Government Response to the Ninth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Passport Services B Passport Canada
Pursuant to the House of Commons Standing Order 109 as effective March 7, 2005, the Government of Canada is pleased
to respond to the Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts entitled Passport Services B
Passport Canada. The Committee’s report reflects its consideration of Chapter 5 of the February
2007 Status Report of the Auditor General of Canada (Passport Services-Passport Canada), and
Passport Canada’s Action Plan to address the Auditor General’s recommendations
in the 2005 Report of the Auditor General of Canada (Passport Office B Passport Services).
The Government of Canada thanks the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for its Report, and welcomes its interest
in continuing efforts to strengthen the Canadian passport program. The Government of Canada assures the Committee
of both its firm commitment to the continuous improvement of the Canadian passport program and its willingness
to continue to report on progress.
The Office of the Auditor General audited Passport Canada in 2005 and provided recommendations in several
important areas, including the need for more effective management of Passport Canada, its central role in security
and identification, and the importance of service to the public. In response to the audit, Passport Canada
prepared a comprehensive Action Plan to address the Auditor General’s findings, and to act as a tool
to support continued improvement and ongoing evolution of the Canadian passport program.
In its 2007 follow-up audit status report, the Office of the Auditor General noted that Passport Canada had
made satisfactory progress overall toward addressing its 2005 recommendations in a relatively short period of
time. It also noted that some weaknesses remain in the critical areas of security and verification of
identity. The Government of Canada has reviewed the recommendations contained in the Status Report and
Passport Canada is updating its Action Plan in response to the Office of the Auditor General.
Passport Canada has experienced significant challenges and pressures as a result of increasing security
expectations, the evolving role of the passport, and a significant increase in demand for its services.
Canadians rely on the solid reputation of the Canadian passport as a secure document to facilitate their
international travel. The Canadian passport provides holders with visa-free access to the US and to
many other countries and constitutes reliable evidence of identity and status for other types of transactions
with governments and the private sector.
The integrity of the Canadian passport is also an important element of Canadian and international security
strategies in the fight against crime and terrorism. It is a valuable document that has also been targeted
by criminal and terrorist organizations for the purposes of fraud, including entitlement fraud, irregular
migration, organized crime, and terrorism related activities.
It has been and remains a challenge for Passport Canada to balance security, service and costs. While adjusting
to an environment with increasing focus on the security of international travel documents, Passport Canada
has experienced a historic and sustained rise in passport applications. The implementation of the air phase
of the US Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) in January 2007 with only 60 days notice to the public
resulted in a surge of passport applications. Over the winter and spring of 2006/2007, Passport Canada struggled
to meet its service standards and received negative media attention and criticism regarding the accessibility
of passports to Canadian citizens.
Passport Canada’s commitment to laying a strong and new foundation has led to significant accomplishments
since the release of the Auditor General’s report in 2005 and its 2007 Status Report. The agency has
implemented a number of initiatives to expedite the passport issuing process, modernize its
services and increase its capacity to respond to demand in a timely manner to better serve Canadians.
Canadians have already seen the results of these efforts. The winter busy season has just ended with
no line-ups or service delays despite continuing growth in demand.
The US is preparing to implement the WHTI at land and sea ports of entry in June 2009. It is expected
to have a much greater impact that was seen in the air mode. Passport Canada has positioned itself well to manage
the anticipated increase in passport applications.
Detailed Responses to the Recommendations
Continued Reporting on Status of Actions in Response to the Auditor General
Passport Canada continue to provide detailed information in its Annual Report on progress in rectifying
the weaknesses identified by the Office of the Auditor General in its initial audit in 2005 and the follow-up a
udit in 2007.
Passport Canada will continue to provide detailed information in its Annual Report on progress in rectifying
the weaknesses identified by the Office of the Auditor General in its initial audit in 2005 and the follow-up audit
The Auditor General commented in its 2007 follow up audit that Passport Canada should provide more detail in
its Action Plan by including target dates and reasons for any variance with previous plans.
Passport Canada followed this recommendation in its 2006-2007 Annual Report.
The Government of Canada is pleased that the Public Account Committee has acknowledged the work accomplished to
report in detail the actions taken to address the Auditor General’s 2005 findings. Passport Canada
will continue with these efforts by providing detailed information in its 2007-2008 Annual Report through an
updated Action Plan.
Passport Canada provide the Public Accounts Committee with evidence that it has conducted a detailed
risk assessment of passport examination and security functions by 31 October 2008.
Passport Canada is committed to the security and integrity of the Canadian passport program, including the
processes behind passport issuance as well as the security features of the document itself. As part of
our focus on security, the Agency has invested in the development and implementation of a range of new
security projects. These initiatives will result in the use of facial recognition tools as part of
the approval process for applications (to be introduced this fiscal year) as well as the development of the
Security and Intelligence Case Management System, also to be introduced this fiscal year. In addition,
Budget 2008 committed the Government of Canada to introducing an e-passport by 2011. All of these
projects will result in a stronger passport program and product.
In line with these initiatives, Passport Canada has also been working to better identify the security risks
associated with the entitlement process. In addressing these concerns Passport Canada’s initial
step (completed in 2007) was to map out the detailed steps involved in the walk in and mail in environments
in which passports are processed. The next step, to be undertaken this fiscal year, is a more detailed
analysis of the security risks arising at the various production stages. We expect to be able to report on
this stage of our work by October 2008. Once the security risk analysis is completed, appropriate
mitigation measures will be identified and implemented.
Passport Canada provide the Public Accounts Committee by 30 September 2008 a strategic plan, which includes
sufficient advertising, of how it, including its local offices, will manage the anticipated surge in passport
applications associated with the land and sea based requirements of the United States ’ Western Hemisphere
Travel Initiative.« INCLUDE THE TEXT OF THE RECOMMENDATION
Passport Canada provide the Public Accounts Committee a plan by 30 September 2008 of how it intends to improve
the processing time for mail-in passport applications.
In order to be prepared for the possibility of extreme fluctuations in demand, Passport Canada has put
a contingency plan in place. The plan includes a series of risk mitigation initiatives that will be
implemented when and if needed. Passport Canada updates its volume forecasts three times per year and
monitors intake daily in order to flag any potential volume issues requiring immediate action.
To date, few measures have been required in order to maintain service standards across all service channels.
Passport Canada has taken a number of steps in reaction to the first phase of WHTI, implemented in January 2007,
and in anticipation of the final phase in June 2009. To expedite the passport issuing process, it has implemented
a series of initiatives to modernize its services and increase its capacity to respond to demand in a timely manner
and better serve Canadians. An ongoing staffing campaign has enabled it to hire more than 1,250 new employees.
Through weekend blitzes and overtime, and the addition of evening shifts in certain locations, Passport
Canada employees have worked to accelerate the processing of applications and thereby reduce the inventory
of applications that had formed in 2006-2007.
To improve accessibility, operating hours were extended in several offices, call centre capacity was increased and
63 mobile passport clinics were held in smaller centres. Passport Canada will continue to conduct mobile
passport clinics outside major metropolitan areas to better meet the needs of Canadians in these regions.
Partnerships with Service Canada were vastly expanded through 66 new service sites. Passport Canada is exploring
ways to enhance points of service and the types of service offered through this partnership.
Several offices were also expanded to allow for larger waiting and processing rooms. To accommodate new personnel
and house increasing capacity, central mail-in operations were moved to larger facilities.
Passport Canada is also pursuing with process streamlining, technology modernization, and policy improvements that
are designed to simplify the application process for Canadians while improving the efficiency and efficacy of
its operations. The most significant of these is the implementation of the simplified passport renewal process
and the modification to the guarantor policy in 2007. Through public communications, the Agency is working to
smooth demand by encouraging Canadians to apply for passports during the quieter summer months and to benefit
from its simplified renewal process.
With these new measures in place, Passport Canada was able to meet all of its service standards over the
winter 2007/2008 busy season, despite a significant increase in volume. The Agency has built the capacity to respond
to a demand of up to 5.8 million passports annually, in excess of forecasted volumes.
National Routing System
Treasury Board Secretariat report on the progress of the National Routing Initiative in its departmental
performance report, beginning with the 2007-2008 report.
The original National Routing System project continues with some government departments (Canada Revenue Agency
and Statistics Canada) and some provinces maintaining linkages to exchange vital statistics information. Service
Canada is also working to establish electronic linkages for verification of vital events data. Treasury Board has
taken the lead on work to bring together the various approaches to develop a whole of government approach on behalf
of the Government of Canada. However, this project is still in its preliminary stages and resources have not yet
been allocated. Until the project is approved and funded, it is not a departmental priority that will be
identified in Treasury Board Report on Plans and Priorities for 2007-08 and therefore would not appear in
its Departmental Performance Report. Should this become a TBS approved funded project, TBS would be pleased to add
it to its DPR via a virtual link.
Funding for the Canadian Passport Program
Passport Canada provide the Public Accounts Committee with the results of its study of the adequacy of its
current funding arrangement by 30 September 2008, including examining any efficiencies that can be obtained.
Passport Canada completed a review of funding options in 2006-07. This report is no longer relevant given
the Government of Canada decision to move to a ten-year electronic passport by 2011. At the request of the
Treasury Board Ministers, Passport Canada is conducting a complete review of its organization including its
governance structure, service model, the legislative and funding authorities that are required to equip the
agency to respond better to future challenges. The outcome of the Operational Review will be shared with the
Committee after is has been reviewed and approved by ministers.