Evaluation of the Green Infrastructure Fund
- Conclusions and recommendations
Conclusions and Recommendations
There is a demonstrable need for continued funding for the four green infrastructure categories eligible under the GIF. However, because the GIF defined green infrastructure by wastewater, green energy generation and transmission, carbon transmission and storage, and solid waste management, these were the only areas assessed. As such, the evaluation could not conclude whether there is a need for green infrastructure funding outside of the four established categories.
The objectives of the GIF are aligned to the current departmental objectives and support federal priorities. The federal roles and responsibilities within the GIF are appropriate and legitimate.
5.2 Performance - Design and Delivery
The design of the GIF was unique to INFC in that it was the first program dedicated to green infrastructure and one of few programs that did not use provincial and territorial allocations. However, the way in which the program was designed and delivered was problematic in terms of transparency and communication. Evidence showed that there was a lack of transparency between INFC and potential applicants. It was found that not all eligibility criteria were well-defined or publicly accessible, and as such a high number of ineligible applications were received. The lack of transparency and undefined eligibility criteria increased the burden on INFC staff by creating a scenario where over 80% of applications were not eligible for funding from the GIF.
By clearly defining key terms, especially those that affect project eligibility and assessment criteria (e.g. national significance, public benefits, provincial/territorial support, project categories and sub-categories), and communicating all assessment criteria and definitions, future applicants would be in a better position to understand which program to apply to and whether their project is eligible, maximizing the use of resources required to prepare applications.
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.
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.
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 the project proposals were mainly assessed against basic eligibility criteria. While only 20 of 198 applications were accepted for funding, another 11 met the eligibility criteria, but were not selected. It is therefore possible that had a merit-based approach been used, a different selection of projects would have been funded; however, it cannot be said conclusively whether this is the case or not. Ultimately, the use of a merit-based approach should ensure the selection of the best projects (i.e. projects that will maximize expected outcomes and be good value for the investment).
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.
5.3 Performance - Achievement of Expected Outcomes
Despite the issues noted with the design and delivery of the GIF, it was found to be making progress towards achieving its intended outcomes. The GIF intended to increase overall funding for green infrastructure projects and the number of green infrastructure projects. While only two projects were complete at the time of the evaluation, it was determined that the GIF resulted in an increase from 14% to 20% of INFC funding being directed to green infrastructure projects. The increased funding ultimately resulted in an additional 20 green infrastructure projects.
In the long term, the program is expected to contribute positively to the economy and the environment. With only two projects completed, it was too early to conclude whether the GIF will achieve these goals.
5.4 Performance - Demonstration of Efficiency and Economy
Administrative data is collected at a program level, but is unreliable due to methodological issues. As mentioned in past evaluations of the Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF), the Border Infrastructure Fund (BIF), and Canada's Economic Action Plan Initiatives, it is difficult to assess the administrative cost of a given program.
The way in which resources are recorded does not provide an accurate picture of overall alignment and utilization of FTEs. It was found that POB provides annual estimates of resource allocation by program. Although they have the opportunity to provide updates to estimates of resource usage, some POB managers do not update forecasts, impacting the quality of reporting. These numbers were aggregated and applied to P&C Branch as per the POB methodology, without consideration of variances between the roles of the two branches. As such, resource alignment and utilization are reported based on estimates. This has an impact on INFC's ability to plan for future programming and estimate and report on the cost to deliver programs (dollars and FTEs). That said, it could be determined that the efficiency of the GIF was similar to that of the BCF-MIC in terms of outputs in relation to FTEs.
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.
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