Special Examination Report—Canada Council for the Arts

At a GlanceSpecial Examination Report—Canada Council for the Arts

What we examined (see Focus of the audit)

The Canada Council for the Arts is a federal Crown corporation established under the Canada Council for the Arts Act. It reports to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage. The Corporation fosters and promotes the study and enjoyment of the arts, and the production of works of art. The Corporation offers a range of grants, prizes, and services to Canadian artists and arts organizations, including those involved in music, theatre, writing and publishing, visual arts, dance, and media arts.

Our objective for this audit was to determine whether the systems and practices we selected for examination at the Canada Council for the Arts were providing it with reasonable assurance that its assets were safeguarded and controlled, its resources were managed economically and efficiently, and its operations were carried out effectively as required by section 138 of the Financial Administration Act.

What we concluded

In our opinion, based on the criteria established, there was reasonable assurance that there were no significant deficiencies in the Corporation’s systems and practices that we examined. We concluded that the Canada Council for the Arts maintained its systems and practices during the period covered by the audit in a manner that provided the reasonable assurance required under section 138 of the Financial Administration Act.

What we found about…

Corporate management practices

Overall, we found that the Corporation had good systems and practices in corporate management. However, there were weaknesses in the area of risk mitigation. For example, the Corporation had identified weaknesses in how its information technology function supported operations, such as the lack of a project management framework for developing new tools. Though the Corporation had begun taking corrective actions, it had yet to create a detailed plan to address the weaknesses. We also found that the Corporation did not have an updated and comprehensive business continuity plan.

This finding matters because the Corporation relies on having sound corporate management practices to operate efficiently and effectively. Good information technology practices will remain essential to reducing risks, especially as the Corporation implements tools that are to help it administer its new grant programs efficiently and support its overall business strategy associated with the increase in federal funding over the next few years. Furthermore, as no organization is immune to major interruptions, such as power outages or critical system failures, it is important for the Corporation to address identified weaknesses in its business continuity plan.

Management of grant programs for the arts

Overall, we found that the Corporation had good systems and practices in managing its grant programs, despite some weaknesses in the processes for selection of recipients in its legacy grant programs. For example, some requirements in the application forms were not as specific as those given in the guidelines for the related programs, generic checklists for Corporation employees to assess application criteria did not reflect specific programs, and there were instances where employees involved with awarding grants had failed to complete mandatory conflict of interest forms. Moving forward, the Corporation should ensure that weaknesses noted in its legacy programs are not repeated in its new programs. We also found that the Corporation had identified, through monitoring and employee feedback, that problems had emerged in the implementation of its new programs and was in the process of resolving them.

This finding matters because well-designed, consistent, and rigorous assessment processes for grant applications, along with compliance with corporate requirements for managing conflict of interest, help the Corporation demonstrate that it awards grants fairly, on the basis of merit, and in a manner that meets program objectives. If unresolved, the issues with the implementation of the new programs could cause delays in granting funds to applicants, and affect the morale of employees who are adapting to a new work environment and processes.

  • The Corporation had good management practices in its granting operations, and opportunities to learn from weaknesses in its legacy grant programs

    Recommendation. The Corporation should evaluate whether the weaknesses in its legacy programs are relevant to the new programs. As applicable, the Corporation should ensure that

    • information requested in its grant application forms aligns with the eligibility criteria and other requirements set out in its program guidelines,
    • employees clearly document whether grant applications have met requirements, and
    • scoresheets are consistently used and are consistent with the assessment criteria set out in program guidelines.

    Recommendation. The Corporation should ensure that employees follow its conflict of interest requirements.

Entity Responses to Recommendations

The Corporation agrees with our recommendations and has responded (see List of Recommendations).

Related Information

Report of the Auditor General of Canada
Type of product Special Examination
Completion date 27 March 2018
Tabling date 4 May 2018

For more information

Media Relations
Telephone: 1-888-761-5953
E-mail: infomedia@oag-bvg.gc.ca

Twitter: OAG_BVG