Evaluation of the Green Infrastructure Fund
The Evaluation Directorate acknowledges and thanks all individuals who gave of their time and input for this evaluation of the Green Infrastructure Fund (GIF) Program, in particular, all stakeholders and staff members who shared their thoughts and knowledge through in-person or phone interviews. The Evaluation Directorate also acknowledges the time and effort on the part of the Policy staff given to the evaluation team.
Launched as part of the Economic Action Plan (EAP) in 2009, the Green Infrastructure Fund (GIF) is a $725 millionFootnote1 funding program designed to support the Government's economic and environmental priorities. Unlike most other Infrastructure Canada (INFC) programs, pre-established provincial and territorial funding allocations were not used. The program was designed to allocate funding based on project merit and was the first program offered by INFC dedicated entirely to green infrastructure. Four categories of projects were eligible for funding from the program: wastewater; green energy generation and transmission; carbon transmission and storage; and solid waste management.
Evaluation Objective and Scope
The objective of the evaluation is to report on the relevance and performance of the program with a particular focus on the design and delivery of the program. The evaluation of the GIF was conducted in accordance with the Policy on Evaluation and the Directive on the Evaluation Function and carried out between August 2015 and May 2016.
The evaluation covered the design and delivery of the GIF, all projects undertaken and all federal contributions disbursed for the period between January 2009 and December 2015. The evaluation methodology involved a document and literature review, internal program data analysis, and 29 key informant interviews with a range of program stakeholders and recipients.
Key Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations
Funding for green infrastructure remains relevant. 198 applications were received for the GIF, covering all four project categories as well as green categories not eligible under the GIF. The need was particularly evident for the wastewater, solid waste management and green energy categories.
Evaluation findings indicate that the objectives of the GIF are aligned with departmental and federal priorities, and roles and responsibilities.
Performance – Design and Delivery
While 198 project applications were submitted for the GIF, nearly 90% were rejected. The high rate of rejection is partially attributable to the fact that many assessment criteria were not well-defined or publically available.
The GIF was designed to assess project proposals using a merit-based approach. However, when delivered, quantifiable and comparable merit criteria were not applied. It was found that project proposals were mainly assessed against basic eligibility criteria.
Three of the GIF's eligible categories were duplicated in up to six other programs. Concerns were raised that this may have created a more complex environment for applicants. However, no negative impacts were seen.
Performance – Achievement of Outcomes
The GIF is making progress toward achieving its expected outcomes. The GIF contributed to an increase in overall green funding by INFC. Between 2001 and 2008, INFC allocated 14% of all funds to green infrastructure. From 2009 to 2015, the GIF accounted for an additional 6% of green infrastructure funding, increasing the department's funding for green infrastructure projects to 20% of all funding. However, limited data was available on the contribution of the GIF to a more sustainable environment. At the time of the evaluation, preliminary performance data was only available for two completed projects. It was estimated that they would contribute to an annual reduction of 16,387 tons of greenhouse gases.
Performance – Efficiency and Economy
Due to data limitations, the evaluation was unable to report on administrative costs associated with the GIF. It was also determined that the way in which the utilization of full-time equivalents (FTEs) is tracked may be unreliable. However, a review of funded projects, FTEs and federal contribution expenditures revealed that the efficiency of the GIF was comparable to that of the Building Canada Fund – Major Infrastructure Component (BCF-MIC).
It was also found that, as compared to the BCF-MIC, construction for GIF projects was slow to get underway. On average, it took 62.6% longer for projects funded by the GIF to start than projects funded by BCF-MIC.
The recommendations are based on the key evaluation findings and conclusions, with due consideration to the fact that the GIF has not been renewed. The recommendations therefore focus on lessons learned and considerations for future programming.
- To increase transparency for potential applicants, it is recommended that future program design considers:
- Better defining key terms, especially those that affect project eligibility and assessment criteria (e.g. national significance, public benefits, provincial/territorial support, and project categories and sub-categories); and communicating all assessment criteria and definitions to potential applicants.
- When delivering merit-based programs, in order to ensure that the best projects are selected, it is recommended that:
- Project assessment and selection for merit-based programs include robust, defined and distinct eligibility requirements and merit criteria that enable the department to select and approve projects that maximize the achievement of the outcomes of the program.
- In order to facilitate reporting on resource utilization and alignment and to support future program planning, it is recommended that:
- The department reinforce its approach to tracking the utilization of FTEs and administrative costs per program in the financial system to ensure that managers are aware of their responsibilities to provide reliable data and information at the program level.
- Footnote 1
The GIF was originally a $1 billion funding program, but $275 million was reallocated.
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