Nova Scotia is spending $6.4 million yearly on settlement services for immigrants without knowing whether that money is being properly spent to meet the needs of those newcomers to the Atlantic Canadian province.
“Once immigrants arrive in Nova Scotia, the long-term retention of these individuals is essential to promoting economic growth,” notes Kim Adair, Nova Scotia’s auditor general, in a report released this month.
“Despite the importance of retention, we found the (immigration) department had not completed assessments of the settlement needs of immigrants or assessed whether these needs are being addressed through the settlement services provided by the department.”
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The province’s immigration department funnels about $6.4 million to settlement service providers throughout the province every year.
“However, due to the department’s lack of assessment of the settlement needs of immigrants and analysis of the services being funded, the department does not know if the value is obtained from the funding.”
In the auditor general’s report to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly on Immigration and Population Growth: Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration, she makes 15 recommendations for reforms to the immigration department. The provincial government has agreed with all those recommendations, including a call to assess its settlement services.
Nova Scotia has pledged to develop a plan to improve its allocation of funding for settlement services by March next year.
Immigration fraud, identified as an issue in another report back in 2008, is again mentioned in the auditor general’s latest report where she bemoans the lack of procedures to help immigration officials identify and address the risk of fraud in Nova Scotia’s Provincial Nominee Program (NSPNP) and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP).
“While management does provide information on fraud trends and indicators for staff to heed, this caution is only done when issues or concerns arise; they are not compiled into a comprehensive document for staff to consider when assessing applications,” notes Adair in her report.
“If there (were) documented procedures to help guide staff in identifying indicators of potential fraud or misrepresentation when assessing applications, it would promote an awareness of the risk amongst staff.
“It would also provide a consistent approach to identifying fraud in applications and outline the steps to be taken to address the concerns. Furthermore, when new staff start, it would provide a comprehensive document to be studied and used in their training.”
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Here is a complete list of the report’s recommendations:
- The development and implementation of a documented process to guide staff in identifying and responding to labour market need including:
- staff responsibilities;
- types and sources of information to be used;
- stakeholder consultation required;
- frequency of review;
- forecasting of future labour market needs;
- documentation requirements, and;
- guidance on how labour needs will inform immigration programming.
- An assessment of the training needs of the Immigration and Population Growth Branch to guide the development and implementation of a training plan for new hires and existing staff. Required training must be delivered to all staff with documentation maintained to support the completion.
- Regularly review of the procedures for the assessment of applications to the NSPNP and the AIP. Procedures must be regularly reinforced with staff, with clear expectations provided on how applications are to be assessed, including steps taken to verify information provided by applicants and requirements for the documentation of results.
- A quality assurance process for provincial immigration programs with the information gathered through the process used to improve the assessment of applications to provincial immigration programs.
- Additional performance indicators to assess the work undertaken to attract and retain immigrants to the province, including considering whether the performance evaluation framework provided by the consultant in 2020 can be used by the department to improve performance reporting.
- An assessment of settlement services within the province including:
- developing a better understanding of immigrant needs;
- surveying immigrants to understand factors impacting their attraction, integration and retention in Nova Scotia, and;
- assessing factors that impact awareness and access to settlement programming.
Detailed plans must be developed to monitor the implementation of the consultant’s recommendations to improve settlement services, including timelines for completion, resource requirements, and regular status reporting to track implementation.
- A requirement that all members of the evaluation committee be established to review proposals for funding through the Settlement Funding and Labour Market Integration Funding programs to sign a conflict of interest attestations.
- Improvement of the documentation of the review of proposals to the Settlement Funding and the Labour Market Integration Funding programs. Specifically, there must be documentation that clearly explains why settlement service providers were approved or denied along with an explanation to support the amount of funding approved
- A requirement is that settlement service providers provide annual audited financial statements and documentation, such as invoices and proof of payment, to support the information included in quarterly reports. The supporting documentation must be used to assess whether the information included in quarterly reports is accurate.
- A review and update of the procedures for monitoring the funding agreements with settlement service providers in order to accurately reflect the current processes followed and provide clear direction to staff.
- Policies and procedures to guide staff in the identification and investigation of suspected fraud including:
- methods of identifying potential fraud;
- how suspected fraud is addressed;
- the investigative process, including tools and techniques to be used by staff;
- action to be taken if fraud is confirmed;
- documentation requirements, and;
- regular reviews to update policies and procedures.
- A conflict of interest policy specific to the Immigration and Population Growth Branch.
- Comprehensive immigration fraud training for staff within the Immigration and Population Growth Branch, including:
- how to identify potential fraud;
- how instances of suspected fraud are to be addressed, and;
- tracking by management to make sure staff have completed all required training.
- Cooperation between the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration and the Internal Audit Centre to fully respond to the recommendations of the 2020 fraud risk assessment so the risks identified are addressed and adequately managed.
- Processes to assess employer and individual compliance with the provincial immigration program requirements.
A combination of random selection and risk-based methods can be used for selecting employers and individuals for compliance reviews with research, interviews, and review of documentation used to assess compliance with the requirements of provincial immigration programs. When instances of noncompliance are identified, the auditor general recommends establishing protocols that outline how this will be addressed.
Immigration to Nova Scotia is on track to end this year up 53.5 per cent, up by 4,902 new permanent residents over last year, and reach the record-setting level of 14,062 based on the trend in the first eight months of 2022, reveals the latest data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).