OTTAWA — The federal agency created to improve Information Technology services and save money can’t say how it’s improving IT services or saving money, according to the office of Auditor General Michael Ferguson.
The lack of overarching performance targets and routine reporting means Shared Services Canada could not say how much money, if any, it was saving the federal government.
“We found that SSC has not developed consistent processes to determine costs and to measure progress and savings,” Ferguson’s office said in their Fall 2015 report to Parliament, delivered Tuesday. “Progress on the two transformation initiatives we examined has been limited, and reporting to SSC’s senior management board on this progress, including the generation of savings, is not clear or accurate.”
SSC was created in 2012 under the previous Conservative government with a mandate to consolidate the government’s IT services under one roof. The department was asked to create a unified email service and consolidate 485 data centres into seven.
Three years later, the department had migrated 3,000 emails to the new Canada.ca address, rather than the 500,000 they were expected to. When the auditors were conducting their report, 463 data centres were still in operation.
On top of the delays, the auditors found that agency, which has a $1.9 billion annual budget, failed to account for the costs to partner agencies in migrating to the new system. One partner agency interviewed by the auditors estimated the cost of updating their legacy systems at $24 million.
The department also provided no routine performance reports on the health of their partners’ networks, aside from incident reports when things went bad.
Auditors found that Treasury Board, the department responsible for the government’s overall technology plan, does not have a strategy for government-wide IT investments and service delivery.
“In implementing government IT shared services, it is important that SSC have strategic and policy direction from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat,” the auditors said. “This is needed for SSC to understand the overall government direction for Information Technology and scope for shared services, and help SSC achieve the planned outcomes and expected benefits.”
This isn’t just about bureaucrats’ emails going down or online services being disrupted. The report noted serious real-world consequences when Shared Services makes a mistake.
In March 2014, all first responders in Saskatchewan lost radio communications for 40 minutes. Police, fire services, and paramedics could not send and receive calls during that time.
“The outage was caused when SSC accidentally rendered a critical feature of the radio network unavailable while making changes to the network to conform to its shared services network standard,” the report noted. “Had SSC followed an adequate change management process, which would have included proper testing and user acceptance, the RCMP could have ensured that SSC took the necessary steps to avoid the outage.”