REGARDING a new report, Skills Immigration Stream of the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program, released on Tuesday, B.C.’s Acting Auditor General Russ Jones said: “We found the ministry has managed the PNP’s performance to support the economy and fill labour gaps, but we also found the ministry isn’t doing enough to manage fraud risks.”
The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) is an immigration program that lets B.C. attract and retain immigrants to help address labour market needs and contribute to economic development.
B.C.’s Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness nominates successful applicants to the federal government for permanent residency. Almost all nominees come through the Skills Immigration stream of the BC PNP – the focus of this audit.
Because of the BC PNP’s significance to the province’s economy, the audit examined:
* how well the ministry managed the program’s performance, which included looking at its targets and outcomes; and
* whether the ministry had effectively managed the risk of fraud
Jones said both issues are key to knowing whether the ministry is choosing applicants who are most likely to contribute to economic growth.
The audit found the ministry always nominated the maximum number of workers allowed by the federal government. More than 85% of immigrants who became permanent residents through the program stayed in B.C. and more than 90% of those who have come since 2012 were still employed.
“Those are indicators the program is working as intended,” Jones said. “More could be done to refine targets and analyze the program’s design to maximize economic benefits, and that work is underway.”
The audit found that the ministry had safeguards, but it had not done a structured assessment of all risks posed by fraud. “That’s key to knowing the ministry has the right safeguards in place and that they work,” Jones said.
The audit also found that certain expected safeguards were missing and that the ministry had not consistently monitored the use of its safeguards.
The report (see link below) states that there were gaps in the ministry’s safeguards against misrepresentation and fraud.
It notes: “We found areas where the ministry was missing safeguards against the risk of fraud and misrepresentation identified by both staff and good practice recommendations for managing fraud risk. Gaps included the lack of a sanction for fraud by immigration representatives or of a fraud reporting mechanism for the public, and no flagging of high-risk applications in the case management system. These gaps heightened the risk of the ministry not detecting or addressing fraudulent applications and then approving them.”
Under “Lack of sanction for fraud by immigration representatives,” the report states: “Applicants to the PNP can use representatives to assist them with the registration and application process, although this is not a requirement. During our audit period, more than half of applicants had declared that a representative assisted them with their application. PNP staff encountered situations where an immigration representative knowingly supported an applicant’s lying about qualifications or a job offer. Staff also encountered situations where they believed an applicant, employer and representative had colluded to get around PNP rules.”
It adds: “While the Provincial Immigration Programs Act allows the ministry refuse to accept applications for two years from applicants or employers who commit misrepresentation, it does not provide a similar sanction for immigration representatives. The ministry must rely on the regulatory bodies—the Law Society and the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC)—to investigate and discipline representatives who behave unethically. The ministry’s policy is to not communicate with the immigration representative if they are suspended or not in good standing with the regulatory body. It is unclear whether this is an effective deterrent.”
The audit recommends:
1. The ministry define a comprehensive set of key performance measures and targets for the BC PNP to more fully understand progress made in meeting labour market needs and supporting economic development.
2. The ministry assess the effectiveness of the Skills Immigration stream’s program design (i.e., categories, criteria and point system through periodic analysis of program and outcome data, and make improvements as needed to achieve program objectives.
3. The ministry make changes to its systems and procedures to ensure that it collects reliable data to enable regular analysis of program performance.
4. The ministry develop and implement a risk management framework consistent with good practice expectations to:
a) identify and assess the risks of misrepresentation, fraud and corruption
b) design and implement safeguards to mitigate the identified risks
c) monitor effectiveness of safeguards and take action to address any deficiencies identified
Economists predict 861,000 job openings in B.C. between 2019 and 2029, due to factors such as retirement and new jobs. Too many unfilled openings can hurt the economy by slowing business productivity, which impacts government’s ability to raise taxes to fund programs and services. Immigrants are expected to fill about 30% of the openings.
Each year the ministry reviews applications from thousands of potential immigrants to the PNP. Applicants must demonstrate their ability to contribute to the economy based on criteria such as work experience, education and language ability. Most also need a job offer.
“The PNP lets B.C. influence the skills and experiences that new British Columbians bring to the workforce, at a time when economists are telling us that we face significant labour and skill shortages in key areas of the economy,” said Jones. “It’s important to get things right.”
Most provinces have provincial nominee programs, which are set up with individual agreements with the federal government. In 2018, one in five nominees in Canada came to B.C. From 2015 to 2018, approximately 32,000 people (including nominated workers and their spouses and dependents) became permanent residents in B.C. through the PNP.
The audit covered the period from January 2017 to November 2019 and was completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the pandemic may have an impact on the level of immigration to B.C., our audit findings will still be relevant to improving the program going forward,” said Jones.
Report: Skills Immigration Stream of the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program: