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Practice Guide to Auditing Efficiency

Characteristics of Application Processes

The primary objective of an application process is to control access to a privilege (for example, driving, hunting, and fishing licences) or a program (for example, student loans or social assistance). Many government programs are accessed through similar processes, which are, in effect, gatekeeping functions. Accurate processing and decision making according to established criteria are important to achieve stewardship over public resources and compliance with legislation and policy.

Government programs that receive applications for loans, grants, permits or licences often deal with large volumes of data and must manage processes that include multiple points where applications can be approved or denied. There may be opportunities to automate some of these processes to increase efficiency.

Typically, application processes consist of the following major components:

Legislation, regulations, and policies to govern the program.

Communication of the program or licensing requirement, including eligibility criteria and an application process.

A system to receive applications, which may be manual or electronic.

A system for adjudication of applications, which may include multiple decision points, requirements for submission of additional information, and verification of information. Adjudication may be manual or electronic.

Notification of results of the adjudication process, including issuing licences or other access documents. There are often time limits on approvals (for example, five-year drivers’ licences), which require periodic renewals and notification of expiry to licencees.

An appeal process, which provides for independent review in the event that the applicant is not satisfied with the decision.

Monitoring and reporting various aspects of program performance, including service standards (for example, time to process an application), statistics, and financial measures.

Continuous improvement and innovation to ensure the program is current and based on good practices.

Figure 1 illustrates how the main components of an application process are integrated to achieve program objectives. It also shows the components classified into the standard Plan-Do-Check-Act Management Model.

Figure 1

Components of an Application or Licensing Process

Components of an Application or Licensing Process

A key challenge for the managers of application processes is to balance efficiency, particularly timely processing of applications, with the need to control access according to legislation and policy.

Controlling access to programs and licences starts with the requirement that program management comply with legislation, regulation, and policies and that entities verify information submitted by applicants to ensure that it is accurate and reliable for decision-making purposes. Approaches to verification should be based on risk assessment.

Granting access or a licence to ineligible applicants can result in public safety concerns; for example, granting a drivers’ licence to someone who has not passed a driving examination or approving immigration status for a known criminal. Program management has the important responsibility of ensuring that the relationships between efficiency, controls, and risk are appropriate based on risk assessment and judgments about risk tolerance. The risk of granting access to a program or a licence to applicants who do not meet requirements increases in situations where too much emphasis on efficiency has resulted in an excessive reduction of controls.