IRCC to Make Changes to Pilot Programs

Canada’s accountability department recently conducted an internal audit and suggested making a few changes to pilot programs to address the gaps in the implementation of the programs. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is preparing guiding principles to manage immigration pilot programs following the suggestions made by the audit team.

IRCC’s Internal Audit and Accountability Branch offer senior management an independent review in a quest to improve operations. The internal audit evaluates IRCC’s risk management, governance, and control processes.

From June 2021 to August 2021, the audit team conducted an internal audit of immigration Pilot Programs. Pilot programs are temporary and permit to function for five years before IRCC comes up with a decision on whether to turn the pilot program into a permanent one or not. Each pilot program is assigned 2750 applications to process in a year.

In total three pilot programs were shortlisted for detailed examination: the Start-up Visa Program, the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (now a program), and the Caregiver Pilots. On March 29 the results were released and published online on August 8. The internal audit suggested that IRCC should formally outline a set of guiding principles for pilot programs to assist with better design, implementation, and evaluation.

Generally, pilot programs require more financial and human resources during the strategic stage, yet many pilot programs have been created without any additional resources owed to meet the demands. The Atlantic Immigration Pilot, the Caregivers Pilots, and various other programs are examples of pilots that were not funded. Thus, they relied on the current departmental capability to deliver priorities, which amplified the strain on IRCC staff.

Also, there was no analysis of the effect of pilot programs on the capability of IRCC staff to deliver their core programs or create strategic mitigation steps to decrease the impact. Training for pilot-specific operational tasks was inconsistent, which made it difficult for employees to manage their workload. Also, it made it difficult for the internal audit department to figure out training efficiencies. Pilot program-specific training is usually developed and delivered by staff with processing experience.

Moreover, there is essentially no quality assurance review of the training program, which can impact the significance and sustainability of pilot-specific training within the department. The deficiency of the guiding principles for pilot management means the pertaining resources are not being utilized effectively, leading to gaps in the implementation of the pilot program operations. It will be more difficult to recognize evolving issues within pilot programs or consider lessons learned for the new or existing ones.

Without clearly stating the guiding principles for managing pilot programs, it will be difficult to make well-versed, data-driven decisions regarding their probable transition into permanent programs. The accountability department suggested IRCC outline a set of guiding principles to implement mechanisms and controls to enable them. IRCC’s Immigration Branch and Operations Sector are assimilating guiding principles to assist better with pilot programs.

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