Jun 09 2011
OTTAWA - Delays in updating vital criminal record information have increased significantly because of mismanagement and funding shortfalls for national police services, says the federal spending watchdog.
In a report tabled Thursday, interim auditor general John Wiersema said the RCMP - which administers a slate of crucial police services - was scrambling to find enough money to keep them afloat.
Wiersema's audit focused on four areas: forensic laboratory services, the national DNA data bank, the federal criminal intelligence service, and a computerized system for running fingerprint and criminal record checks.
Despite a commitment to do so, the RCMP has not taken satisfactory steps to act on recommendations to improve police services in three previous audit reports dating from 2000, Wiersema concluded.
"We are concerned with the lack of progress in this area,'' he said in a statement. "The federal government, working with provincial, territorial and municipal partners, needs to decide which police services should be provided and how they should be delivered and funded.''
Backlogs and delays in updating criminal record information had increased to 14 months for English updates and to 36 months for French updates from five months in 2000, he found.
Overall, the outstanding criminal record update backlog had jumped to 1.4 million from 186,000 in 2005-06.
In addition, technological updates to key national information systems have been delayed.
To make ends meet, the RCMP has trimmed some programs to help fund the national police services.
The shuffling increased available monies for the services but other RCMP programs, mainly federal policing, were cut back. In particular, the RCMP's federal international operations directorate - which has responsibility for organized crime probes, border integrity, drug enforcement and money laundering - had to slash its budget by almost $48 million, or eight per cent, in the last fiscal year.
"The RCMP finds that it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue funding the rising costs of providing national police services through internal reallocation,'' the report says.
The RCMP and the Public Safety Department, which oversees the police force, agreed with the auditor's recommendations.
The forensic laboratory services do biology casework and toxicology tests, examine trace evidence, identify fingerprints, and analyze firearms and ballistics samples. These services - popularized by television shows such as the various Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) series - have become more important for zeroing in on criminals as well as exonerating innocent people.
The Conservative government has launched a wide-ranging review of the RCMP's long-troubled DNA labs and other forensic services, opening the door to possible private-sector delivery.
Last year the Public Safety Department began seeking advice - including a look at how things are done in other countries - to help determine the best way forward in Canada.
However, Wiersema urged the government to look at all national police services to determine whether there are better, more cost-effective ways of doing things.
The government said an overall study of the 12 national services administered by the RCMP - from the forensic labs to a national sex offenders registry - would be completed by the end of next March.