Hello, Mr. Chair and honourable committee members.
I'm joined today by Caroline Xavier, our vice-president of operations, who can help me answer your questions later.
I'm looking forward to speaking to you today on behalf of the Canada Border Services Agency. I'll begin my remarks by acknowledging the findings of the 2017 spring reports of the Auditor General of Canada—in particular, “Report 3—Preventing Corruption in Immigration and Border Services”.
As you would no doubt expect, I am especially proud that no evidence of corruption was found during the audit. This finding, amongst others, speaks volumes about the importance we place on equipping our officers to prevent corruption, and more important still, the integrity displayed each and every day by those officers.
Because of the importance that we and our officers place on preventing corruption and because we know that no organization is ever truly immune from the risk of corruption, we welcome the suggestions put forth by the Auditor General on how we might build on our already strong success to make our anti-corruption posture even stronger. The auditors' ideas for improving how we monitor our internal control mechanisms are, for example, findings that we look forward to building on as we implement the management action plan that we've prepared, in line with the recommendations set out in the spring report.
Before I get into the details of what our action plan calls for, though, I'll take a few minutes to provide you with some supporting context. Specifically I'll talk a bit about both the CBSA's everyday operating environment and the Auditor General's suggestions on how we can strengthen our anti-corruption posture within that environment.
Our mission is to help ensure the security and prosperity of Canada by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada. We work under a mandate that is executed 24-7 across Canada and abroad by our 15,000-strong workforce, including some 7,000 uniformed staff.
At home in Canada, we operate an impressive number of service points. You will find us at more than 115 land border crossings, 61 of which operate on a 24-7 basis, as well as at 13 international airports, 10 of which also are 24-7 operations. We are also present at five large marine container ports, three mail processing centres, three immigration holding centres, a collection of integrated border enforcement team offices, and almost 30 rail sites.
In addition, we are active abroad, working hard to keep the goods and people that shouldn't be in Canada away from our borders, and to facilitate the entry of those we wish to have here.
The volume and nature of the goods and travellers we work with each and everyday speak not just to the very real complexity of our work, but also the importance of what we do. To be blunt, we are the front line in keeping the economy moving and connecting Canadians to the world. Just last year, we processed more than 92 million travellers and 16 million commercial releases, resulting in the collection of nearly $31 billion in duties and taxes.
We know that to do our job right we need to move low-risk people and goods as expeditiously as possible, and we need to do that in way that protects Canadians' safety and security. Doing this requires us not only to be on the front lines, but also to be working hard behind the scenes in support of our front-line duties. The back-office elements of our work are not always well known or well understood.
Many wouldn't know, for example, that we make representations at immigration and refugee hearings, including all the way up to Federal Court proceedings. Fewer still would know that CBSA works with partners at home and abroad to conduct lengthy and complex investigations into suspected war criminals, national security cases, and organized crime groups.
To fulfill our very broad and complex mandate, we have developed a highly effective operational strategy that relies on sophisticated risk analysis, targeted information and intelligence gathering, comprehensive examinations, and where necessary, seizures and removals. Because no one agency anywhere in the world can be in all places at all times, we have also developed a critically important network of cross-Canada partners and international counterparts so that we, like them, can bring all the best assets and practices to our work.
As you can appreciate, being a border service officer is a line of work that not everyone can do. It requires dedication, integrity, and some very specialized training. For example, our officers must learn to administer more than 90 acts, regulations, and international agreements, many on behalf of other federal departments and agencies, the provinces, and the territories.
To prepare themselves for active duty, our officers must complete a highly demanding course of study at the CBSA College in Rigaud, Quebec. At Rigaud, the officer induction training program prepares trainees for the wide variety of challenges they will face every day, including possible attempts to co-opt them into criminal activity. Accordingly, as part of their study, officers in training are also required to complete values and ethics training. They also receive guidance and instruction from our security and professional standards division on what they might face and how they should handle it.
We know this training doesn't completely eliminate the risk of corruption; no training ever can. What it does do, and does well, is introduce future officers to the high standards of service and integrity that come with their chosen profession. It also introduces them to a culture of ongoing training and learning, including with regard to anti-corruption, that lasts throughout their career. In short, CBSA employees are expected to uphold the law in carrying out their duties. Let me be absolutely clear: our agency has zero tolerance for illegal activity.
Against this backdrop the Office of the Auditor General conducted its audit. In examining our anti-corruption posture, the auditors found that there is some room for improvement. For example, auditors found that while CBSA understood its corruption risks and had controls in place to mitigate them, it could nonetheless do a better job of monitoring them to ensure they are working to their full potential. They also found that in some cases, individuals have entered Canada without having undergone the fullest inspection possible and that in other cases, border services officers had not recorded their entries as required by policy.
Finally, auditors found that many of the personnel stationed at land border crossings had not completed the full suite of the mandatory training related to corruption awareness.
As a result of these findings, the Auditor General made the following recommendations, which we accept. First, the agency should develop a monitoring strategy that specifies how we will systematically assess our corruption mitigation controls to ensure they are applied appropriately and are achieving their intended results, and define superintendents' responsibilities, in turn enabling them to fulfill their control function at land crossings. Second, the agency should ensure that personnel at land crossings complete their mandatory training.
In response to the first recommendation, I can tell you that we will incorporate the assessment of controls on corruption into our management practice assessments and our port program assessments, which are used to assess and measure operational adherence to agency priorities and high-risk areas of business at ports of entry. We will also ensure that regional front-line management accountabilities are established and that our port program assessment exercise includes questions related to preventing corruption. We expect this work will be completed in summer 2017.
In response to the second recommendation, we have committed to the delivery of mandatory values and ethics training for all officers. To assist with this, we have already implemented an agency-wide communication plan and we will monitor results of these measures on an annual basis. On this point, I'm happy to report that as of March 31, 90.5% had completed this training.
Mr. Chair and honourable members, the management action plan that we have developed is not simply a response to the Auditor General's suggestions on how we can improve our already strong success.
It is, at base, an important investment in our workforce. Our border services officers have a strong organizational culture that rests on their deep commitment to the values they uphold and the motto they live by: protection, service, integrity.
Mr. Chair and honourable committee members, I want to stress that we'll work hard to help them continue doing their job.
In closing, I want to thank the Office of the Auditor General for taking the time to study our operations. In light of its suggestions, we're determined to further strengthen our anti-corruption record.
I would be pleased to answer the committee's questions.