ARCHIVED - Audit of the Community Futures Development Corporations and Community Business Development Corporations - Follow-up - Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

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August 2008

As a result of observations made during the audit, 11 recommendations were addressed to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). The recommendations focused on the following:

  • incorporating language clauses into the contribution agreements of Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs);
  • providing information to CBDCs on their official languages obligations and on the measures they must take to meet them;
  • implementing measures to ensure that CBDCs designated to provide bilingual services have sufficient linguistic capacity to offer services of comparable quality in both official languages;
  • ensuring that the official language minority community in Prince Edward Island receives services from CBDCs of comparable language quality to those offered to the majority community; 
  • implementing monitoring and control mechanisms to ensure that CBDCs designated to provide bilingual services respect their linguistic responsibilities;
  • evaluating the performance of managers with regard to official languages.

The analysis of ACOA’s progress report by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL) notes the following achievements:

  • Linguistic clauses have been added to all CBDC agreements outlining official languages compliance requirements.
  • Information sessions have been given to all of the CBDCs in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
  • ACOA has assessed the linguistic capacity of CBDCs to offer service of comparable quality in both official languages. Ongoing dialogue and consultation with the CBDCs is used to measure the quality of the service.
  • The CBDC in Stephenville, Newfoundland has hired a bilingual liaison officer to enhance the level of services provided to French-speaking individuals, entrepreneurs and community groups seeking information on community economic development.
  • CBDCs in Prince Edward Island have hired bilingual personnel to adequately serve the official language minority community in the province.
  • ACOA has put in place a project management tracking system to ensure that CBDCs designated to provide bilingual services respect their responsibilities. An identifier has been added to the system to single out those projects related to official languages.
  • ACOA employs various mechanisms to monitor the performance of managers with respect to official languages, such as an item in the President’s performance management agreement outlining her commitment to ensure the use of both official languages in service delivery areas where required. In addition, ACOA continuously monitors the percentage of account managers who work directly with the CBDCs, and 42% are currently bilingual.

At the time of the audit, OCOL was satisfied with the implementation measures proposed in ACOA’s action plan for only six of the 11 recommendations. OCOL’s assessment of ACOA’s efforts to implement those recommendations indicates that little progress has been made.

Recommendation 5

That the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency develop a strategy to ensure that Community Business Development Corporations designated to provide services in both official languages comply fully with the requirements for active offer of service.

While it sent an e-mail request to all nine designated bilingual CBDCs in the region asking them to report on the procedures they have put in place to comply fully with the requirement to provide an active offer of bilingual service, ACOA recognizes that it does not have a structured strategy in place. OCOL believes such a strategy is necessary to ensure that CBDCs designated to provide bilingual service comply fully with the requirements for active offer of bilingual service at all times and calls upon the leadership of the Agency to move quickly to implement this recommendation. 

Recommendation 11

That the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency define performance indicators in its action plan on Part VII of the Official Languages Act in order to evaluate the measures taken and the results attained by Community Business Development Corporations with respect to the vitality and development of official language minority communities.

ACOA still has not defined performance indicators in its action plan on Part VII of the Official Languages Act in order to evaluate the measures taken and the results attained by CBDCs with respect to the vitality and development of official language minority communities. ACOA indicates that it is currently working with the CBDCs on the performance indicators, but that the implementation of the recommendation is still a work in progress. OCOL calls upon senior management’s leadership and commitment to ensure the implementation of this recommendation.

Recommendation 13

That the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency ensure, within three months of receiving this report, that the committees responsible for accepting or refusing loan or project applications are informed of their responsibilities to take into account the specific needs and particular concerns of official language minority communities.

In ACOA’s most recent response, OCOL sees no indication that the institution has taken the necessary steps to ensure that this recommendation is implemented, and urges it to address this deficiency.

Recommendation 16

That the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency establish, within six months of receiving this report, formal mechanisms to evaluate the quality of the services in both official languages offered by Community Business Development Corporations designated to provide bilingual services, as well as the effectiveness and impact of its consultations or discussions with official language minority communities.

Based on the progress report that was received, OCOL finds no evidence that ACOA has implemented formal mechanisms to evaluate the quality of the services in both official languages offered by CBDCs, nor has it put in place monitoring systems and procedures to evaluate the quality of the services in both official languages offered by CBDCs designated to provide such services.

Moreover, ACOA has not put in place mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of their consultations with official language minority communities. ACOA informs OCOL that, as part of the evaluation of the Community Futures Program, it will consider incorporating a mechanism to evaluate services provided in both official languages.

Finally, when OCOL asked whether ACOA used an assessment tool to evaluate the linguistic capacity of CBDCs to offer services of comparable quality in both official languages, it was informed that the CBDCs are not considered third parties executing a program on behalf of ACOA; rather, they are simply considered beneficiaries of the program offered by the institution. On this issue, the Federal Court of Appeal has confirmed that Community Futures Development Corporations are considered parties pursuant to section 25 (Part IV) of the Official Languages Act when implementing Industry Canada’s Community Futures Program. Consequently, OCOL expects ACOA to fully comply with this ruling and implement the recommendation articulated in the 2005 audit report.

Recommendation 17

That the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, once the monitoring systems and procedures are in place, periodically measure the quality of the services provided by Community Business Development Corporations that have an obligation to provide services in both official languages and the impact on the development of official language minority communities, and use this information to manage the quality of the services and to produce performance reports.

Until such time as monitoring systems and procedures are in place, ACOA is not able to periodically measure the quality of services provided by CBDCs that have an obligation to provide services in both official languages and is also not able to measure the impact on the development of official language minority communities. As a result, ACOA cannot use this information to manage the quality of the services and produce reports. OCOL concludes that the recommendation has not been implemented and calls upon ACOA to address this deficiency.