IRCC to improve immigration pilot program management following internal audit

Shelby Thevenot
Published: September 1, 2022

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is creating guiding principles for managing immigration pilot programs following the recommendation of an internal audit.

The Internal Audit and Accountability Branch of IRCC provides senior management with an independent review designed to improve departmental operations. The internal audit assesses IRCC's risk management, governance, and control processes.

From June 2021 to August 2021, the accountability branch conducted its Internal Audit of Immigration Pilot Programs. Pilot immigration programs are temporary and are allowed to operate for five years before IRCC makes a decision whether to turn the pilot into a permanent program. Each pilot program is allotted 2,750 applications to process annually.

Three pilot programs were selected for detailed examination: the Start-up Visa Program, the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (now a program), and the Caregiver Pilots. The results were released on March 29, and published online August 8.

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The audit recommended that IRCC should formally define a set of guiding principles for pilot programs to help better design, implement and evaluate them.

Pilot programs generally require more financial and human resources during the design stage, yet several pilot programs have been developed without any additional resources allocated to meet demands. The Atlantic Immigration Pilot, the Caregivers Pilots and several other programs are examples of pilots that were unfunded. Therefore, they relied on existing departmental capacity to deliver on priorities, which increased the strain on IRCC staff.

There was also no analysis of the impact of pilot programs on the ability of IRCC staff to deliver their core programs or develop effective mitigation measures to minimize the impact.

Training for pilot-specific operational tasks was inconsistent, which made it difficult for employees to effectively manage their overall workload. It also made it difficult for the department to identify training efficiencies. Pilot program-specific training is often developed and delivered by staff with processing experience.

Furthermore, there is not necessarily a quality assurance review of the training program, which can affect the relevance and sustainability of pilot-specific training within the immigration department.

The lack of guiding principles for pilot management means the available resources may not be used effectively, resulting in gaps in the implementation of pilot program operations. It may also be more difficult to identify emerging issues within the pilots, or consider lessons learned for new pilots and existing programs.

Without clearly defined guiding principles for managing pilots, it may be more difficult to make informed, data-driven decisions regarding their potential transition into permanent programs, the audit says.

The accountability branch recommended IRCC define a set of guiding principles as well as implement mechanisms and controls to enable them. In response, IRCC's Immigration Branch and Operations Sector are integrating guiding principles to help better manage pilot programs and standardize their development and implementation.

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