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5. Audit and evaluation

Performance measurement and evaluation are complementary and important components of the "Plan, do, check and improve" system of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS). Evaluation is a snapshot in time conducted by an external organization to provide a more in-depth and independent assessment of the outcomes achieved. It can be helpful in identifying opportunities to improve the way in which future sustainable development activities are designed and delivered. In addition to design and delivery, evaluation can also be used to improve efficiency and economy, and provide other oversights. FSDS and outcomes from the logic model will be evaluated and reviewed at various stages. 

5.1 Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Under the Federal Sustainable Development Act (the Act, FSDA) and the Auditor General Act (AGA), the CESD has several obligations:

  • during the mandated public consultation, review whether the targets and implementation strategies in the draft FSDS can be assessed [FSDA 9(4)]; 
  • following release of the required Progress Report, review the fairness of the government’s progress report on implementation of the FSDS; [AGA 23(4)]; and,   
  • annually, monitor and report on individual departments progress in implementing their own sustainable development strategies [AGA 23(1)].

In June 2013, the CESD reviewed and provided comments on the draft FSDS 2013–2016 released for public consultation. Results of this review were released in June 2013. A response to the CESD’s review was produced, and many of the recommendations were addressed in the final 2013–2016 FSDS, as elaborated in the section entitled “Stakeholder feedback and how it was used”. 

In November 2013, the CESD released the 2013 Fall Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, which included three pieces concerning the FSDS:

  • in Part 1 of the 2013 Fall Report the CESD re-released its original June 2013 comments on the draft 2013–2016 FSDS;
  • in Part 2 of the 2013 Fall Report the CESD also reviewed the 2012 Progress Report of the FSDS for 2010–2013 against fairness criteria to determine whether it was relevant, meaningful, attributable and balanced; and
  • in Part 3 of the 2013 Fall Report the CESD examined the implementation of selected commitments within six federal organizations (Environment Canada, Finance Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Industry Canada, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and Correctional Services Canada). The CESD focused on commitments to greening government operations and on commitments related to strategic environmental assessment guidance and reporting processes.   

Informed in part by the CESD’s findings, during this cycle the SDO will:

  • monitor implementation of those CESD recommendations;
  • continue to review departmental annual reports and FSDS progress reports;
  • monitor and report on the systems in place to implement the FSDS;
  • continue to review best practices in environmental sustainability planning and reporting;
  • improve the clarity of targets and implementation strategies where appropriate;
  • work to expand the voluntary participation of departments and agencies in the FSDS; and,
  • continue to incorporate the social and economic dimensions of environmental sustainability into the Strategy. 

5.2 Internal departmental audits and evaluations

Internal audit activities related to the FSDS will be considered in the context of Environment Canada’s annual risk-based audit plan as required by the Treasury Board Policy on Internal Audit and the Directive on Chief Audit Executives, Internal Audit Plans, and Support to the Comptroller General, as well as any requirements of the Office of the Comptroller General pursuant to horizontal or sectoral audits. They will be funded through existing Internal Audit Directorate budgets. Evaluations of any programs, policies or initiatives related to the FSDS will be identified through EC’s five-year risk-based evaluation planning process. 

For the 2013–2016 FSDS cycle, an internal evaluation of the Program Alignment Architecture program that includes the FSDS is included in EC's 2014–2015 departmental risk-based audit plan. As part of that plan, in preparation for upcoming evaluations, EC's Audit and Evaluation Branch regularly conducts preliminary assessments of a program’s readiness to be evaluated. These assessments, or "pre-evaluation checks", help both the evaluators and program personnel make early preparations for the evaluation, thereby reducing program burden, improving evaluation timeliness, and providing an early identification of possible areas for improvement related to such things as performance measurement and governance.   

Building on a 2011 pre-evaluation check, a plan outlining scope, methodologies, and timelines will be developed in 2014 to guide an evaluation of the Sustainability and Reporting Indicators sub-program, which includes the SDO.   

During the 2013–2016 cycle, other FSDA departments or agencies may undertake audits or evaluations of programs included in the 2013–2016 FSDS as part of their departmental risk-based audit plans. These audits or evaluations are the sole responsibility of individual departments.

5.3 Informal evaluations--review and comment

Informal evaluation, in the form of review and comment, discussed in the Governance structure section can be valuable for improving program performance and delivery. Informal reviews may be conducted during the 2013–2016 FSDS cycle, on an as needed basis. They may take the form of interdepartmental working groups, workshops or commented review depending upon the nature of the topic under review. Any review conducted would be done with support of the interdepartmental community and be aimed at improving the systems and procedures put in place to implement the FSDS. Possible topics may include:

  • identifying opportunities for improvement to future iterations of the FSDS;
  • determining needed improvements based on progress reports;
  • identifying best practices and lessons learned;
  • refining guidance to departments; and/or,
  • refining approaches used to develop, implement and evaluate the FSDS.

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