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Report on the Review of Acquisition Processes for Collections

December 2010

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Findings and Recommendations

6. Acquisitions Management Controls

6.1 Major Acquisitions

Major acquisitions are reviewed and approved by the MAC, as set out in the mandate. However, the decision-making process and control mechanisms for major acquisitions (including the formal description of decision-making criteria used by the MAC to justify its decisions) are not documented in an acquisition policy.

Moreover, we noted that in 2008–09, the MAC had approved only 3 of the 68 documents purchased by the CASCB, even though the value of these three documents represented 61% of the total value of CASCB purchases. A similar situation occurred the previous year where the MAC approved only 7 of 129 purchases made by the CASCB, which accounted for 44% of the total value.

Consequently, we cannot determine whether the major acquisition process formally takes into account the key directions set out in the CDF, given the following:

The minutes of the MAC meetings held between May 28 and November 27, 2008, do not indicate the selection criteria the committee used to approve the major acquisitions submitted to it, even though an Acquisition Proposal (AP) signed by the archivist involved and his or her manager was included for each submission and it contains a section for justifying the acquisition based on evaluation criteria.

A review of the seven APs requiring MAC approval showed that these documents do not take into consideration an evaluation of all selection criteria that are relevant to making decisions, as set out in Collection Development – Procedures: Evaluation Criteria for Archival Documents. In some cases, minimal information was provided in the acquisition proposals for committee decision making and approval, in accordance with LAC's mission, mandate and directions.

6.2 Related Costs

Costs were distributed by activity in an accounting exercise conducted in 2005–06, but this exercise has not been updated since that time. However, it covered only LAC's labour costs, without including operating costs that would have helped establish the total cost of ownership by type of collection.

This situation is not consistent with Directions for Change which promotes the use of tools like the total cost of ownership methodology to ensure effective heritage stewardship and manage risks.

The CASCB has not developed a methodology that takes related costs into account in the decision-making process for acquisitions. Consequently, the managers responsible for collection development do not report any financial information concerning the related costs of acquisitions.

This situation exists despite the fact that a large volume of acquisitions comes from donations to LAC, even though related costs are one of the evaluation criteria set out in Collection Development – Procedures: Evaluation Criteria for Archival Documents. These related costs involve activities such as planning, negotiations, retrieval, restoration, presentation, protection, preservation and evaluation of archive documents acquired by LAC.

The PHB and PGCP do not report any financial information on related costs in the acquisition of published documents and portraits.

6.3 Acquisitions

Nine purchases were selected, from acquisitions made between 2003 and 2008, for the following types of documents under CASCB responsibility: rare books (3), music (3) and cartography (3). Three purchases were selected for the PHB and three purchases for the PGCP. Given that these total 15 purchases are not a representative sample; the results of the review of these purchases cannot be extrapolated to all acquisitions made for the CASCB, the PHB and the PGCP. However these results do identify the controls in place and the inherent risks.

a) CASCB acquisitions for the Rare Books, Music and Cartography Sections

The nine purchases examined are supported by records maintained by those responsible for initiating the acquisitions. We compared the information that justifies the selection of acquisitions with the decision-making selection criteria as set out in Collection Development – Procedures: Evaluation Criteria for Archival Documents.

The cost evaluation in five of seven purchases was documented internally or externally to ensure that the price paid by LAC reflected fair market value. Two purchases did not contain any written justification for the price paid.

With the exception of one purchase, the acquisitions reviewed do not relate to the key directions set out in the CDF. The archival acquisitions reviewed are supported appropriately by standard contracts containing clauses on access and copyright, reproduction and exhibition. All of the purchases reviewed contain an appropriate catalogue reference in AMICUS or MIKAN.

b) PHB acquisitions

In all three purchases reviewed, acquisitions made by the PHB's acquisition section are documented and recorded in the AMICUS catalogue. However, the selection criteria that justify the purchase of publications are not documented.

Two of the three purchases are not related to the key directions set out in the CDF.

c) PGCP acquisitions

All three of the purchases reviewed are supported by records maintained by those responsible for initiating them. These records contain little information to justify the selection of acquisitions based on an evaluation of the decision-making selection criteria set out in the PGCP's policy on acquisitions and commissioned work.

The cost evaluation for two of the three purchases was documented externally to ensure that the price paid for these two acquisitions was consistent with fair market value.

The three purchases reviewed are not linked to the key directions set out in the CDF. Where required, the PGCP's acquisitions are supported appropriately by a standard contract that contains clauses on access and copyright, reproduction and exhibition. All three purchases were catalogued in MIKAN.

As noted in Section 3, LAC does not have an acquisition policy that contains a policy statement and guidelines on analogue and digital document acquisition. Moreover, guidelines on the decision-making process, control mechanisms as part of active oversight, selection criteria and related-costs methodology could also be included. Active oversight would enable LAC management to detect and report risks or control deficiencies as soon as possible, and take corrective and preventive measures promptly and effectively when issues with major repercussions are raised.

Recommendation 6

LAC should develop guidelines on:

  • control mechanisms to ensure appropriate oversight of the acquisition process;
  • active and ongoing monitoring methods for management's use in the acquisition process;
  • use of the total cost of ownership methodology;
  • the need to carefully document the assessment of selection criteria relevant to decision making in all records.

Management response

As part of the second Modernization Innovation Initiative, LAC will develop an acquisition governance model that contains specific components on control mechanisms, oversight methods, and documentation procedures.

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