2023 Reports 5 to 9 of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada—Federal government’s progress on modernizing information technology systems very slow

2023 Reports 5 to 9 of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of CanadaFederal government’s progress on modernizing information technology systems very slow

Ottawa, 19 October 2023—A report from Auditor General Karen Hogan tabled today in the House of Commons found that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) and Shared Services Canada did not do enough to lead and support departments and agencies to modernize outdated information technology systems.

The audit found that two thirds of the departments’ and agencies’ approximately 7,500 applications were reported as being in poor health and in need of modernization, but this number could be greater because departments and agencies are not providing the TBS with timely, accurate, and complete information about the health of their systems. Of the approximately 7,500 applications, 1,480 are essential for the health, safety, security, or economic well-being of Canadians. The audit found that 562 of those essential applications were in poor health and in need of modernization.

The TBS had set a target of having 60% of all information technology applications healthy by 2030. However, progress is slow—from 2019 to 2023, the percentage of healthy applications increased from 33% to 38%. The audit estimated that if progress continued at the current pace, only 45% of applications would be healthy by 2030, far lower than the 60% target.

It has been more than 24 years since the government first identified aging systems as a significant issue, and the TBS still does not have a strategy to drive modernization. Aging systems are currently being maintained on old and outdated infrastructure, which is costly, resource intensive, and unsustainable.

The audit also found that the TBS’s capacity to provide oversight of high‑risk information technology projects was very limited. In addition, its funding approach to address both the immediate and future cost of modernization was inflexible, leaving 77% of surveyed departments and agencies expressing that they have insufficient funding to meet their modernization needs.

The audit recommends that the TBS and Shared Services Canada provide better leadership, oversight, and support as well as a concrete action plan and an adaptable funding approach. This will help prioritize critical systems and address challenges that may arise as government systems are modernized. “Every day that these systems are not modernized increases the risk that they fail and that Canadians may lose access to essential services,” said Ms. Hogan.

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The 2023 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada, Report 7—Modernizing Information Technology Systems, is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada website.

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