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Audit of science-related information technology acquisitions

December 3, 2015

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada - Office of Audit and Evaluation


Executive summary

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) established its Science and Technology Branch (STB) in 2012 by integrating the existing departmental scientific expertise into one branch. STB's science work is project-based and is driven by the Branch's science sector strategies, which were developed in collaboration with Industry and other science partners. Science projects span multiple years and can involve a number of science teams located at different research centres across Canada.

STB is an innovative adopter of state of the art scientific equipment and generates and analyses extensive volumes of data. As such, STB relies heavily on information technology (IT) to support its activities. STB is supported by AAFC's Information Systems Branch (ISB), which is responsible for the delivery and support of IT activities within AAFC, as well as the department's focal point with Shared Services Canada (SSC). SSC is focused on the adoption of enterprise-wide approaches for managing IT infrastructure services across the Government of Canada.

The Audit of Science-Related Information Technology Acquisitions was approved by the Deputy Minister as part of the 2014-2015 Risk-Based Audit Plan.

The audit focussed on the governance and planning processes for the acquisition of science-related IT. These two processes were identified as part of a risk assessment because they are inter-related and directly impact STB's ability to implement the IT needed to carry out science research in support of AAFC's science objectives.

Science-related information technology includes two categories of assets:

The governance processes for IT for science research and IT-enabled science equipment varies due to the nature of the assets and the roles and responsibilities of STB and ISB. As such, the audit team has provided separate conclusions below for IT for science research and IT-enabled science equipment.

For IT needed for science research, the audit concluded that management controls within AAFC in the area of governance, including planning, are adequate and effective with the exception of areas identified in the recommendations below.

Planning and acquisition of information technology for science research

For the acquisition of IT-enabled science equipment, Internal Audit determined that governance is effective and has identified opportunities to enhance the adequacy of planning controls.

Information technology-enabled science equipment

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Context

Science and Technology Branch within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Science sector strategies

Information technology for science

Support for information technology acquisitions

Overview of science-related information technology governance and planning processes

1.2 Audit objective

1.3 Audit scope

1.4 Audit approach

1.5 Conclusion

Governance and planning for information technology for science

Information technology-enabled science equipment

1.6 Statement of conformance

2.0 Detailed observations, recommendations and management responses

2.1 Audit findings and management responses

2.2 Information technology for science acquisitions requiring Shared Services Canada support

2.3 Long-term information technology planning to support science sectors strategies

Recommendation

1. The ADM STB, in consultation with the ADM ISB, should develop a high-level long-term IT plan to document the IT needs for AAFC science research that is aligned with STB science sector strategies and the ADM ISB should share the approved plan with SSC.

Management response: Agree

Action plan:
STB will develop a long-term IT plan, in collaboration with ISB that is aligned to STB's Sector Science Strategies.

The ADM Integration Board approved the creation of an interdepartmental working group to provide SSC with the business and technical requirements for moving forward with a Genomics Research and Development Initiative pilot. AAFC staff are participating on this working group in multiple capacities including Gilles Saindon from STB as one of the three Executive Sponsors.

STB, in collaboration with ISB, has formed an AAFC Information Management/Information Technology (IM/IT) Science Tiger Team with the mandate to validate and consolidate AAFC science computing requirements and to establish a streamlined STB-ISB-SSC intake process for identification of current and future Science Computing Requirements.

AAFC's IM/IT plan is submitted to Treasury Board Secretariat on an annual basis. SSC related requirements are captured in this plan, which SSC then uses for its planning purposes. This a standard Government of Canada process for all departments to follow in relation to SSC planned requirements. AAFC will ensure that SSC gets a copy of STB long-term IT plan.

Lead(s) responsible:
STB: Director General Cross-Sectoral in consultation with other Ecozone Director General's

ISB Contact: Director General Strategic Management Directorate

Target date for completion: September 1, 2016

2.4 Planning for information technology for science

2014-2015 planning process

Processes to plan for information technology for science

Recommendation

2. For IT for science, the ADM STB and ADM ISB should review and improve the planning process by identifying timeline and approval efficiencies as well as identifying opportunities for the earlier engagement of IT partners. The process improvements should be implemented and integrated into formal guidance that is provided to STB and ISB employees.

Management response: Agree

Action plan:
In conjunction with ISB, STB will develop an IT planning process including detailed procedures which will be communicated to all branch personnel. The planning process will improve efficiencies and identify opportunities for the earlier engagement of ISB.

Lead(s) responsible:
STB: Director General Cross-Sectoral

ISB Contact: Director General Strategic Management Directorate

Target date for completion: September 1, 2016

2.5 Planning for information technology-enabled science equipment

Information technology-enabled science equipment planning process

Information to support planning for the acquisition of information technology-enabled science equipment

Information to support life-cycle management for information technology-enabled science equipment

Recommendation

3. The ADM STB, in consultation with the ADM ISB, should develop a formalized approach to life-cycle management for IT-enabled science equipment, including:

  1. The development and maintenance of local inventories of existing equipment, including any applicable IT components, and monitor the estimated useful life of the equipment for planning purposes.
  2. The involvement of ISB in the acquisition of future science IT equipment.

Management response: Agree

Action plan:
STB will work with ISB and Corporate Management Branch to develop a formalized approach to life-cycle management for IT-enabled science equipment for each research centre.

As described in recommendation 2, the detailed procedures created in collaboration with ISB, will include ISB's involvement in the acquisition of future science IT equipment.

Lead(s) responsible:
STB: Director General Cross-Sectoral, in consultation with Director General Mixedwood Plains, Director General Coastal, Director General Prairie Boreal.

ISB Contacts: Director General Strategic Management Directorate and the Director, IT Client Services.

Target date for completion: September 1, 2016

Annex A: audit criteria

  1. The governance structure for the acquisition of science-related IT ensures that decisions are based on consideration of appropriate financial and non-financial information and key partners are engaged on a timely basis.
  2. The planning processes for science-related IT acquisitions ensures that resources are allocated in a cost-effective manner, taking into consideration available options, associated risks and expected benefits.
  3. Planning processes for science-related IT acquisitions take into account the whole-of-life cost of stewardship based on the expected life cycle of the acquisitions.

Annex B: Acronyms

AAFC
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
ADM
Assistant Deputy Minister
CMB
Corporate Management Branch
ISB
Information Systems Branch
IT
Information Technology
SSC
Shared Services Canada
STB
Science and Technology Branch
USB
Universal Serial Bus
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