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Canada

Enhance Openness of Information on Government Spending and Procurement (CA0050)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Canada Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; Department of Finance Canada; Public Services and Procurement Canada

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, E-Government, Fiscal Transparency, Open Contracting and Procurement, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Canada End-Term Report 2016-2018, Canada Mid-Term Report 2016- 2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Enhance Openness of Information on Government Spending and Procurement Why do this: Canadians expect their government to implement effective and efficient programs and services, and to report transparently on whether they are meeting their intended goals. A clear understanding of what resources are being used by departments to deliver programs and services is fundamental to Parliament’s role of holding government accountable for delivering on its priorities. Information on planned spending and results for government activities is currently provided through mandatory departmental reports, including Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPPs) and Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs). As a result, understanding how well the Government is doing as a whole, or in key areas of interest, is challenging because data is presented across multiple reports and information sources. How will it be done: As part of the Government’s new Policy on Results, mandatory departmental reporting will be re-focused on each department’s long-term mandates as well as their immediate priorities. Related data from planned and actual activities will be available on a searchable online database that will provide quick and easy access to detailed information on government spending and people management. This data will be presented in a manner which will facilitate Canadians’ analysis and broader understanding of where government resources are being invested.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

9. Enhance Openness of Information on Government Spending and Procurement

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will increase the transparency of government spending and procurement to hold government accountable for public expenditures.

Milestones:

9.1. Release an interactive tool that will increase the granularity of data and information made available and enable Canadians to better understand federal departmental spending:

Expand the types of data, graphics, and analytics available including:

o Planned and actual results;

o Comparisons between historical and planned spending; and

o Spending on specific components such as salaries, capital, transfer payments, etc.

Enable users to explore government spending of the most interest to them based on key data elements (e.g., target group, program type, priority area, etc.).

9.2. Enhance online content pertaining to government finances on Canada.ca to make information and tools on government spending readily accessible to Canadians.

9.3. Provide targeted and timely material to make government accounting and financial reporting more consistent, transparent, and understandable to Canadians.

9.4. Pilot updating the buyandsell.gc.ca site to record the full details of contracts (in addition to awards), contract amendments, and the final termination of contracts.

9.5. Participate in a case study to share best practices from Public Service and Procurement Canada’s pilot of the Open Contracting Data Standard on BuyandSell.gc.ca.

Responsible institutions: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; Department of Finance Canada; Public Services and Procurement Canada

Supporting Institutions(s): N/A

Start date: Not specified

End date: Not specified

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Context and Objectives
This commitment aims to unify and expand the information published online about government spending and procurement. It builds on Commitment 8 of the second action plan, to provide more easily searchable information on governmental websites. Apart from milestones 9.2 and 9.3, the commitment presents a reasonably clear roadmap forward, with milestones which have the potential to generate significant improvements to the system. Civil society stakeholders that attended the IRM consultations were generally supportive of moves to enhance the information available, though they noted that usability and accessibility is becoming an increasing challenge. Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation warned that the website risked becoming a 'dumping ground' for data, while the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Canadian Association of Journalists and Fred Vallance-Jones all noted a strong need to improve searchability and contextualisation of information posted online.[Note74: Toronto consultation, 15 September 2017, and Halifax consultation, 12 September 2017.]
Completion

Over the first year of the action plan, the Treasury Board of Canada’s InfoBase website expanded to include an Inventory of Government of Canada Organizations,[Note75: Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/reporting-government-spending/inventory-government-organizations.html.%5D enhanced information about government spending,[Note76: See: https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/edb-bdd/index-eng.html#orgs/gov/gov/infograph/results.%5D and an improved metadata tagging system.[Note77: See: https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/edb-bdd/index-eng.html#metadata.%5D The government made substantial progress and Milestone 9.1 is on track to be completed on time.

For Milestone 9.2, the Department of Finance has added datasets to the Canada.ca website, including the Fiscal Monitor 2016-2017,[Note78: Available at: http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/45eb6514-0e38-48da-9a12-233d16813f4b.%5D data related to the International Aid Transparency Initiative,[Note79: Available at: http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/65515b1b-b545-4ce5-8e96-bf51babcfb65.%5D and data tables connected to the federal budget.[Note80: Available at: http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/2a84c234-633c-4cc6-9282-f40ff12f5bc7.%5D The government self-assessment reports that limited progress has been made, with significant additional publications to come in the second year of implementation.[Note81: The draft self-assessment for Commitment 9 is available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/commitment-9-enhance-openness-information-government-spending-and-procurement.%5D The self-assessment rates this as being on schedule for completion, though the low specificity of the milestone makes this difficult to assess.

In terms of budgetary information connected to Milestone 9.3, the government self-assessment points to an explanatory document connected to the 2017 budget,[Note82: Available at: http://www.budget.gc.ca/2017/docs/plan/3min-en.html.%5D as well as a summary report of pre-budget consultations.[Note83: Available at: http://www.fin.gc.ca/pub/pbc-cpb/2017-eng.asp.%5D The self-assessment reports limited progress on this milestone, with more activities to come in the second year of implementation.[Note84: The draft self-assessment for Commitment 9 is available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/commitment-9-enhance-openness-information-government-spending-and-procurement.%5D Again, the self-assessment rates this as being on schedule for completion, and low specificity of the commitment makes this difficult to assess.

Regarding Milestone 9.4, Public Services and Procurement Canada released the Standing Offers and Supply Arrangements Application.[Note85: Available at: https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/standing-offers-and-supply-arrangements. Last accessed 13 October 2017.] However, it is unclear where progress stands regarding releasing full details of contracts. As of the time of research, the website appears to only list basic data such as the dates of awards, amount awarded, etc. The IRM researcher reached out to the commitment leads at Public Services and Procurement Canada, who declined to provide further information. The IRM researcher assesses limited progress has been made, and that the commitment is not on track to completion.

For Milestone 9.5, according to the government’s self-assessment, Public Service and Procurement Canada’s pilot of the Open Contracting Data Standard on BuyandSell.gc.ca reinforced the need to standardise data from the outset using the Open Contracting Data Standard format, and it demonstrated the importance of linking procurement data from all phases of the procurement process.[Note86: The pilot is available at: https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/open-contracting-data-standard-pilot.%5D The self-assessment reports limited progress on this milestone. However, it should be possible to complete it within the action plan cycle. The government reports that once the implementation of a full contract life-cycle is made available in the Open Contracting Data Standard format, case studies will be initiated, with an eye to publishing lessons learned.

Next Steps

The IRM researcher recommends carrying this commitment forward to the next action plan, as enhancing openness around spending and procurement is necessarily an ongoing process. If Milestone 9.4 is not completed within this action plan cycle, it would be a good area to continue to improve and expand the website going forward.

During consultations for this report, stakeholders noted the importance of focusing on the usability of information that is provided. Open North stressed the importance of taking a user-centric approach to publishing and consider the needs of the public, as well as researchers and other heavily engaged stakeholders, in designing these systems. One such consumer, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, stressed a need for stronger contextualisation going forward, such as information about the purposes underlying particular procurement calls, or the relationship between different calls, to allow users to obtain a more complete picture of government spending. In a similar vein, Ernie Boyko noted that as more information is published, taxonomies and metadata tagging will become increasingly important, indicating that expanded work in these areas may be particularly valuable.

Other stakeholders stressed a need to present information in styles that are more user friendly, allowing the data to be easily understood by average Canadians, rather than researchers. The Canadian Unitarian Council questioned whether sufficient promotional work had been done to raise general awareness of the information’s availability. Similarly, the Canadian Association of Journalists suggested tutorials for Canadians on how to use these new tools may be a useful addition.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

9. Enhance Openness of Information on Government Spending and Procurement

Commitment Text: The Government of Canada will increase the transparency of government spending and procurement to hold government accountable for public expenditures.

Milestones:

9.1. Release an interactive tool that will increase the granularity of data and information made available and enable Canadians to better understand federal departmental spending:

Expand the types of data, graphics, and analytics available including:

o Planned and actual results;

o Comparisons between historical and planned spending; and

o Spending on specific components such as salaries, capital, transfer payments, etc.

Enable users to explore government spending of the most interest to them based on key data elements (e.g., target group, program type, priority area, etc.).
 

9.2. Enhance online content pertaining to government finances on Canada.ca to make information and tools on government spending readily accessible to Canadians.

9.3. Provide targeted and timely material to make government accounting and financial reporting more consistent, transparent, and understandable to Canadians.

9.4. Pilot updating the buyandsell.gc.ca site to record the full details of contracts (in addition to awards), contract amendments, and the final termination of contracts.

9.5. Participate in a case study to share best practices from Public Service and Procurement Canada's pilot of the Open Contracting Data Standard on BuyandSell.gc.ca.

Responsible institutions: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; Department of Finance Canada; Public Services and Procurement Canada

Supporting institutions: N/A

Start Date: Not specified

End Date: Not specified

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to unify and expand the information published online about government spending and procurement. It builds on Commitment 8 of the second action plan, to provide more easily searchable information on governmental websites, by:

Releasing an interactive tool that will increase the information made available about federal departmental spending;

Enhancing online content on Canada.ca pertaining to government finances;

Making government accounting and financial reporting more consistent, transparent, and understandable

Piloting an update of the buyandsell.gc.ca website to record the full details of contracts (in addition to awards), contract amendments, and the final termination of contracts; and

Participating in a case study to share best practices from Public Services and Procurement Canada's pilot of the Open Contracting Data Standard on buyandsell.gc.ca.

Status

Midterm: Limited

Over the first year of the action plan, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's InfoBase website expanded to include an inventory of government of Canada organisations.[Note65: Available at “Inventory of Federal Organizations and Interests,” Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/reporting-government-spending/inventory-government-organizations.html.%5D It also enhanced information about government spending[Note66: See “Infographic for Government,” Government of Canada, https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/edb-bdd/index-eng.html#orgs/gov/gov/infograph/results.%5D and improved its metadata tagging system (Milestone 9.1).[Note67: See “Datasets,” Government of Canada, https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/edb-bdd/index-eng.html#metadata.%5D Under Milestone 9.2, the Department of Finance added datasets to the Canada.ca website. These datasets included the Fiscal Monitor 2016-2017,[Note68: Available at “The Fiscal Monitor: 2016-2017,” Government of Canada, http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/45eb6514-0e38-48da-9a12-233d16813f4b.%5D data related to the International Aid Transparency Initiative,[Note69: Available at “International Aid Transparency Initiative, November 2018,” Government of Canada, http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/65515b1b-b545-4ce5-8e96-bf51babcfb65.%5D and data tables connected to the federal budget.[Note70: Available at “Federal Budget 2017,” Government of Canada, http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/2a84c234-633c-4cc6-9282-f40ff12f5bc7.%5D In terms of budgetary information connected to Milestone 9.3, the government published an explanatory document connected to the 2017 budget.[Note71: Available at “Budget 2017 in 3 Minutes,” Government of Canada, http://www.budget.gc.ca/2017/docs/plan/3min-en.html.%5D It also published a summary report of pre-budget consultations.[Note72: Available at “Finance Canada 2017 Pre-Budget Consultations Summary Report,” Department of Finance Canada, http://www.fin.gc.ca/pub/pbc-cpb/2017-eng.asp.%5D Regarding Milestone 9.4, Public Services and Procurement Canada began to expand information on buyandsell.gc.ca by releasing the Standing Offers and Supply Arrangements Application. It also reported plans to pilot the full Open Contracting Data Standard on the site.[Note73: Available at “Standing Offers and Supply Arrangement,” Public Works and Government Services Canada, https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/standing-offers-and-supply-arrangements, accessed 13 October 2017.] Milestone 9.5 was coded in the midterm assessment as having had limited progress. However, given that the case study did not take place, the correct coding should have been that this milestone was not started.

End of term: Substantial

As of June 2018, the InfoBase website includes a combination of financial and performance information data dating back to 2012 (9.1). This has resulted in broader availability of data, graphics, and analytics. The information includes actual and planned spending and results information, results narratives, a budget tracker tool, granular expenditure data, and enhanced metadata tagging.[Note74: See “GC InfoBase,” Government of Canada, http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/edb-bdd/index-eng.html#start.%5D The government has completed this milestone.

Under Milestone 9.2, the government uploaded to open.canada.ca additional datasets related to government finance.[Note75: See “Government Finances,” Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/government/system/finances.html.%5D The government has completed this milestone.

Regarding Milestone 9.3, the self-assessment reports several steps that were taken to improve the transparency of accounting and financial reporting. These steps included shifting to a new budget publication format which makes it easier to track implementation of budget items (in particular, regarding how spending aligns with estimates). The new format also consolidates financial reports on the InfoBase website.[Note76: See “Estimates Reform Helps You Follow the Money,” Government of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/en/blog/estimates-reform-helps-you-follow-money.%5D The government has completed this milestone.

Under Milestone 9.4, the government self-assessment reports that Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) was able to pilot aspects of the Open Contracting Data Standard related to the initiation (tender), award and contract stages. However, it was not able to do so with the planning and implementation stages.[Note77: The self-assessment is available at https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/9da9faf5-deb1-48db-8f16-91055d942d65.%5D The self-assessment additionally points to several different types of procurement information which are being published. This information includes real-time information about tenders and awards, weekly information about standing offers and supply arrangements, and a monthly updated contract history.[Note78: See “Tenders,” Public Works and Government Services Canada, https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/tenders; “Standing Offers and Supply Arrangements,” Public Works and Government Services Canada, https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/standing-offers-and-supply-arrangements; and “Contract History,” Public Works and Government Services Canada, https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/contract-history.%5D This represents limited progress.

For Milestone 9.5, the self-assessment notes that PSPC's inability to complete its pilot of the Open Contracting Data Standard meant that it was also unable to carry out its best practices case study.[Note79: The self-assessment is available at https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/9da9faf5-deb1-48db-8f16-91055d942d65.%5D This milestone was not started.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Open contracting has been a feature of Canada's previous action plans. In the second action plan, Commitment 8 aimed to lower the threshold for reporting and introduce a pilot of the Open Contracting Data Standard. According to Lindsey Marchessault, the Open Contracting Partnership's director for data and engagement, the work carried out under this commitment represents only a marginal step forward in terms of improving access to information. Specifically, progress on Milestones 9.4 and 9.5 was limited. A particular problem involved the lack of meaningful progress on expanding the publication of planning and implementation information. Such achievements would likely have meant a difference in coding for this commitment. However, Ms. Marchessault noted that work over the past two years may have alerted the government to the importance of revamping the use of organisational identifiers. Doing so could improve the quality of data by standardising the way it is identified and tagged across departments. This realisation will hopefully precipitate more important changes going forward, even if the impacts have not yet been felt.

Carried Forward?

Canada's fourth action plan includes a commitment on financial transparency and accountability. That commitment largely targets improving open contracting. It includes further improvements to the release of budgeting and spending information and a renewed effort to pilot implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard (Milestone 2.3).


Canada's Commitments

  1. User-friendly open government

    CA0064, 2018, Capacity Building

  2. Financial transparency and accountability

    CA0065, 2018, E-Government

  3. Corporate transparency

    CA0066, 2018, Beneficial Ownership

  4. Digital government and services

    CA0067, 2018, Capacity Building

  5. Open science

    CA0068, 2018, Capacity Building

  6. Healthy democracy

    CA0069, 2018, Civic Space

  7. Access to Information

    CA0070, 2018, Capacity Building

  8. Feminist and inclusive dialogue

    CA0071, 2018, Capacity Building

  9. Reconciliation and open government

    CA0072, 2018, Capacity Building

  10. Open government community

    CA0073, 2018, Capacity Building

  11. Enhance Access to Information

    CA0042, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  12. Streamline Requests for Personal Information

    CA0043, 2016, E-Government

  13. Expand and Improve Open Data

    CA0044, 2016, E-Government

  14. Provide and Preserve Open Information

    CA0045, 2016, E-Government

  15. Define an Approach for Measuring Open Government Performance

    CA0046, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Develop Open Government Skills across the Federal Public Service

    CA0047, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Embed Transparency Requirements in the Federal Service Strategy

    CA0048, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Enhance Access to Culture & Heritage Collections

    CA0049, 2016, Capacity Building

  19. Enhance Openness of Information on Government Spending and Procurement

    CA0050, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. Increase Transparency of Budget and Other Department of Finance Information

    CA0051, 2016, Capacity Building

  21. Starred commitment Increase Transparency of Grants and Contributions Funding

    CA0052, 2016, Capacity Building

  22. Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations

    CA0053, 2016, E-Government

  23. Increase the Availability and Usability of Geospatial Data

    CA0054, 2016, Capacity Building

  24. Increase Openness of Federal Science Activities (Open Science)

    CA0055, 2016, Capacity Building

  25. Stimulate Innovation through Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX)

    CA0056, 2016, E-Government

  26. Align Open Data across Canada (Open Data Canada)

    CA0057, 2016, Capacity Building

  27. Implement the Extractives Sector Transparency Measures Act

    CA0058, 2016, Capacity Building

  28. Support Openness and Transparency Initiatives around the World

    CA0059, 2016, Aid

  29. Engage Civil Society on Open Government

    CA0060, 2016, Public Participation

  30. Enable Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making

    CA0061, 2016, Capacity Building

  31. Promote Open Government Globally

    CA0062, 2016, Capacity Building

  32. Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services

    CA0063, 2016, Civic Space

  33. Implement Directive on Open Government

    CA0030, 2014, Open Data

  34. Starred commitment Open Data Canada

    CA0031, 2014, Open Data

  35. Canadian Open Data Exchange (ODX)

    CA0032, 2014, Capacity Building

  36. Open Data for Development

    CA0033, 2014, Capacity Building

  37. Open Data Core Commitment

    CA0034, 2014, Open Data

  38. Starred commitment Open Science

    CA0035, 2014, Science & Technology

  39. Starred commitment Mandatory Reporting on Extractives

    CA0036, 2014, Extractive Industries

  40. Open Contracting

    CA0037, 2014, Open Contracting and Procurement

  41. Open Information on Budgets and Expenditures

    CA0038, 2014, Fiscal Transparency

  42. Digital Literacy

    CA0039, 2014, Capacity Building

  43. Open Information Core Commitment

    CA0040, 2014, Right to Information

  44. Consulting Canadians

    CA0041, 2014, Marginalized Communities

  45. Starred commitment International Aid Transparency Initiative: Publish plan to make CIDA activities available and accessible

    CA0010, 2012, Aid

  46. International Aid Transparency Initiative: Implement plan

    CA0011, 2012, Aid

  47. Opening Government of Canada Records: Increase access to archived federal documents at Library and Archives Canada

    CA0012, 2012, Records Management

  48. Opening Government of Canada Records: Issue new mandatory policy on document classification

    CA0013, 2012, Records Management

  49. Opening Government of Canada Records: Make classified information available online

    CA0014, 2012, E-Government

  50. GCDOCS: Deploy wave one of electronic record and document management solution

    CA0015, 2012, E-Government

  51. GCDOCS: Deploy across federal government

    CA0016, 2012, E-Government

  52. GCWEB: Develop consolidated web presence

    CA0017, 2012, E-Government

  53. GCWEB: Implement new platform

    CA0018, 2012, E-Government

  54. Data.gc.ca: Expand number of datasets available

    CA0019, 2012, E-Government

  55. Data.gc.ca: Implement data.gc.ca portal

    CA0020, 2012, E-Government

  56. Data.gc.ca: Improve standardization of data

    CA0021, 2012, E-Government

  57. Government of Canada Resource Management Data: Publish resource management and performance data

    CA0022, 2012, E-Government

  58. Government of Canada Resource Management Data: Enhance search and data tools

    CA0023, 2012, E-Government

  59. Consulting Canadians: Develop new platform for consultation

    CA0024, 2012, E-Government

  60. Consulting Canadians: Develop standard approach to use of social media

    CA0025, 2012, E-Government

  61. Consulting Canadians: Pilot a crowdsourcing initiative

    CA0026, 2012, E-Government

  62. Consulting Canadians: Enable use of common online tools

    CA0027, 2012, E-Government

  63. Open Regulation: Federal regulators to post forward regulatory plans

    CA0028, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  64. Open Regulation: Simplify engagement activities

    CA0029, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  65. Open Government Directive: Issue Directive on Open Government

    CA0001, 2012, E-Government

  66. Open Government Directive: Implement Directive on Open Government

    CA0002, 2012, E-Government

  67. Starred commitment Open Government Licence: Issue Open Government Licence

    CA0003, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  68. Starred commitment Open Government Licence: Adopt Open Government Licence

    CA0004, 2012, Records Management

  69. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Pilot of online request and payment service

    CA0005, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  70. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Implement ATI Solution

    CA0006, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  71. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Make completed ATI request summaries searchable

    CA0007, 2012, Right to Information

  72. Virtual Library: Begin design of virtual library

    CA0008, 2012, E-Government

  73. Virtual Library: Launch virtual library

    CA0009, 2012, E-Government