Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today.
The Industrial Security Program plays an important role in keeping government information and assets secure when these are entrusted to the private sector as a result of a government contract. In a nutshell, we do this by screening individuals and firms for all contracts for which PWGSC is the contracting authority, and when requested by other government departments exercising their own contracting authority.
The program processes about 2,000 security-related contracts a year, 75 % for which PWGSC is the contracting authority. We carry out this role for federal contracts and for contracts awarded to Canadian firms by the foreign governments with which we have security agreements.
While PWGSC is not the only department to perform contract security functions, as the main purchasing arm of the Government of Canada we handle many large contracts involving sensitive information and assets.
I was briefed on the initial observations and findings of the Auditor General last June, shortly after I began my duties as deputy minister of PWGSC. As the accounting officer, I took these observations seriously and began work in earnest to address the concerns raised. We did not wait until the Auditor General tabled her report.
Let me say before going any further that we agree with all of the Auditor General's recommendations. Our action plan has been reviewed by the Auditor General and tabled with the committee. It has four key elements that directly address her concerns.
First, we instituted a certification process to ensure that client departments clearly identify for every contract request whether there is a security requirement or not.
Second, we completed and issued an industrial security standard operating procedure that has been in draft form, and we train our people to ensure it is consistently followed.
Third, the industrial security program's information and technology systems were certified as mandated under government security policy.
Fourth, our business continuity plan now calls for daily, rather than weekly, backup of our security data.
Furthermore, recognizing the program's importance, we took additional steps. The program is undergoing an independent third party management review of its mandate, roles and responsibilities, and program delivery to be completed by March 31. IT upgrades are being made to improve the exchange of information between the department's contracting and security systems. And an advisory board comprising senior officials with experience in the security area has been struck to provide advice on the direction and policies of the program and to advance coordination and improvement of contract security across government. It held its first meeting in January.
We are also conducting a detailed review of all 3,000 current contracts with security requirements to verify that the program has fulfilled its security obligations. This review will be completed some time in August.
Finally, on the issue of resources to fully carry out the program's activities, the department has, year over year, reallocated resources on top of the existing base. In 2007-2008, an additional $11.2 million was allocated to contract security-related activities.
I am working diligently with my colleagues at Treasury Board Secretariat and the Privy Council Office to secure an increase in our permanent funding base for the program.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would be happy to answer your questions.