The Office of the Auditor General (AG) has come out swinging against the leadership and governance of the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy (CBS) and criticized the way it deals with advice sought from external experts. The AG also discovered that CBS reports have not been officially responded to by the biotechnology ministerial coordinating committee (BMCC) which oversees its activities.
The BMCC — composed of ministers from seven departments — has met just once in six years, while the more hands-on assistant deputy minister coordinating committee has met just once since 2002.
“Overall, the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy has not function as planned. It was designed for leadership from the top, which was not provided,” states the AG report, released late last month. “We found weakness in horizontal governance, accountability and coordination. The government is doing little to find out what is working and what is not — limiting its opportunities to learn and improve.”
The CBS was established in 1998 as a tool for coordinating biotechnology activities across government. It was renewed in 2004 with a stronger focus on the interplay between various aspects of biotechnology (innovation, commercialization, stewardship, etc). It is comprised of the CBS Fund, the Canadian Regulatory System for Biotechnology and Genomics R&D.
Between FY98-99 and FY05-06, CBS received $396 million in funding. Each branch has an accountability framework but the overall strategy does not and the secretariat responsible for the CBS only tracked results and outcomes from the CBS Fund. Genome Canada works outside the authority or oversight of the CBS.
The AG makes several recommendations directed towards Treasury Board and the Privy Council Office for how to improve CBS’s governance, accountability and coordination of its activities. A copy of the November/05 report can be obtained at www.oag-bvg.gc.ca.