacted their ability to pro-actively engage clients.

General Relations (GR)

3.1 The HOM notionally allocates 60% of his time to GR activities and is assisted by 0.3 FTE of the Trade Commissioner. From a political and economic reporting perspective, the Mission focusses its time on issues related to the Association of South East Asian Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the United Nations. The Mission also works with the headquarters geographic on issues related to the dialogues with Muslim communities.

3.2 The Mission has developed a Public Diplomacy Plan and completed their Annual Report. The report indicates that the Mission has been *** Canada's profile. As the Public Affairs (PA) Officer is a 70% Trade resource, a natural linkage occurs with IBD objectives. The Officer recently put together a collection of newspaper clippings and other items to display the results of the Mission's efforts. Having experienced gradual cuts in the Post Initiative Fund, decreasing from $6,000 to $3,000 in 2007/08, questions remain as to what funding will be available in the future. The Mission is looking to pursue partnerships/sponsorships for future events and intends to liaise with HQ to ensure that activities are within departmental procedures and policies.

Consular and Passport

4.1 Day-to-day consular program activities are carried out by the *** HOM/Consular Assistant, with the *** Accountant serving as back-up. The Consular Assistant has been with the Mission ***, and did receive three days of orientation in Singapore and attended a Consular Conference in New Delhi. Neither, however, has had any formal consular training. Consular fees were posted in waiting area, but not service standards. A warden network is in place, however two wardens have recently left and the Mission has had difficulty finding replacements.

4.2 Following an assessment of files upon her arrival, the HOM/Consular Assistant identified that Passport returns had not been submitted to HQ since May 2006. A concerning fact to note is that this lapse was identified by the Mission, and not Passport HQ. Active monitoring procedures at passport HQ should have identified and resolved this issue much earlier. Since that time, she has set out on the difficult task of creating the monthly returns for the last two years. Having now completed the process, but having not been formally trained in Passport requirements, the Assistant is in need of confirmation that she has assembled the files correctly. This presents a good opportunity to initiate a mentoring process between Singapore and Brunei for consular activities. A visit should be organized for a consular officer from Singapore to help finalize the monthly returns packages and also review existing processes and procedures to ensure key controls are in place.

4.3 A review of records found no indication that the monthly or quarterly passport inventories were being completed. Passport regulations require that a monthly inventory reconciliation be conducted by two people and that a CBS participate in the reconciliation. A reconciliation of passport inventory on hand was completed and all assets were accounted for. The inventory was, however, unorganized as the Consular Assistant was not readily aware of the location of specific assets. There was also no record of what assets were maintained *** and what assets were assigned *** as a working stock. The inventory also included old stock which should be destroyed or returned under direction from Passport Canada.

Recommendations to the Mission

4.4 The Mission should ensure that the HOM/Consular Assistant is provided with Consular and Passport training as soon as possible.

4.5 Consular service standards should be posted in the waiting area for clients to review.

4.6 The Mission should work with Singapore to ensure the completeness of the Monthly Passport Returns that have been assembled and submit them to Passport Canada.

4.7 The Mission should liaise with the Passport Office on the destruction or return of old passport stock.

4.8 Monthly inventories of passport stock should be completed and signed for by the CBS Officer and an LES.

4.9 A log book should be kept *** detailing passport numbers in stock and identify any working stock issued ***.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

4.4 The Mission will attempt to obtain training opportunities for the Consular Assistant in the coming year. It should be noted, however, that absences are very disruptive given the small size of the Mission.

4.5 Bilingual notices are now displayed in the lobby. Effective July 2008.

4.6 Agreed. The Mission is acting on this immediately.

4.7 The Mission has liaised with Passport Canada regarding old stock in its inventory.

4.8 Monthly inventories are now being completed and signed by the HOM.

4.9 Will be implemented, July 2008.

Administration

5.1 Overview

5.1.1 The HOM is responsible for Mission administration and is assisted by the HOM/Consular Assistant, the Accountant and the Mission Driver.

5.2 Human Resources (HR)

5.2.1 Job descriptions were up-to-date and reflective of staff duties. The time allocation of the Driver position may need to be revisited as it was noted that the incumbent was spending more time in the office than in the past. The non-office nature of the position, however, remains accurate as the primary role of this position is a mission driver. Annual appraisals had been completed and the Mission was in the process of establishing performance objectives for the coming year. Interviews with staff, however, indicated a lack of clarity on day-to-day responsibilities for HR matters. The HOM should ensure that all roles and responsibilities are understood by staff.

5.2.2 Files are maintained for employees, but there should also be a parallel file maintained for the position. This file should contain position specific info (job description, classification records, etc.), and be separate from the incumbent employee file.

Recommendation to the Mission

5.2.3 Position files should be created and maintained separately from employee files.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.2.3 The Mission will implement, to be completed by the end of August 2008.

5.3 Finance

5.3.1 The Finance function is managed by the *** Accountant, with oversight provided by the HOM as well as the Management Consular Office in Singapore. Mission accounts are well organized and appropriate processes and systems are in place for payments of invoices. No back-up accountant has been identified as the Mission intends to rely on Singapore in the event that back-up support is required.

5.3.2 The Accountant has only been in place *** and has not had any training. While she did benefit from a two-week handover from the previous incumbent, she should be provided mission accountant training as soon as possible. In the meantime, there is a need for regular monitoring and mentoring from Singapore.

5.3.3 The petty cash is maintained ***. Expenditures are properly documented and the Accountant was conducting necessary verifications prior to reimbursement.

5.3.4 As a good practice, bank statements should be addressed to and opened by the CBS Officer. Following a review by the CBS Officer, the statements should be submitted to the Accountant.

Recommendation to the Mission

5.3.5 Bank statements should be addressed to and opened by the CBS Officer.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.3.5 Implemented, effective May 2008.

5.4 Property

5.4.1 Given the small property portfolio, the Mission Accountant also serves as a property assistant. The staff quarters inventory was signed, but the Chancery inventory has not been updated since the arrival of the new HOM. Prior to the HOMs departure, the Chancery inventory should be verified, with individuals signing for the contents of their office.

5.4.2 Monthly vehicle logs were being filled out, but not completed in full. Signatures were present on the forms, but generally not dated. The logs should be signed by the Driver at the end of the period, and reviewed by the Accountant. The Accountant should calculate the average mileage per litre, providing the opportunity to identify poor vehicle performance or potential theft of fuel. Periodic spot checks on vehicle mileage should also be conducted.

5.4.3 Interviews indicated that new staff were not always aware of emergency procedures and had not been briefed on emergency exit or assembly points. While the Mission is not large enough to have a Health and Safety (HS) Committee, it is required to have a HS Representative.

Recommendations to the Mission

5.4.4 The Chancery inventory should be updated and individuals should sign for the contents of their office. Inventory items in open areas should be signed for by the HOM.

5.4.5 The Mission should ensure that monthly vehicle logs are completed fully and include the average mileage calculation, in line with gas coupons. Forms should be signed and dated.

5.4.6 The Accountant should periodically verify the mileage on the vehicle against that recorded in the monthly logs.

5.4.7 The Mission should appoint a Health and Safety Representative.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.4.4 The Chancery inventory will be completed prior to the end of July 2008.

5.4.5 Processes for vehicle logs and their verification have been discussed with the Driver and the Accountant. The implementation should be verified and monitored by the new HOM.

5.4.6 See response to 5.4.5 above.

5.4.7 The appointment of an Organizational Heath and Safety Representative will be done upon the arrival of the new HOM. To be completed, September 2008.

5.5 Information Technology

5.5.1 The Mission receives support from the Locally-engaged Information Technology Professional (LEITP) in Singapore and from the Foreign Service Information Technology Professional (FSITP) in Kuala Lumpur as required. Server back-ups are done weekly with the support of Singapore.

5.5.2 The Mission has not encountered any major issues and the current support arrangements appear to be functioning appropriately.

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 primary purpose of the Inspection Visit to Brunei was to review Mission operations and progress made since the 2005 audit, which focussed on the Consular and Administration programs. As such, activities in these areas were limited to follow-up on action taken and a review of key controls.

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 Headquarters 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 LES, and the review of documentation. 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: Resources Fact Sheet

Table 2: Mission Resources Fact Sheet of Physical Resources
Physical Resources
AssetsCrown LeasedCrown Owned
Chancery1-
Official Residence--
Staff Quarters1-
Vehicles-2

Table 3: Mission Resources Fact Sheet Financial Information
Financial Information 2007-2008
Total$381,876
Operating Budget (N001)$ 198,330
Capital Budget (N005)$ 11,475
LES Salaries Budget (N012)$ 172,071

Appendix C: Organization Chart

Organization Chart


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Date Modified:
2012-10-17