Based on a combination of the evidence gathered through the examination of documentation and systems, analysis, and interviews, each audit criterion was assessed by the audit team and a conclusion for each audit criterion was determined. Where a significant difference between the audit criterion and the observed practice was found, the risk of the gap was evaluated and used to develop a conclusion and to document recommendations for improvement.
Throughout the audit fieldwork, the audit team observed examples of how controls are properly designed and are being applied effectively by AANDC and IOGC. This has resulted in the several positive findings listed below:
Observations below include both management practices considered to be adequate as well as those requiring improvement. Recommendations for corrective actions accompany areas identified for improvement.
5.1. Lease and Royalty Administration and Regulatory Compliance
IOGC is responsible for fulfilling the Crown's fiduciary and statutory obligations related to the regulation and administration of oil and gas resources on First Nation lands. These responsibilities include the negotiation, issuance, and administration of agreements with oil and gas companies and First Nations.
Through documentation review, interviews and sample testing of oil and gas agreements, the audit found that IOGC has established key controls to ensure accuracy, completeness, and competitive and fair return is included in agreements and that agreements issued are accurate, complete, valid, and administered in a timely manner. Examples of IOGC practices observed include synopsis and rationalization memos, verification checklists prepared by staff/administrators, reviewed by supervisors and/or managers, and validation checklists which are used to verify data entry in RIMS. The audit also observed experienced and knowledgeable staff in key positions, and those responsible for helping to establish royalty rates, terms and conditions of the sub-surface agreements have significant negotiation experience (more than 5 years experience). Service standards are used to track performance.
In addition, IOGC has established compliance and monitoring activities to ensure compliance with the terms of agreements and all applicable Acts and regulations, including ensuring environmental requirements are met. Examples of compliance monitoring practices observed during the course of the audit include monthly commitment status reports, periodic rent reviews, continuance reviews, as well as, royalty audits, production, and price verification reviews.
With regards to environmental obligations, IOGC Environmental Analysts were found to be integrated into key processes, perform periodic environmental site visits, conduct scheduled environmental compliance reviews, and confirm and approve reclamation and surrender of exploration sites.
5.1.1. Policy and Procedures Documentation
In order for IOGC to fulfill the Crown's fiduciary and statutory obligations related to the management of oil and gas resources on First Nation lands, it is important that IOGC establish policies and procedures which detail key responsibilities, activities, and process steps. Documented policies and procedures help to ensure IOGC oil and gas agreements are administered accurately and consistently, clarify roles and responsibilities, and provide guidance to support IOGC employees.
The audit found IOGC has developed several policies, procedure documents, and process maps which detail key process steps and control points. As noted above, IOGC management has also developed control checklists and routing slips to ensure quality and standardization throughout the lifecycle of agreements and ensure processes are performed in accordance with IOGC policies. Audit testing found that IOGC staff generally perform control procedures in accordance with these procedural documents and process maps.
While most key IOGC processes are adequately documented, the audit found a couple exceptions in documentation of policy and procedures, including:
- IOGC assists First Nations to dispose of their oil and gas rights through the granting of sub-surface agreements, including helping to negotiate these agreements with companies and ensuring fair returns for First Nations. Among the items negotiated are bonus terms (permit and lease) which are paid to First Nations. In order to determine the terms of the bonus, IOGC Sub-surface Negotiators reference bonus terms that have been established for lands that are located in close proximity to the new oil or gas site (i.e. within a one-mile radius). If there are no operating wells within close proximity, the Sub-surface Negotiator takes into consideration the bonus terms that have been established for lands that are located within a two-mile radius, then three-mile radius, and so on. The audit, however, noted that this process of determining bonus terms is not formally documented; and,
- A key monitoring responsibility of the IOGC environmental group is to perform field inspections of oil and gas facilities to monitor industry compliance with the environmental terms of oil and gas agreements and to ensure the adequacy of site reclamations prior to the surrender of agreements. Performance of these site inspections often requires IOGC Environmental Analysts to work alone in remote locations, with limited communications connectivity. The audit noted that there is no IOGC "work alone" policy established to define roles and responsibilities and related "work alone" safety procedures are not formally documented.
Without adequately documented procedures for all key practices, there is an increased risk that roles and responsibilities are not clearly understood, processes are inconsistently applied by staff, or rationale for key decisions are not adequately documented.
1. The Executive Director of Indian Oil and Gas Canada should ensure IOGC policy and procedures are sufficiently documented for key processes which clearly describe roles and responsibilities.
5.1.2. Maintaining Supporting Control Documentation
AANDC and IOGC operates pursuant to the Indian Oil and Gas Act and the Indian Oil and Gas Regulations and there is a requirement that all necessary supporting documentation for oil and gas sub-surface and surface agreements be properly maintained, and key technical IOGC personnel and delegated authorities perform adequate review and approval at key stages of the process.
As noted above, to ensure accuracy, completeness, and validity in the administration of oil and gas agreements, IOGC has implemented controls including procedural documentation, process maps, control checklists and routing slips.
The audit examined a sample of 90 oil and gas agreement (e.g. new surface agreements, sub-surface, amendments, assignments, surrenders, etc.). In all samples reviewed, the audit expected to find that controls were followed consistently and as per IOGC procedural documentation. While almost all 90 agreements reviewed included appropriate authorizations and approvals, a few minor exceptions were noted such as missing an acreage confirmation or a letter informing the First Nation of an assignment. A few minor instances were also noted where control checklists for processes such as issuance of surface agreements and surface amendments were completed; however, there was no evidence on the completed checklist of approval from the responsible manager.
When key documentation is not properly maintained or controls are not followed as intended there is increased risk of not being able to sufficiently demonstrate evidence of management due diligence, review and approval.
2. The Executive Director of Indian Oil and Gas Canada should ensure that supporting evidence to demonstrate due diligence, review, and approval is properly maintained for accountability and audit trail purposes.
5.1.3. Monitoring Activities
IOGC is responsible for collecting oil and gas royalties on behalf of First Nations for all oil and gas produced from First Nation reserve lands; therefore, it is important that IOGC have practices in place to monitor oil and gas production and prices and verify, assess, and collect moneys such as bonuses, royalties, and rents. It is also important that IOGC make sure submitted royalty data is validated and verified and moneys collected are managed appropriately.
The audit found that IOGC has implemented a monitoring and assurance framework to validate and verify information reported to IOGC and manage the collection of monies. Procedure manuals and business rules are in place to guide IOGC practices for the collection of funds and management of suspense accounts. The audit found that IOGC has established practices to regularly monitor the status of agreements, conduct periodic rent reviews, and provide companies with monthly statements of account.
Royalty payers are required to submit royalty information (i.e. production volumes and pricing) through IOGC's electronic submission system. As production and price information is self-reported by companies to IOGC, IOGC has implemented assurance programs and monitoring activities to verify that company production volumes are reported accurately for well and production entities to ensure proper reporting and payment of revenues for all parties involved. As part of this assurance program, prices reported are verified and well production and royalty payments are subject to periodic audits which ensure proper reporting and payment of revenues for all parties involved.
While many of the IOGC monitoring framework activities were found to be well controlled, the audit found a few areas for improvement, as noted below.
The audit found that parts of the price, production, and royalty review processes are not fully documented. Specifically, although risk factors are considered in selecting companies for price, production, and royalty reviews, the audit noted that the approach and selection rationale is not formally documented.
The reporting of oil and gas production to provincial agencies is mandatory, in accordance with their respective regulatory requirements. To confirm that production information is being reported accurately and on a timely basis by production entities, IOGC subjects operators to periodic production reporting reviews. As per the IOGC Production Reporting Handbook, selecting which property or facility to review is determined based on selection criteria determined by IOGC (e.g. volumes, value of production, audit history, other factors such as complaints, etc.). An independent third party reviewer performs the review, assesses the information reported (e.g. schematics, reports, factors, procedures, formulas, tests, etc.), and determines any deficiencies or discrepancies in the production reporting.
When a review is completed, any deficiencies or discrepancies found during the review are expected to be communicated to the operator and the operator is required to provide a detailed response outlining what steps were taken to address the deficiency and what steps will be taken to prevent future occurrences of the non-compliance. Upon receipt of an operator's response letter, each item in the deficiency letter is expected be checked by the reviewer to ensure a proper response has been received. When the operator has satisfactorily addressed the concerns noted in the deficiency letter, a closure letter is expected to be submitted to the operator stating that the items raised have been satisfactorily addressed. Final approval of the operator response is then provided by IOGC.
It was noted during the audit that no production reporting reviews to facilitate IOGC's production volume validation process were completed in 2012-2013. This was due to the fact that the contracting vehicle in place for an independent reviewer expired and no new contracting vehicle was put in place as the priority focus was on regulations modernization. In addition, it was noted that the risk matrix (i.e. selection criteria) used to select which property or facility for production reporting review has not recently been updated, and is considered by IOGC to be out of date.
Lastly, while IOGC reported that independent reviewers do review operator responses to verify that operator actions will adequately address identified discrepancies and deficiencies, the audit found that the review and commentary by the independent reviewer is not adequately and consistently documented as per the IOGC Production Reporting Handbook.
When the rationale used to select companies, property, or facility for review is not up to date or not documented, there is an increased risk that monitoring activities performed may not address the most significant priorities or risks. Without adequate verification of operator production reporting information, there is a risk that production report information is not accurately reported. Lastly, without proper evidence of review of operator action plans, there is increased risk that operator responses do not fully address the identified discrepancies or deficiencies.
3. The Executive Director of Indian Oil and Gas Canada should document the approach and selection rationale used to select companies for monitoring reviews, and for production reviews, implement a contracting vehicle, update the risk matrix used, and ensure company action plans are adequately reviewed and approved by the independent reviewer prior to final approval by IOGC.
5.1.4. Agreement Processing Approach and Performance Measurement
In order to balance control requirements with available support and resources, it is important that IOGC follow a risk-based approach to processing oil and gas agreements. In addition, it is important that performance measurement strategies accurately reflect the desired outcomes and management monitor performance against planned results.
IOGC is responsible for processing a variety of transactions related to oil and gas agreements, including issuing and terminating surface and sub-surface leases, as well as assigning lease interests. While some transactions are simple and can be processed quickly, others are more complex and require negotiation with the company and the First Nation involved in order to process. IOGC has developed detailed procedures to process each type of transaction, which include completing checklists that are reviewed and approved by the Supervisor and Manager. As the workload is sometimes greater than the resources available, lease issuance agreements take precedence in processing. These types of transactions are considered higher risk, and their status is followed up on routinely by the companies and First Nations involved.
An assignment of a company's interest in an oil and gas contract occurs when a company sells or transfers an interest in the contract to another company or companies. When a company assigns its interest in a control, such as a permit or oil and gas lease, the company must obtain approval from IOGC, who reviews the assignment to determine whether it is in accordance with the regulations. IOGC can refuse an assignment for a variety of reasons, including if a royalty payment is outstanding, a party to the assignment is in default, the assignment is not properly executed, or the assignee cannot demonstrate sufficient financial ability to fulfill its obligations. Management noted IOGC is currently experiencing a backlog in processing assignments of agreements. Audit file testing of 20 assignments found they averaged approximately 1 year from receipt of assignment notification until completion.
While control checklists are used to ensure consistency and completeness, the audit found that a risk-based approach is not used to process surface agreement activities, despite some transactions being considered higher risk than others. In addition, performance indicators used by IOGC were found to measure only some aspects of the process (i.e. service standards for acknowledging receipt of an application) rather than the entire processing time, and therefore do not highlight the fact that completion of transactions can sometimes be delayed significantly.
IOGC has begun an activity to develop process maps of desired future state processes to support the new Act and regulations. During 2013-14, design state and future state process mapping will continue with a focus on royalties, royalty-related work areas. As part of this initiative, there is opportunity for IOGC to review control requirements and performance measures in support of the new regulations.
Without an approach which balances control requirements with risk and available resources, there is increased risk that resources are not optimized, resulting in slower processing overall and potential client dissatisfaction or liabilities. In addition, by not having performance measures that measure a complete transaction, there is risk that that management will not be able to identify potential process bottlenecks or sufficiently communicate actual processing times to clients.
4. The Executive Director of Indian Oil and Gas Canada should review control requirements and implement a risk-based approach to process different types of agreement transactions, in order to improve processing timeliness. It is further recommended that performance indicators be developed and monitored to reflect the time to process the agreement transactions and highlight delays and/or bottlenecks pertaining to certain types of transactions.
5.2.1. Resource Information Management System (RIMS)
It is critical to have information management systems which capture, process, and disseminate accurate and timely data and information to support IOGC in the efficient and effective processing and administration of agreements. It is also important that these systems keep pace with changes in the business environment, and with provincial and industry advances in administration of and gas agreements. An important aspect of information management systems is to ensure there is effective governance and a structured and orderly approach to manage changes to information systems, introduce new systems, and manage the eventual decommission of legacy information management systems.
With regards to IOGC, the 'Resource Information Management System' (RIMS) is used to capture information related to oil and gas agreements. RIMS was developed with the objective of facilitating the accurate and timely processing of information, as required by IOGC. The audit found that RIMS captures a significant amount of information and provides a good base level of operational support for IOGC. As an information management tool for capturing and tracking information, RIMS was found to be integral to many of IOGC's business processes and mandated responsibilities.
Upgrades to RIMS have been proposed as part of the Modernized Act, Regulations and System (MARS) project, as many developments have occurred in the oil and gas business environment over the past few years and RIMS is a crucial part of IOGC activities within this environment.
The initial proposed solution for upgrading RIMS to better support new Indian Oil and Gas Act regulations, which included significant system upgrades and enhancements, was deemed too cost-prohibitive to pursue (i.e. full replacement of RIMS). As such, IOGC is now reviewing business requirements and examining options for modernizing RIMS within a reduced budget. A reduced-scope, focused, and modular solution to enhance the current RIMS platform is being considered. A revised business case and action plan is being developed and priority is being given to areas of greater need (e.g. royalty management).
Given the change in direction, a backlog of RIMS change requests now require review and prioritization by IOGC management to determine which enhancements can be managed incrementally within RIMS, or require inclusion in the revised business case for RIMS2. At the time of the audit, an IOGC Steering Committee and working group had recently been established to review and prioritize requested changes to RIMS; however, given the Steering Committee was newly created, the audit was unable to conclude on its effectiveness.
A formal and effective governance mechanism or change management practice is essential for the RIMS initiative. Without one, there is an increased risk that change requests will be inappropriately prioritized so that "must have" changes to RIMS are not identified and implemented in a timely manner.
5. The Executive Director of Indian Oil and Gas Canada should ensure the Steering Committee provides governance and oversight of RIMS in order to ensure change requests are prioritized and high risk issues are addressed in a timely manner. It is further recommended that primary RIMS enhancements be identified and the revised RIMS2 business case be presented to Headquarters.
5.2.2. Information available on IOGC Website
As the regulations and requirements for on-reserve oil and gas activity are unique, it is important that accurate and timely information is available to stakeholders (companies and First Nations) in order for them to understand what is required of them. On-reserve oil and gas activity accounts for only a very small portion of oil and gas activity in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and so these unique regulations are often not familiar to industry, as companies are more familiar with provincial regulations.
It was noted during the audit that while there is a significant amount of information available on the IOGC website, information on regulations and processes for on-reserve oil and gas activity is not always up-to-date. Specific examples include information related to environmental procedures, and royalty and production requirements.
Without providing accurate and timely information that is required to inform industry stakeholders on IOGC's practices, there is an increased risk that industry will not initiate or maximize its on-reserve oil and gas activity, therefore impeding on First Nation's ability to realize economic development.
6. The Executive Director of Indian Oil and Gas Canada should ensure regulations and procedures posted on the IOGC website remain up-to-date, in particular as the new legislation and regulations comes into effect.