Date: August 2010
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Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) assists First Nations in meeting their on-reserve housing needs through its Minor Capital Housing Component of the Capital Facilities and Maintenance (CFM) Program; Canada's Economic Action Plan (CEAP) funding; and, Ministerial Loan Guarantees (MLGs).
An Audit of On-reserve Housing was included in the 2009-10 Audit Plan approved by the Audit Committee of INAC on February 26, 2009 on the basis that previous audits (including the Audit of the CFM Program), evaluations and reviews had identified significant challenges associated with the provision of on-reserve housing.
The audit objective was to provide assurance that governance, risk management and control frameworks are adequate to provide a reasonable expectation that funds for on-reserve housing are used for the intended purpose and that outcomes will be achieved. At the national level, the audit assessed management practices and controls for providing governance and oversight over the funding of housing activities. At the regional level, the audit assessed management and operational practices and controls for the delivery of funding to First Nations in accordance with Headquarters policies and guidelines.
The scope of the audit covered the 2008/09 and 2009/10 fiscal years and included the following housing related areas:
The audit concluded that although progress has been made, there remain significant gaps to provide assurance that governance, risk management and control frameworks are adequate to provide a reasonable expectation that funds are used for the intended purpose and that outcomes will be achieved.
The audit identified opportunities to strengthen governance over housing in the areas of program design, performance management, risk management and guidance. The audit also identified opportunities to strengthen implementation of housing funded by CEAP.
The following recommendations were made:
Strengthen program design of minor capital funding of on-reserve housing:
Conduct a review of the performance indicators and related information to be collected for on-reserve housing to ensure that they are aligned with the department's housing program design, and that they can demonstrate achievement of expected outcomes.
Develop and implement a risk management framework specific to on-reserve housing, including a formal monitoring or compliance audit / housing inspections process.
Ensure that comprehensive national guidelines for the management of the housing component of the CFM Program are developed and disseminated.
For the CEAP funded initiatives for on-reserve housing:
INAC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) are the two main organizations that assist First Nations in meeting their on-reserve housing needs. Both organizations share the same housing policy objectives as articulated by the Government of Canada in 1996. These objectives are:
INAC currently supports First Nations on-reserve housing through its Minor Capital Housing Component of the CFM Program; CEAP funding; and, MLGs.
INAC provides funding for housing primarily through the Minor Capital funding stream of the CFM Program. Funding under this component is provided in two ways: as a minor capital contribution toward First Nation housing programs under the 1996 On-Reserve Housing Policy; and through direct proposal driven housing subsidies to First Nations that did not adopt the housing policy.
Under the '96 Housing Policy, funds are provided to First Nations as part of their minor capital allocation which is based mainly on population driven formulae. There is flexibility provided for the use of funds provided under this policy. Funds can be used for construction and renovation of houses, as well as for the implementation of First Nation community-based housing plans, which may include elements such as maintenance and insurance, debt servicing, training, management and supports to establish housing authorities.
Under the subsidy housing program, set amounts of subsidies are provided on a project by project basis strictly for the construction, rehabilitation or renovation of houses. These subsidies are not intended to cover the full cost of construction or renovation. The amount of subsidy assistance for construction/acquisition ranges from $19,000 to approximately $45,000 and is calculated using remoteness and environmental indices that are based on several factors including construction and transportation costs and economic conditions in the community. For renovation of existing housing, subsidies average approximately $6,000 per unit.
First Nations were given the choice of whether or not to opt into the '96 Housing Policy. To be eligible, First Nations were required to establish a set of housing policies, housing programs and a multi-year housing plan. If First Nations choose not to opt into the '96 Policy, they continue to operate under the provisions of the housing subsidy program. Currently, with the exception of all First Nations in British Columbia and a few in Ontario, all other First Nations receive their housing funds pursuant to the '96 Housing Policy.
The funding for Minor Capital, including housing, takes the form of a Flexible Transfer Payment for Comprehensive Funding Arrangements (CFAs) and an Alternative Funding Arrangement for Canada/First Nations Funding Arrangements (CFNFAs). Under both arrangements, "block" funding of all programming is provided. Alternative Funding Arrangement funding for CFNFA s involves entitlement to payment based on a negotiated formula. First Nations have the flexibility to transfer funding among community priorities provided that minimum program requirements are met.
Historically, the budget of the housing component under the CFM Program has been in the range of $150 million per year.
Announced in Budget 2009, CEAP allocates $400 million ($250 million to CMHC and $150 million to INAC) over fiscal years 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 to reduce immediate housing pressures and create employment and First Nation business opportunities.
INAC's CEAP funding for on-reserve housing targets the following priorities:
Funding is proposal based and is governed by single funding agreements with First Nations for each housing project for each fiscal year.
INAC administers the MLG program which provides loan security required by lenders in providing financing to First Nations or individual band members for the construction, acquisition or renovation of housing located on reserve. These loan guarantees are required as a result of provisions of the Indian Act which prevent the mortgage or seizure of personal and real property located on-reserve by lending institutions.
To ensure that the risk of a loan default is minimized and to prevent undue pressures on Indian Bands as well as fiscal pressures on the federal government, each request for a housing loan guarantee is to be assessed and approved against criteria such as the viability of the project and the Band capacity to support the loan.
Under existing authority, INAC can guarantee up to $2.2 billion in outstanding loans.
Within INAC, Headquarters and Regions have responsibility in the management and administration of on-reserve housing funds.
Within Headquarters, responsibility is shared among:
Regional offices are responsible for the delivery of INAC housing program components, in accordance with Headquarters policies, guidelines and procedures.
An evaluation of the Government of Canada Policy for On-Reserve Housing is currently in progress. The goal of this evaluation is to have a comprehensive review of all the programs, policies, and processes that impact and affect housing on reserve. An Audit of On-Reserve Housing was included in the 2009-10 Audit Plan approved by the Audit Committee of INAC on February 26, 2009 on the basis that previous audits (including the Audit of the CFM Program), evaluations and reviews had identified significant challenges associated with the provision of on-reserve housing.
The audit objective was to provide assurance that governance, risk management and control frameworks are adequate to provide a reasonable expectation that funds for on-reserve housing are used for the intended purpose and that outcomes will be achieved.
At the national level, the audit assessed management practices and controls for providing governance and oversight over the funding of housing activities.
At the regional level, the audit assessed management and operational practices and controls for the delivery of funding to First Nations in accordance with Headquarters policies and guidelines.
The following areas were assessed:
The scope of the audit covered the 2008/09 and 2009/10 fiscal years and included the following housing related areas:
Conduct Phase site visits were conducted in the following Regions: British Columbia; Saskatchewan; Manitoba; and, Ontario.
The Planning and Conduct Phases of the audit were carried out between January 2010 and July 2010 and were conducted in accordance with the Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Audit and the Treasury Board Policy on Internal Audit. These standards require that the audit be planned and performed in such a way as to obtain reasonable assurance that audit objectives are achieved.
In order to address the audit objectives, audit criteria, presented in Annex A to this report, were developed. These criteria were primarily drawn from the following sources:
The schedule for the audit was as follows:
During the Planning Phase, risks related to the governance and management of housing were identified and assessed. The risk assessment was developed from information derived from:
Information from the Planning Phase led to the development of the audit program and served to further clarify the audit scope and objectives and better define audit criteria for the Conduct Phase of the audit.
The audit approach included:
Housing files examined in each Region included:
Based on the results from this internal audit, the Audit and Evaluation Sector has concluded that although progress has been made, there remain significant gaps to provide assurance that governance, risk management and control frameworks are adequate to provide a reasonable expectation that funds for on-reserve housing are used for the intended purpose and that outcomes will be achieved.
The audit identified opportunities to strengthen governance over housing in the areas of program design, performance management, risk management and guidance. The audit also identified opportunities to strengthen implementation of housing funded by CEAP. The observations and recommendations that follow address areas where these opportunities were identified.
In the professional judgment of the Chief Audit Executive, sufficient and appropriate audit procedures have been conducted and evidence gathered to support the accuracy of the opinion provided and contained in this report.
The opinion is based on a comparison of the conditions, as they existed at the time, against pre-established audit criteria that were agreed on with management. The opinion is applicable only to the entity examined. The evidence was gathered in compliance with Treasury Board policy, directives and standards on internal audit, and the procedures used meet the professional standards of the Institute of Internal Auditors. The evidence gathered is sufficient to support the audit opinion expressed in this report.
Flexible Arrangements Governing Band Based Minor Capital Funding for Housing Inhibit Accountability of the Department Over the Use of Funds.
As described in Section 1.1 of this report, First Nations who opted into the '96 Housing Policy can use housing funds for a wide variety of expenditures including maintenance, insurance, debt servicing, training, management and supports to establish housing authorities. Also as described in Section 1.1 of this report, First Nations with five year funding arrangements, CFNFA s, have the flexibility to transfer funding among program priorities. These five year funding arrangements are in the form of "block" funding comprising funds for Minor Capital as well as other programs such as social and education. The block funding arrangements, with their inherent flexibility, support devolution to First Nations and empowerment of authority and responsibility for the management of housing funds.
The design and implementation of flexible funding arrangements for housing, i.e. the '96 Housing Policy and CFNFA s, inhibit accountability for the use of funds and pose significant risks to the department in ensuring that housing funds are spent for the purposes intended and that performance outcomes are achieved. This is further discussed in Section 2.2 of this report.
An alternative funding approach for housing activities is "targeted" funding. CEAP is an example of targeted funding. Targeted funding improves accountability for the use of funds and increases assurance that housing funds are spent for the purposes intended and that performance outcomes are achieved. We note that flexible funding arrangements are more consistent than targeted funding in supporting devolution to First Nations and empowerment of authority and responsibility for the management of housing funds.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, should assess and determine the most appropriate means to fund on-reserve housing.
Current Housing Funding Allocations from Headquarters to Regions is Based on Dated Reference Levels.
Funding for housing is part of the Minor Capital funding that is provided to First Nations. This funding is allocated by Headquarters to regions based on a 'Global' or 'Block' Funding Methodology, whereby funds are transferred as a single block. Each region's allocation of the overall Minor Capital budget is determined based on the prior year's allocations which in turn date back to a 1990-1991 re-basing. Relative proportions of funding allocated to regions have remained relatively static since the 1990-91 re-basing. Consequently, current funding allocation to regions is based on dated reference levels and may not reflect current on-reserve population.
The lack of updated funding allocations to regions increases the risk that financial resources are not allocated to reflect the need for housing in individual regions or specific First Nation communities.
The audit of the CFM Program identified the need to address funding allocation to regions. The department's CFM Program Risk Profile document also identifies Funding Allocation as a high risk to the achievement of the strategic outcome related to housing. The need for reviewing allocation reference levels and the possibility of rebasing allocations to regions remains outstanding.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, should identify and implement a methodology for allocating housing funds that reflects housing needs at both the regional and First Nation community level.
The Performance Management Framework of the Department Can Not Adequately Demonstrate the Extent to Which Funding for Housing Achieves Expected Outcomes.
INAC's 2008-09 Departmental Performance Report identifies "Percentage of First Nations reported adequate houses for each First Nation community" as the key performance indicator. INAC's Performance Management Strategy document for the CFM Program identifies "First Nation communities have a base of safe housing infrastructure that meets established standards" as an Intermediate Outcome in its Logic Model. Related performance indicators identified in this document include:
The above measures as currently defined appear to suggest that INAC is accountable and responsible for the sufficiency and quality of housing on reserve and that changes to housing conditions on reserve, as reflected by such measures, are solely attributable to INAC housing funding.
As discussed in Section 2.1 of this report, First Nations operating under the '96 Policy (the majority of INAC funding) have flexibility in prioritizing the use of their INAC housing funds. Further flexibility is provided to the First Nations on five year agreements allowing for transfer of housing funds to other community priorities outside of housing. Furthermore, INAC's Band Based Minor Capital is not the only source of funding for on-reserve housing. CMHC provides funding that supports the construction and rehabilitation of housing on reserve and First Nations also contribute their own funding towards housing.
Performance information that is collected and reported for the above noted performance indicators pertains to all on-reserve housing, and is not isolated to housing that is solely funded by INAC. The department does not track First Nation on-reserve housing expenditure and performance information that can be solely linked to funding by INAC. Consequently, the department is not able to specifically demonstrate the extent to which INAC funding contributes to performance and results related to on-reserve housing.
Information related to performance indicators for housing is primarily obtained through the self-reporting of First Nations. First Nations submit Housing and Infrastructure Reports annually to the regions that include specified housing information. This information is not subject to meaningful review and challenge by regions. There is a risk that housing performance information being tracked and reported by the department is not accurate, complete and reliable.
It is also noted that the Performance Management Strategy document does not:
The identification, tracking and reporting of appropriate performance measures that align with INAC's housing program design, i.e. block funding for housing, would enhance the ability to demonstrate the achievement of expected outcomes.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, in collaboration with the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Regional Operations Sector, should conduct a review of the performance indicators and related information to be collected for on-reserve housing to ensure that they are aligned with the department's housing program design, and that they can demonstrate achievement of expected outcomes.
A Formalized Risk Management Framework Specific to Housing Is Not In Place, and There Is No Formal Monitoring or Compliance Audit / Housing Inspections Process in Place
INAC has developed a CFM Program Risk Profile document that identifies 'high level', strategic risks to the achievement of key outcomes of the CFM program overall. The highest risks to the strategic outcome related to housing that were identified in the Risk Profile are: Governance; Funding Adequacy; Funding Allocation; First Nation Capacity; and, Roles and Responsibilities. Specific risk drivers and risk mitigation strategies are addressed in the Risk Profile in the context of risk to the CFM program overall and not specifically to housing.
Overall, there is no formal and ongoing oversight / monitoring / quality assurance role by Headquarters over regional operations that is specific to the management of the minor capital housing component. Headquarters has conducted monitoring visits to regions but these have focused largely on CEAP infrastructure projects.
At the regional level, Capital, Housing and Financial Services Officers conduct monitoring activities, but these activities are not undertaken in a consistent, systemic or formalized manner and the results of these activities are generally not sufficiently documented. Examples of monitoring activities include site visits and the review of housing related deliverables.
Site visits to First Nations, although not housing specific, are conducted, but this is not formalized, not done on a regular and consistent basis, and not documented.
Housing related deliverables that are reviewed include Five Year Minor Capital Plans and Project Completion or Inspection Reports. Inconsistencies among officers were noted including the nature of Five Year Minor Capital Plans and Project Completion or Inspection Reports accepted related to housing projects. In addition, the extent of documentation on file supporting specific housing project expenditures was inconsistent among officers, eg. some officers sought and reviewed receipts and invoices related to housing expenditures.
Regions do not undertake compliance audits of First Nations or inspections of housing activities undertaken by First Nations. Compliance audits and monitoring/inspection activities would mitigate the risk that housing funds are spent for unintended purposes and would enhance the department's ability to assess the completeness and accuracy of the housing information reported by First Nations.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, in collaboration with the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Regional Operations Sector, should develop and implement a risk management framework specific to on-reserve housing, including a formal monitoring or compliance audit / housing inspections process.
National Guidelines for the Management of Housing Funded by Minor Capital are Not In Place
We found that national guidelines for the management of housing funded by Band Based Minor Capital are not in place. It is noted however that a National Housing Procedures Guide document had been initiated but was not completed.
Regions are aware of and have a consistent understanding of the general requirements related to the administration of housing funds. However, in the absence of national guidance, many regions have, to varying degrees, developed and implemented their own practices in administering housing funds. Consequently, a number of inconsistencies exist among regions with respect to management practices and reporting expectations related to housing. Some of the observed inconsistencies included:
The 2008-2009 Departmental Performance Report commits to having comprehensive national guidelines for all CFM Program areas. This commitment was also evidenced in the "Implementation Status Update Report to the Audit and Evaluation Committee September 25, 2008" relating to the "Evaluation of the 1996 On-Reserve Housing Policy Report, February 2008". Furthermore, the CFM Program Risk Profile, referred to in section 2.3 of this report, identifies development and standardization of a national procedures manual as a key mitigation measure to address a number of identified risks.
National guidance for the administration of CEAP funded housing was developed and implemented including:
Notwithstanding some exceptions that were justified by particular project circumstances or specific regional considerations (further discussed in Section 2.5 of this report), regions generally implemented and administered CEAP funding in adherence with national guidelines.
National guidance for the administration of MLGs has also been developed. In all regions visited, Headquarters requirements for MLGs were being followed including the assessment of First Nations financial capacity when issuing MLGs, file documentation and meeting approval authorities.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, should ensure that comprehensive national guidelines for the management of the housing component of the CFM Program are developed and disseminated.
There is a Risk That Transfer of Ownership for Market Based Housing Projects May Not Take Place.
Contribution agreements for Market Based Housing projects included a requirement for transfer of ownership of housing from First Nations to individual homeowners within 90 days after project completion. There is risk that ownership will not be transferred within the above timeframe. At the time of completion of audit field work, timeframes for transfer were still not reached.
The Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Regional Operations Sector, in collaboration with the Assistant Deputy Minister, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, should ensure that the risk that First Nations housing does not transfer to individual homeowners as required for Market Based Housing projects, is appropriately managed.
Regions Followed National Guidelines for the Assessment of Funding Applications but Adopted Their Own Practices to Allocate Funding to First Nations.
INAC national internal guidelines for CEAP included a methodology and criteria for the assessment and scoring of First Nation applications for housing project funding. Within each region, applications for projects within each of the four components were to be ranked based on total scores for purposes of funding decisions.
We found that regions used the national methodology to rank housing projects as a starting point. However, regions generally adopted their own practices in order to achieve a wider and more equitable distribution of funding among a greater number of First Nations, in light of the large demand relative to the level of available funding. To achieve this, regions generally established a maximum number of approved projects for each category for each First Nation.
INAC national internal guidelines also included involvement of Regional Housing Liaison Committees in CEAP housing project funding decisions. We found that Housing Liaison Committees were not consistently involved in housing project funding decisions among regions.
We note that there were tight timelines faced by the department in the implementation of CEAP after the announcement of the initiative in the February 2009 budget. Consequently, there may not have been sufficient time to solicit input from regions into the implementation of CEAP.
The Assistant Deputy Minister, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, in collaboration with the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Regional Operations Sector, should ensure that the development of project assessment and funding decision methodologies reflects regional requirements in the design of future programs/initiatives similar to housing funded by CEAP.
PROGRAM DESIGN AND GOVERNANCE