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Inspection of The Canadian Embassy Montevideo

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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 Montevideo, Uruguay from June 11 to 12, 2008. The Mission was previously audited in November 2000. The Embassy to Uruguay is a small mission with a Head of Mission (HOM), a Management and Consular Officer (MCO), and three Locally-engaged staff (LES). There is an*** hub-and-spoke arrangement with Buenos Aires to provide services in the areas of finance, information technology support and passports.

Montevideo could be used as a model for a successful micro-mission where all the essential elements are in place: leadership of *** HOM,*** MCO, committed staff and sufficient resources to operate *** in the country of accreditation.

Given that Montevideo is a micro-mission, there are some inherent management challenges related to the size of a mission where employees have to assume multiple roles and, in this case, where there has been intense periods of activities throughout the last year, such as dealing with numerous visits and priorities driven by Headquarters (HQ). Some of the regular planning and routine work may have been neglected in the meantime. It is therefore important that the HOM attempt to alternate busy periods of work with quiet intervals to give all staff some time to accomplish their normal tasks and prepare strategically for future activities.

A total of 25 inspection recommendations are raised in the report; 23 are addressed to the Mission and two are addressed to HQ. Management has responded to each recommendation indicating action already taken or decisions made, as well as future action. Of the 25 recommendations, management has stated that 15 recommendations have been implemented. For each of the remaining ten recommendations, management has indicated the initiatives in progress or the intended future action.

Mission Management

1.1 Overview

1.1.1 The Mission is considered to be well managed and is performing at a consistently high level. The Head of Mission (HOM) plays a key role in providing *** leadership and direction to staff and ensures that appropriate resources are in place to deal with the heavy workload. However, due care must be exercised by the HOM to ensure that staff is provided with sufficient time to undertake their day to day duties and to prepare strategically for future activities.

1.1.2 The morale of staff at the Mission is *** good in so far as the work is concerned and there is*** support from managers and good interpersonal communication. However, the Locally-engaged staff (LES) raised concerns regarding the imposition of a new mandatory personal income tax of 25% that they were apprehensive would have a negative impact on their purchasing power despite the 15% salary increase they were recently granted. There is a perception among the LES that they are at a disadvantage when dealing with salary and benefit issues as ***. The Mission can be more proactive in dealing with LES issues by regularly consulting with their Locally Engaged Staff Services Bureau (HLD) desk officer and maintaining contact with the Mission’s lawyer concerning application of local labour practices.

1.1.3 Both the HOM and MCO are scheduled to depart Montevideo during the ***. In order to avoid any potential disruption in Mission operations, every attempt should be made to stagger their relocation times accordingly.

1.1.4 The MCO is scheduled to be absent from the office *** .The Mission should be in close communications with the Assignment and Pool Management Division (HFP) concerning the importance in staffing this absence not only with*** MCO but also with an individual who can remain at the Mission for the entire six month period. This would serve to provide continuity for Mission operations and to limit the disruptions that shorter term temporary duty assignments could create.

1.1.5 Hospitality diaries of the HOM and the MCO were reviewed. The Mission should ensure that expenditures are well supported with clear program objectives and evaluations which align with the Country Strategy objectives. The Mission was reminded that only the HOM has authority to extend official hospitality to Mission staff.

Recommendations to the Mission

1.1.6 The Mission should be more proactive in dealing with LES issues by regularly consulting with their HLD desk officer and maintaining contact with the Mission’s lawyer concerning application of local labour practices.

1.1.7 The Mission should be in close communications with HFP concerning the importance in staffing the absence of the MCO *** with an individual who can remain at the Mission for the entire six month period.

1.1.8 The Mission should ensure that hospitality expenditures are well supported with clear program objectives and evaluations which align with the Country Strategy objectives and that only the HOM offers hospitality to Mission staff.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

1.1.6 Mission management met with the LES immediately after the Inspection debriefing. Staff were asked to clarify their concerns so they can be addressed. The LES came back to management indicating that they had no specific concerns. Nonetheless, the Mission makes note of the recommendation and will continue maintaining contact with HLD and the Mission’s lawyer on labour issues as well as maintaining positive interaction with the LES. Implemented.

1.1.7 A number of *** MCOs were identified by HFP to cover the entire six month period. An *** candidate was selected and is currently at the Mission. Implemented October 1, 2008.

1.1.8 The HOM will be discussing individually with the IBD and Administration officers to ensure compliance.

Recommendation to HFP

1.1.9 In order to avoid any potential disruption in Mission operations the departure of the HOM and the MCO *** should be staggered.

HPF Action and Timeframe

1.1.9 The request by the *** was declined by the MCO Assignment Board to ensure that the HOM and MCO do not depart the post in the same year. As a result, a new MCO will have been on assignment for *** by the time the current HOM is***.

General Relations Program

2.1 Overview

2.1.1 The Program Manager for the GR Program is the HOM who is the sole resource dedicated to the Program. A Canadian intern supports the Program as does the MCO as required. The objectives of the Program are articulated in the Country Strategy as well as in the HOM mandate letter. The Program aims are focused at strengthening the relationship with the host country in areas such as good governance. Multilaterally, the objective is to strengthen the relationship with Mercosur (Southern Common Market) in order to help Canadian understanding of the regional dynamics. The Program also encompasses academic relations and public affairs.

2.1.2 The GR Section also manages the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) with the assistance of a local project fund coordinator. This is the main tool to support good governance and public sector capacity building. The projects aim mainly at providing support to local authorities in the areas of youth in situation of social risk as well as the Afro Uruguayan minority.

2.1.3 The activities of the public diplomacy program are well documented and their objectives are closely linked to the objectives stated in the Country Strategy.

2.1.4 TheHOM has a *** good network of contacts at high levels in the government and in the non-governmental organization (NGO) community. The Mission uses all the levers at its disposal to combine the objectives of the CFLI, the IBD and GR programs when planning activities that will provide visibility for Canada and, at the same time, will have a political, social and economic impact. Case in point, a recent initiative to take a group of disadvantaged youths, which is sponsored by the CFLI, to a representation of Cirque du Soleil in Buenos Aires. It provided publicity for the Cirque du Soleil in the Uruguayan media; was an opportunity to demonstrate Canada's technology by showcasing the use of a Bombardier air plane recently bought by Pluna; and demonstrated Canada as a good social partner in support of Uruguay's social programs.

2.1.5 The Mission also works closely with the Military Attache based in Buenos Aires to support Uruguay's efforts in peacekeeping operations,***.

2.1.6 The website, in three languages, is updated regularly and provides the Mission with a *** communication tool on the different programs and services and also serves as a *** instrument of public diplomacy to publicize its activities in the country.

2.1.7 The Embassy is required to make many demarches with the government of Uruguay and those requests come from different areas at HQ. At this time, those demarches are sent only in the two official languages and they need to be translated into Spanish before they are undertaken at the local level. This micro-Mission does not have the resources nor the capacity to translate all these demarches in a timely manner.

Recommendation to the Latin America and Caribbean Bureau (GCD)

2.1.8 Examine the coordination of the demarches between the different bureaux at HQ so that they are translated into Spanish before being sent to the Mission. This would help not only Montevideo but also all the missions in the area to deliver the messages in a timely manner.

GCD Action and Timeframe

2.1.8 GCD is aware of this problem, which is affecting not only our Mission in Uruguay but also various missions in Latin America. Since Spanish is a language used by many missions abroad, GCD has taken steps to consider a few solutions that would be designed to 1) reduce the pressure on missions that must translate these procedures themselves, and 2) obtain economies of scale by translating the procedures only once and providing them to all missions in Latin America. Ever since the Americas were identified as a government priority, there has been a need to translate many other documents into Spanish, in addition to the demarches. One solution being considered is to hire a translator who would be dedicated to translating all official DFAIT documents into Spanish at Headquarters and in the missions in the Americas. In addition to providing economies of scale and reducing the pressure on the missions, such a measure would ensure the quality and consistency of the translated material. A decision on this matter is expected by the end of the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

International Business Development Program

3.1 Overview

3.1.1 Overall the IBD function of the Mission in Montevideo is well managed and without any significant issues of compliance or performance. The HOM is assisted by an LES Trade Commissioner (TC), and two interns. While forestry, mining and related industries are priorities, the recent visit of an energy mission to Montevideo identified this area as one of continuing interest for Canada.

3.1.2 During the Inspection of the function, it was noted that the Mission does not engage in periodic review throughout the year to ensure that the plan addresses changing market conditions or trade priorities.

3.1.3 Both the TC and the HOM are active in the identification of opportunities and the promotion of Canadian capabilities to meet the local needs for goods and services. It was noted however, that within the Mission there are challenges in the identification of priorities as well as limiting the degree of engagement in sectors. The Mission needs to ensure that priorities are established so as not to overextend staff.

3.1.4 During the course of the Inspection, hospitality diaries related to trade oriented activities were reviewed and they were not always completed with sufficient information to assess the value of the expenditure.

Recommendations to the Mission

3.1.5 The Mission should conduct mid-year reviews of the IBD plan and make adjustments to account for any changes in the market environment.

3.1.6 The Mission should review priorities and modify plans to match the resources available.

3.1.7 Hospitality diaries should be completed such that objectives are specific and reflect priorities, and that the results of activities, such as number of and quality of key contacts, can be assessed and incorporated into the planning of future activities.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

3.1.5 Following the June 2008 energy sector trade mission, Montevideo has adjusted the IBD plan to reflect the importance HQ gives to this sector. Implemented.

3.1.6 By the end of October 2008, an assessment of the IBD priorities will be conducted to ensure appropriate level of resources are dedicated to the objectives.

3.1.7 The HOM has discussed with IBD TC how to improve the reporting and planning of activities. Implemented.

Consular Program

4.1 Overview

4.1.1 The day to day Consular Program activities (including passport) are carried out by the Consular Assistant/Receptionist/HOM Assistant incumbent with the MCO providing guidance and assistance with difficult cases. The Consular Assistant currently processes passport applications and sends all documentation to the hub mission in Buenos Aires for entry into the Mission Passport Print Solution system (MPPS). The Mission is capable of issuing emergency passports. The MCO should be reviewing all passport applications and primary entitlement documents prior to the application being sent to Buenos Aires for processing.

4.1.2 The passport inventory and related supplies were checked and verified and no variation was noted in the inventory. The HOM reviews and signs this inventory on a quarterly basis.

4.1.3 ***.

4.1.4 The Mission believes that if resourcing is provided for a full time driver position, other duties currently being performed by the Consular Assistant/Receptionist /HOM Assistant could be reallocated and a sufficient amount of time freed up to undertake full passport responsibilities thus eliminating the requirement for the Buenos Aires to provide input services. The Mission provides, on average, 250 passport services per year. The Mission would need to pursue this issue with Passport Canada if resources become available.

4.1.5 The printer for the passport observation labels is not currently functioning properly. The Mission should contact HQ and arrange to have this printer replaced with a functioning unit.

Recommendations to the Mission

4.1.6 The MCO should review all passport applications and primary entitlement documents prior to the application being sent to Buenos Aires for processing.

4.1.7 *** .

4.1.8 The Mission should contact HQ and arrange to have the printer replaced with a functioning unit.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

4.1.6 Noted and immediately implemented.

4.1.7 ***.

4.1.8 Agreed. The Mission placed the order in early October 2008. In progress for November 2008.

Administration Program

5.1 Overview

5.1.1 The MCO is responsible for the Administration Program and is assisted by the Administrative Assistant/Driver/Messenger who provides support for property and finance related activities. As well, the mission in Buenos Aires provides hub support for finance and passport related functions. The Mission is currently employing a driver on a contract basis until approval has been received from HQ to create an indeterminate driver/handyman/administrative assistant position.

5.1.2 The Inspection Team supports the Mission's requirement for a dedicated driver/handyman/administrative assistant position to be added to the Mission establishment. The addition of this new position will alleviate some of the internal office workload and permit other staff to focus on other areas where compliance with regulations need strengthening.

5.1.3 A Mission Report has never been prepared for this post. In order to assist with the assignment of the next HOM and MCO which will occur within the next few years, the Mission should arrange to prepare, at minimum, an abbreviated version of the report. The preparation of the report could be contracted out if necessary.

5.1.4 The Mission has two contracts***. The Mission should ensure that when renewing these contracts there are clear contract deliverables, start and end dates,***. As and if workload in the Mission increases, the possibility of regularizing these as LES positions should be examined.

Recommendations to the Mission

5.1.5 The Mission should arrange to prepare, at minimum, an abbreviated version of the Mission Report.

5.1.6 The Mission should ensure that when renewing contracts there are clear contract deliverables, start and end dates, ***.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.1.5 A contractor with the right profile has been identified and engaged. Work will commence in October 2008.

5.1.6 Noted and immediately implemented.

5.2 Human Resources (HR)

5.2.1 While the Mission maintains LES personnel and position number files, these should be reviewed to ensure that information specific to these files is located on the appropriate file.

5.2.2 Job descriptions for most staff are not current although the MCO indicated that all position descriptions are in the process of being updated. Once this process is completed the employee and the supervisor should sign off on the agreed upon job descriptions.

5.2.3 Performance reviews are in the process of being completed for fiscal year (FY) 2007/2008. Once these have been completed, objectives for the new FY should be developed and discussed with employees in order for the new performance review period to be started.

5.2.4 The LES Handbook has never been finalized. The only working copy available dates back to 2001 and is incomplete. The Mission, in consultation with HLD, should update the information contained in this document and have it approved prior to providing it to the LES.

Recommendations to the Mission

5.2.5 The Mission should ensure that personnel and position number files are properly maintained.

5.2.6 Job descriptions for all staff should be updated and both the position incumbent and the supervisor should sign off once finalized.

5.2.7 Performance reviews for all staff should be completed for the past year.

5.2.8 The Mission, in consultation with HLD, should update and finalize the information contained in the LES Handbook and have it approved by HLD prior to providing copies to the LES.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.2.5 Noted and implemented August 2008. Personnel and position files have been separated.

5.2.6 Job descriptions have been re-written to match new roles and responsibilities, following a restructuring of the staff complement in July 2008. Implemented October 2008.

5.2.7 Noted and implemented August 2008.

5.2.8 The Mission agrees with the recommendation, and will work with HLD toward the completion of the LES Handbook. The Mission believes special attention should be given to the needs of missions such as Montevideo who need a handbook quickly, never having ever formalised one. In progress for March 2009.

5.3 Physical Resources

5.3.1 The facility housing the Chancery is a 100 year old heritage building which has not been renovated in several years. Windows do not fit properly which leads to noise and water/pollution infiltration. ***. An assessment regarding the viability of remaining (long term) in the current Chancery facilities should be undertaken by the Physical Resources Bureau (ARD) and the Security and Intelligence Bureau (ISD).

5.3.2 Both the HOM and MCO Staff Quarters (SQs) were visited, are suitable properties and are well maintained. The Mission should ensure that since payment of SQ internet costs *** is a personal responsibility, such monthly fees should be paid by the occupant. As well, plants for the SQs are a personal expense and should not be charged to the Mission operating budget.

5.3.3 Inventories for the Chancery and the two SQs have not been completed for the current occupants. The Administrative Assistant should prepare the inventories using form EXT179 (Distribution Account Inventory Record - Staff Accommodation) and have them signed off by the occupants. The EXT182 (Materiel Transfer Voucher) should be used when materiel changes location upon replacement or if deemed surplus. The use of these forms will allow Administration to better control the purchase, allotment, and disposal of assets.

5.3.4 The disposal of surplus materiel is undertaken when sufficient surplus assets accumulate, however, the Mission does not complete EXT369 (Disposal Report) when items are sold. Upon review of the disposal file, it was impossible to reconcile as inventories were not current. The Mission should ensure that inventories are brought up to date and that disposal reports are properly maintained.

5.3.5 Given the limited amount of the annual Mission capital reference level budget ($9,500), it is recommended that a long range capital acquisition plan be prepared in order for the Mission to better project capital expenditures.

5.3.6 The official vehicle operating logs were reviewed. While there is an informal reconciliation process in place, the Mission should ensure that data is recorded using form EXT159 (Vehicle Operations and Maintenance Report). The Driver should be provided with a limited "working" supply of fuel coupons. The MCO should review operating logs and reconcile vehicle usage with fuel purchases on a monthly basis.

5.3.7 The Mission will benefit from the eventual implementation of the work order request system being developed by the HQ. The Mission is currently using an "e-mail" work around system, however, this was found to be time consuming and not very efficient.

Recommendations to the Mission

5.3.8 The Mission should ensure that SQ internet costs and other personal expenses ***are paid by the occupant.

5.3.9 The EXT182 should be used when materiel changes location upon replacement or as deemed surplus.

5.3.10 The Mission should ensure that Chancery and SQ inventories are brought up to date and that disposal reports are properly maintained.

5.3.11 The Mission should prepare a long range capital acquisition plan in order to better plan expenditure requirements. 5.3.12 The MCO should review operating logs and reconcile vehicle usage with fuel purchases on a monthly basis using form EXT159.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.3.8 Noted and implemented July 2008. GCD approved the partial reimbursement (40%) of internet costs for operational continuity reasons.

5.3.9 Noted and implemented.

5.3.10 All inventories have been brought up to date, with the exception of one, which is scheduled for mid-October 2008.

5.3.11 Noted and agreed. An informal plan is in place and will be formalised shortly. In progress for November 2008.

5.3.12 Noted and partially implemented. Operating logs and fuel purchases are reviewed and reconciled weekly, but form EXT 159 in not being used. This will be corrected for October 2008.

5.4 Finance

5.4.1 The Mission operational budget includes allocations that have been made to ensure there is sufficient funding to cover contract employment required to maintain program operations.

5.4.2 The Mission petty cash account was verified. Receipts were well documented and regular reconciliations are undertaken however, the Mission should be completing form EXT2027 (Petty Cash Voucher (missions)) which should be signed off for every purchase made and authorized from the petty cash account.

5.4.3 The Mission is awaiting the arrival of a cheque printer which will provide better control over cheque issuance as cheques are currently being hand written.

5.4.4 The Mission manages*** official bank accounts. ***. Reconciliation of all bank accounts for the Mission should be undertaken by the Mission. The hub Mission in Buenos Aires could be provided with a copy of this bank statement for internal use.

Recommendations to the Mission

5.4.5 The Mission should be completing form EXT2027 which should be signed off for every purchase made and authorized from the petty cash account.

5.4.6 Reconciliation of all bank accounts for the Mission should be undertaken by the Montevideo Mission.

Mission Actions and Timeframes

5.4.5 The Mission implemented the recommendation in September 2008, but finds the process somewhat inefficient. The Mission is considering the possibility of using a stamp with Description, Financial Coding, and Section 34 fields to be applied to receipts and processed daily by the MCO. This would achieve the same results in terms of oversight, but save time and paper work.

5.4.6 Agreed. Mission will coordinate with Buenos Aries to action recommendation. In progress for October 2008.

5.5 Information Technology (IT)

5.5.1 The Mission is serviced by the Foreign Service Information Technology Professional (FSITP) resident in Buenos Aires. While regular trips are made to Montevideo to deal with routine maintenance and upgrades to equipment and systems, the Mission does experience problems from time to time which occur outside this cycle. As well, the Mission receives several visiting missions and other visitors which impact on the time available to liaise with the FSITP and the timing of scheduled trips is not always convenient. The Mission has requested that the FSITP be as flexible as possible in scheduling trips and be as reactive as possible. The FSITP has been made aware of these issues and will liaise with the Mission as appropriate.

5.5.2 The Mission *** voice mail scripts should be configured so that callers can be routed to an individual when required. The FSITP is aware of the issue and will address this during his next scheduled visit.

5.5.3 The Mission questioned the size of the bandwidth provided for the SIGNET system. At times it does not appear to be sufficient for normal usage.

Recommendation to the Mission

5.5.4 The Mission should refer the bandwidth issue to the Buenos Aires FSITP in order for a proper assessment to be conducted.

Mission Action and Timeframe

5.5.4 Agreed and in progress. The bandwidth issue has been referred to the Buenos Aires FSITP, who is monitoring the system performance. The Mission has also asked the FSITP to look into ways to improve the automated telephone system to make it more user friendly.

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 decisionmaking 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 MCO, 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 OwnedCrown Leased
Chancery1-
Official Residence--
Staff Quarters2-
Vehicles-1

Table 2: Mission Resources Fact Sheet Financial Information
Financial Information 2008-2009
Total$663,465
Operating Budget (N001)$369,554
Capital Budget (N005)$9,075
CBS Salary Budget (N011)$176,700
LES Salary Budget (N012)$108,136

Appendix C: Organization Chart

Organization Chart


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Date Modified:
2012-10-17