Saturday, September 28, 2013

CIDA - when due diligence isn't diligent

(Updated Sept 30, 2013)

When the government spends our money, you'd think they'd know what they're spending it on, right? Wrong.

In my last entry on my ATIP to CIDA regarding the $6 million funding to IPPF for the five countries Afghanistan, Mali, Tanzania, Bangladash and Sudan, I told you that IPPF was supplying the contraceptive drug Jadelle to Tanzania. (Note that CIDA is now part of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada)

I knew this because Jadelle was identified in the semi-annual yearly report I received, as being used (in Tanzania). In fact it was the only drug identified in the report. I thought well, what other kinds of implants, contraceptives etc., are they using? Don't we want to know that too?

Time for another ATIP.

Based on my previous ATIP which yielded the semi-annual and annual progress reports, were a list of  "Approved Activities", along with units delivered for each activity, and what the targets were.

For example, for oral contraceptives, 830,552 services were delivered in Year 2 (1 April - 30 Sept 2012), with the target for the year being 1,663,868, and with a target of 5,199,995 for the entire duration of the project.

Other "Approved Activities" that caught my eye ,were 1121; "sterilization services", item 1124, "gynaecological services"; item 1128, "other SRH medical services"; item 1211 "family planning services"; item 1221, 1222 and 1223, "develop/produce/deliver Behavior Change Communication  material"; item 1323: "injectables"; item 1324, "implants"; and item 1325: "other hormonal methods".

So I sent another ATIP, and asked to see a further breakdown of these activities, for example, what kinds of contraceptives were they delivering, and how many of each kind? And, for the "other SRH medical services", what kind of "other SRH medical services", and their breakdown by numbers, for each different category of service, and so on for each of the above services.

How do we know they aren't sneaking in abortion services into that category, or giving advice to a woman to obtain an abortion? We don't. Not unless we can see the breakdowns.

Guess what I received? Nothing. The response I received was:

"Please be advised that after a through search of our file, no records related to your request exist."

This was a huge surprise, especially since the contribution agreement (received through another ATIP) states that the Annual Workplan will contain "A list of equipment and materials to be purchased with CIDA's contribution."

I was looking for that list of equipment and materials. But nothing existed? How could that be? One would assume that the program area would have this information in order to satisfy the terms of the funding agreement, n'est pas? When I talked to the director involved in the ATIP area of CIDA, his response was that since CIDA didn't hold those records, there was nothing he could to to help me. He followed up or discussion with an email that said this:

"the Department's Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) office can only provide records which already exist at the time of the request and since the legislation only applies to the Government of Canada, we cannot and do not request documents from third parties. Further, this office is not able to provide information on the content of the records, which are produced by program officials. The former Canadian International Development Agency's ATIP office provided you with records regarding this project and as your inquiry below is more in the nature of a policy question, we discussed that questions regarding programs and program/project management are more properly addressed in correspondence to the Minister responsible."

But how can CIDA satisfy it's due diligence responsibility, if they don't insist that the organization to which they dole out our money, informs CIDA exactly how our money is being spent?

So I contacted the Minister, Christian Paradis:

"I have requested a series of access to information requests from CIDA, regarding the$6 Million funding given to International Planned Parenthood.

My latest request yielded a response that "no records relate to your file exist".

...The numbers identified in the semi-annual and annual reports I did receive, are at a very high level and are only a summary report. These numbers do not constitute the due-diligence required to provide the level of detail that I requested in my ATIP.

The contribution agreement states that the Annual Workplan will contain "A list of equipment and materials to be purchased with CIDA's contribution." I am looking for this breakdown of these materials as noted in my ATIP.

...The program area should have this information in order to satisfy the terms of the funding agreement. And since taxpayers are the source of this funding, this information should be readily available to Canadians like myself. This is the information I am seeking with this ATIP request.

Here is Mr. Paradis' office short and sweet response to my question:

"Unfortunately, I am unable to provide you with any detailed numbers identified in the semi-annual and annual reports."

So how is our money being spent? And is it being used for abortion services? Why doesn't CIDA know? And why doesn't Mr. Paradis know?

Lots of questions. Not too many answers.

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