Aboriginal Justice Strategy Mid-Term Evaluation, Final Report

6. Recommendations and Management Response

1. Funding Challenges

Uncertainty around the timing and availability of funds has made it difficult for funding recipients to adequately implement programs and projects. This resulted in cash flow difficulties for some programs that serve small communities and also contributed to staffing challenges for some programs, particularly those located in rural and remote areas.

Recommendation

Continue to work with the provinces and territories to implement multi-year funding agreements, which will provide funding recipients with the stability and predictability of secure funding.

Management Response:

Agreed. Work with the provinces and territories has been ongoing to implement multi-year contribution agreements, where feasible. Further, the Aboriginal Justice Directorate (AJD), in partnership with Aboriginal Law and Strategic Policy (ALSP), will explore opportunities for increased stability of the Strategy through the renewal process.

2. Communications Challenges

All interview groups identified information sharing and communication as a key area for improvement.  Funding recipients indicated that they have little to no direct contact with the AJD staff in Ottawa, and would benefit from increased, regular contact with national representatives. Regional Coordinators indicated that the level of communication with the AJD could be improved. Provincial and territorial partners suggested that a greater amount of communication and collaboration is required between the province or territory, the AJD and community justice programs.

In general, all interview groups indicated that they would benefit from a more formalized communication strategy. Both funding recipients and provincial and territorial partners suggested that communication between communities should be encouraged and formalized, if possible.

Recommendation

Develop and implement a formalized and multi-faceted communications strategy that involves the AJD, ALSP, the Aboriginal Courtwork Program (ACW), provinces, territories, funding recipients, and other stakeholders in order to increase the effectiveness of the AJS.

Management Response:

Agreed. The AJD is committed to, and has increased efforts to ensure consistent, ongoing communications both internally between AJD, ALSP, other programs with linkages and common goals such as the ACW, and externally between the AJD, provincial and territorial representatives and Aboriginal communities. A formalized communications strategy for engaging recipients and Aboriginal NGOs on AJS issues is being developed in partnership with provincial and territorial partners. Additionally, the Aboriginal Justice Strategy (AJS) Federal-Provincial-Territorial (F/P/T) Working Group, co-chaired by the AJD and a provincial or territorial counterpart, has been meeting regularly since 2009 to discuss and share information regarding the AJS.

3. Reporting Challenges and Consistency of Reporting

Interview results indicate that the capacity of communities to implement and conduct data collection, reporting and evaluation varies widely. Programs implemented by large, well-established organizations have the capacity to meet reporting and evaluation requirements, while smaller communities, particularly those located in remote areas, face challenges due to limited staffing resources. The project file review revealed that none of the Community-based Justice Program or Capacity Building Fund funded communities had implemented training to improve their capacity for reporting.

Many Community-based Justice Program files did not include a final report, and Capacity Building Fund project files rarely contained one, indicating that final payments were temporarily or permanently held back depending on whether the reports were delayed or not submitted at all. In general, reporting was inconsistent within and across Community-based Justice Programs and Capacity Building Fund projects. In addition, the reporting approach varied according to the size and structure of the recipient organization.

Since the 2008/09 fiscal year processes and procedures have been established to improve the monitoring of program requirements. For example, a monitoring template has been developed, which facilitates effective monitoring of program requirements, including any outstanding reports. Consequently, the number of outstanding final payments has been reduced. Furthermore, efforts are ongoing to reduce reporting obligations for recipients, thereby decreasing their administrative burden. For example, it is anticipated that in the 2010/11 fiscal year, a standard reporting template will be developed to further simplify reporting and consequently improve the completion rate of program reports, while maintaining accountability using a risk-based approach.

Recommendation

Develop and implement a National Database for data collection and ensure that project-level reports are completed in a consistent manner and retained on file.

Management Response:

Agreed. A National Database for data collection, reporting and evaluation purposes is currently being developed by a F/P/T working group led by the Research and Statistics Division of the Department of Justice. It is anticipated that a data model of the National Database will be presented for consultation to all provinces and territories and Aboriginal communities as early as fall 2010. Due to the complexity of negotiations, an implementation approach is still being developed.

4. Staffing Challenges

For the first two years after renewal, the AJD faced high rates of staff turnover. There was complete turnover of Regional Coordinators between April 2007 and June 2008. Given that Regional Coordinators play a critical role in developing and maintaining strong relationships with communities, as well as with provincial and territorial partners, AJD ensured that other staff members assumed the role of Regional Coordinators in an effort to ensure that relationships were maintained.

The relationships between the funding recipients and regional AJD staff vary, depending in part on the location of the Regional Coordinator. Funding recipients in provinces and territories that do not have regional AJS offices indicated that they have infrequent contact, particularly in person, with the Regional Coordinators.

Recommendation

Ensure a sufficient number of Regional Coordinators who can act as primary, stable, knowledgeable points of contact for funding recipients in all regions.

Management Response:

Agreed. Efforts have been ongoing to stabilize the Regional Coordinator complement at AJD. Despite these efforts, face-to-face contact between Regional Coordinators and recipients can sometimes be limited as a result of a variety of factors, including: the remoteness of some communities, the number of communities that some Regional Coordinators are responsible for, inclement weather, as well as the availability of provincial or territorial partners. In order to respond to these challenges, other methods of communication are routinely employed, such as teleconferences and regional meetings.

5. Selection Criteria: Capacity Building Fund

Funding recipients expressed uncertainty with the review and selection process for Capacity Building Fund projects. AJD staff and provincial and territorial partners expressed concern over the perceived fairness of the Capacity Building Fund selection process due to the lack of explicit selection criteria and transparency, creating the potential for non-transparent selection.

Recommendation

Clarify the assessment and selection criteria for the Capacity Building Fund.

Management Response:

Agreed. During the 2009/10 fiscal year, an information sheet and a funding application form were developed to assist applicants interested in applying for funding from the Capacity Building Fund. These documents are available on the AJS Website, where a call for proposals was also prominently displayed during the period when applications were being accepted. An assessment criteria form has also been developed for internal use to ensure that project proposals are reviewed in a consistent and transparent manner.

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