Confidential Report Finds Serious Management
AUGUST 1977 v07 n08 p33
"The department of Indian
affairs (DIA) has serious
management problems in that the management decision making
processes are not defined and decision making criteria are
unclear," states a confidential report on management information
systems in the DIA prepared by Quasar Systems Limited of
The report reached the conclusion that improvements are
necessary for two reasons.
First, to comply with law,
government-wide regulation and good management.
And second, to
establish indian affairs' credibility with Parliament, central
agencies of government and the public.
report contains a total of 45 recommendations and suggests that the
department is not concerned in developing better information
"The process of information system development is
inadequate. Lack of senior management leadership and allocation of
insufficient resources have added to the difficulties of
development and operation of management information systems."
is entirely likely," the report states, "that better management
information could help the Indian program free up at least 10 per
cent of its budget."
If passed on to Indians this hypothetical
$60 million per year represents an average of $100,000 per
The DIA's management system and framework is ill-defined
and ineffective, the report says.
"Operational policy and
processes are ill-defined.
"No clear distinction exists between
operational processes, which deliver services, and management
processes, which plan, organize, lead and control the operational
"Management decision-making processes are not defined;
there is no common understanding, in department or client
community, of the management process.
"Roles with respect to the
management decisions are unclear. The roles of Indian client
community, political association and the department in the
management of the Indian program are not clear.
"Lack of a
management system willing and able to define policies and provide
plans, leadership and adequate communication, has led to low morale
in the department and frustration in Indian bands," the report
"Fear of accountability for decisions has been one
reason that the department has been unwilling in the past to define
its decision-making processes, roles and decision
"Observation of the workings of the department over a
period of a few months led to the conclusion that decisions at all
levels tend to be taken by committees of equals where possible,
partially to achieve the benefits of consultation but also to
"Decisions are communicated verbally or
informally rather than systematically in writing according to a
defined process. Decision-making criteria are often not
"In summary there is often no audit trail for
"Management of the department uses the excuse of
'having to be able to provide a flexible response to changing
needs' to permit 'ad hocracy' in decision making.
"In this way,
any possibility of quantitative managerial assessment is
On the other hand it is concluded the Indian program is
probably the most highly politically charged program within the
The condition of Indian life leads to
continuing political input to the managerial process.
said developing conclusions to the study was difficult because the
DIA's' objectives were not clear,. management decision making
processes were not defined and its decision criteria were
However, the following systems were analyzed and
conclusions were reached.
- The planning information systems that communicate
operational policy and goals, are generally ineffective, because
the planning process itself is ineffective or nonexistent, the
- Financial accountability information systems are
the most clearly defined of any group. But data definitions do not
exist, output information is not communicated in a timely manner to
decision-makers and required financial information systems do not
exist in some areas.
- Judging from audit reports, many band
financial accountability. systems are inadequate in presenting
basic information to band councils, band members or
- Activity control information systems are ineffective
where they exist at all. Reasons for lack of effectiveness
- poor definition of categories of service
- lack of standards that define quality of
- lack of performance measures for services;
lack of discipline in use of existing
Confidential Report Finds Serious Management
Deficiencies In DIA
AUGUST 1977 v07 n08 p34
- lack of relevance to district and operational
- uncontrolled development of manual and computer
system without reference to basic design criteria or recognition of
costs and benefits;
- incomplete data and biased
information due to ability of regions bands and districts to opt
out of reporting results of sub-activities, and,
inadequate or non-existent links between the activity information
systems and the financial accountability information system.
Elementary and secondary education activity systems are probably
the most effective system's in this group. They are providing late
and unreliable information, but these problems can be corrected
relatively easily, and are now being addressed. (These systems
cover 25 per cent of program funds).
- Continuing education
activity information Systems are producing very little if any
useful control or planning information at any management level.
Development of an integrated information system for this activity
should be relatively easy, since basic data collection is
established. (These systems involve 6 per cent of program
- Social services activity information services are
providing reliable Information in some regional jurisdictions.
Operational problems are the main difficulties. (These systems
cover 22 per cent of program budget).
- Business and economic
development activity information systems are totally inadequate.
However new systems are being developed. Better definition of
roles of financial accountability and economic development activity
is required. (These systems cover 4 per cent of program funds and
the Indian economic development fund).
- Lands, membership and
trust activity information systems vary in effectiveness.
Application of additional resources would produce performance
measurement data, for controlling these activities, but since this
type of activity accounts for the use of only one or two per cent
of program funds, this may be a low priority.
programs activity information systems are exceptionally difficult
to manage because of the often short term nature of programs.
Information system implications of the band work process require
careful study. (Employment activities account for about 4 per cent
of program funds):
- Capital construction and maintenance activity
information systems are totally ineffective at present. A variety
of manual reporting forms and procedures, run by several
organizational functions, presents little effective performance
measurement at either the local or national level. Absence of
standards for capital assets (except schools) and definition of
assets, makes performance measurement especially difficult. There
are corresponding inadequacies in the capital section of financial
accountability information Systems. (Capital accounts represents
19 per cent of program budget).
- Departmental personnel
information systems were not studied. The band membership system
is performing adequately, but could be made much more effective by
speeding up its responsiveness, and possibly by adding additional
- Legally required inventory systems do not exist in most
areas. Management information on existence of physical and natural
resources does not exist in systematic form. However since bands
and district level are primarily concerned with this aspect, major
national systems are a low priority.
- No working systems based on
predictive models were discovered during the project, either in the
financial and management area; or in the socio-economic prediction
field. Such systems are required for effective planning, but are
probably secondary to adequate basic information on what has
happened in the past.
The report says a key problem in the
operation of almost all Indian affairs' information systems is lack
of clarity about the department's information requirements when
program management responsibilities are assumed by bands, as well
as lack of enforcement of requirements for information.
lengthy list of recommendations deal mainly with information
Systems but as the report states: "The general conclusion of this
work is that there are serious management problems that should be
addressed before development of a management information services
program, on a broad front, is contemplated."
Doug Cuthand is a Federation of Saskatchewan Indians [FSI] researcher.