Summative Evaluation Report: ICP Final Report 2010-10-26 - Findings - Lessons Learned

7.0 Findings – Lessons Learned

7.1 What specific lessons have been learned with respect to the delivery of the ICP and the achievement of program objectives and outcomes?

According to interviewees (all categories), one of the key lessons learned from the ICP is that timeframes for the approval and completion of infrastructure projects were much longer than had originally been anticipated. The successful completion of infrastructure projects is dependent on the capacity of communities and the availability of resources to get the work done. Assistance provided by FDPs for smaller municipalities in the development of plans and advice on applications was a very important service. Municipalities also indicated that their overall understanding of federal priorities, environmental standards and accountability requirements also increased as a result of their experience with the ICP.

Interviewees also reported that lessons were learned as a result of F/P/T partnerships. The MC structure and creation of secretariat functions facilitated decision making. Interviewees indicated that, because of their local knowledge and pre-existing horizontal working relationships with the provinces, the ICP benefited significantly through the use of FDPs as the federal delivery partners.

Lastly, some INFC representatives feel that the funding categories, criteria and decision making processes have been clarified and improved in subsequent initiatives, namely the MRIF and the Building Canada Fund (BCF), based on experience gained through the ICP.

7.2 What factors have facilitated/impeded the effective delivery of the ICP?

The interviews revealed a number of factors which facilitated delivery, such as the definition of clear roles and responsibilities for FDPs and delivery partners; the simplicity and clarity of the funding criteria; the decentralized federal delivery model; the direct involvement of municipal associations within some jurisdictions; and the advice provided by federal and provincial environmental assessment bodies.

Impediments identified from surveys and interviews include delays in scheduling joint announcements; insufficient delegated authority to expedite decision-making for small projects; difficulties of SIMSI to maintain important project information; and the complex, competitive nature of the application process, particularly for smaller municipalities.

Table 8: Factors that Facilitated and Impeded Delivery of the ICP

Facilitators Impediments
  • Horizontal management: Roles and responsibilities for FDPs and delivery partners were clearly spelled out in ICP foundation documents (i.e., F/P/T agreements, Governance and Accountability Framework, Guidelines for Federal Co-Chairs)
  • The simplicity and clarity of the funding criteria
  • Decentralized federal delivery through the FDPs and the MC and secretariat approach allowed effective working relationships and administrative processes to be developed that took provincial and municipal realities into consideration
  • The direct involvement of municipal associations within some jurisdictions in the review of proposals and in some cases decision-making on project selection enhanced partnerships between the three levels of government
  • Advice provided by federal and provincial environmental assessment bodies
  • From an administrative view, importance placed on making joint announcements with federal and provincial political representatives prior to starting projects led to some delays due to scheduling difficulties. It was also reported that MCs should have had greater delegated authority to expedite decision making. For example, projects that had a 10% increase for the federal share required INFC Ministerial approval. It would have been more expedient to specify a dollar amount as a 10% increase on a relatively small project could be a fairly insignificant amount. Some FDPs reported that the ICP as a whole did not dedicate enough O&M dollars over the life of the ICP.
  • Although most interviewees noted that significant improvements have been made to the system, SIMSI was identified as an impediment. It was not considered to be user-friendly in the early years of the ICP. Provincial and federal staff indicated that they maintained important project information within their own systems (databases, spreadsheets) in order to meet their particular information requirements (e.g., project information, claims processing, etc.)
  • The competitive nature of the application process was problematic particularly for smaller municipalities. The level of effort and costs associated with preparing applications are not reimbursed or potentially sunk if application is rejected. The uncertainty around whether or not the application will be selected had a negative impact on municipal planning processes.

7.3 What factors have facilitated/impeded the achievement of ICP objectives and outcomes?

The interviews revealed a number of facilitating factors, such as the establishment of targets for green infrastructure and rural projects; the requirement for professional engineers to manage projects where municipalities lacked the technical resources; joint federal/provincial/municipal cooperation to coordinate and streamline environmental assessment processes; the ability to nominate projects to address larger needs that could not be done on a per capita basis; and, the extension of the ICP to March 31, 2011 to complete projects.

The interviews revealed a number of impediments, including the lack of internal resources to prepare applications and manage projects for smaller, rural and remote communities; debt limits for municipalities which created challenges in meeting one third contribution in some cases; and a slow approvals process and delays in project start-up.

Overall, projects were assessed as highly successful by survey recipients (average rating of 9.2 out of 10). The most frequently mentioned success factors were the money/funding (41%) and the contractor, engineer, architect, or consultants hired (30%).

Table 9: Factors that Facilitated and Impeded Achievement of ICP Objectives and Outcomes

Facilitators Impediments
  • Establishment of targets for green infrastructure and rural projects
  • A requirement for professional engineers to manage projects where municipalities lacked the technical resources
  • Federal and provincial officers tried to work together with municipalities to coordinate and streamline environmental assessment processes
  • Nominated projects helped address larger needs that could not be done on a per capita basis (Alberta dikes system and berms around High River, Convention Centre in Edmonton, and major water project in southeast Alberta)
  • Lack of internal resources to prepare applications and manage projects was an impediment for smaller, rural and remote communities
  • Debt limits for municipalities created challenges in meeting one third contribution in some cases
  • A number of barriers to timely project completion include slow approval process from the time an application is submitted to actual announcement of decision and the time taken to complete the environmental assessment on some projects
  • Delays in project start-up led to escalated construction costs and/or the loss of construction season in some instances
  • Clause in CEAA that requires a comprehensive study be undertaken for ground water projects (e.g., municipal wells). The detailed design is not yet done when the application is submitted; therefore the Environmental Assessment could not be carried out. Suggested there should be a way to split project into preliminary design phase (so necessary information is available for EA and that suggested changes could be incorporated into detailed designs) and detailed design and construction phase

The case studies included several projects where the delivery of the program was facilitated by an existing strategic plan. In these cases, the project proposal was able to take advantage of project scope and cost estimates that had been previously prepared. Projects that were part of a larger strategic plan included the storm sewer installation and roadway realignment associated with the construction of the new hospital in Melville, Saskatchewan. The extension of the runway at the Fredericton Airport also had the benefit of an earlier study identifying needed upgrades associated with the takeover of the airport by the Greater Fredericton Airport Authority (GFAA) from Transport Canada.

In most projects examined through the case studies, the proposals were well written and the project was clearly defined, with a clear linkage to ICP objectives, sub-objectives and classifications. These well-written proposals contributed to the achievement of outcomes. This was particularly true of small projects with straightforward plans, such as the construction of washroom facilities at the Caravan Farm Theatre, upgrades to existing water distribution systems in Melville and Cranberry Portage and the realignment of the roadway in Melville. Larger projects that had been planned with cost estimates provided by consulting engineers were also, in general, able to achieve intended outcomes.

However, there were a couple of examples where project cost estimates were inaccurate (i.e. the estimated cost of the initiative as identified in the initial project application was significantly lower than the actual amount revealed through the tendering process.) This occurred in the case of the development of the campground in Edgerton, Alberta and installation of a new well in Melville, Saskatchewan. Because of the inaccurate cost estimates for the construction of the Edgerton campground, the funding was inadequate. To compensate for insufficient funds, the village changed the project scope, and the work was only partially completed during the project. The village continued work on the campground the following year, with financial support from a provincial program. The campground was not fully completed until the third year, almost two years after the intended completion and only after additional funding was found. In fact, revenues from the rental of campsites were used to complete the project. In Melville, the increased cost of the project, from $280,000 to $455,000, required renegotiation of the funding agreement and resulted in a delay in completion of the project of about two years.

8.0 Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Conclusions and recommendations are attached to the Executive Summary of this report

9.0 Approval

Original signed by

Linda Saunders
Head of Evaluation
Director General
Audit and Evaluation Branch

Date

Yaprak Baltacıoğlu
Deputy Minister
Infrastructure Canada

Date
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