OTTAWA — The department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada will launch a system Monday to more efficiently process applications for the Indian Registry System.

In a workshop about ensuring accountability within a multi-jurisdictional

project, Christian Dussault outlined how he navigated his team through the Indian Registry System (IRS)/ Certificate of Indian Status (CIS) project. The workshop was part of the the Strategic Project Management for the Public Sector conference Thursday.

Dussault, the project manager for IRS/CIS, said the initiative has met its objectives, even though only three out of four phases will be launched next week.

“That doesn’t mean the project failed, not all. Everything is still ready to go,” he said.

Phase one to three included evaluating the native status card – which eligible citizens have for entitlement to certain services and benefits – redoing the application system to apply for such a card and deploying the new system.

The fourth aspect of the project deals with creating and deploying a new CIS card for the 700,000 registered natives across the country and consequently for any new applicants who obtain status.

The new card would be a plastic version with anti-fraud features such as a hologram, electronic signature, micro-printing and special ink that would be difficult to recreate. The card in use today is a laminated, paper version. The new card is expected to reduce known fraud from 3.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent. This creates a dual benefit, offering a better service to card users and stakeholders as well as saving the government money, Dussault said.

A 1993 study estimated a 10 per cent misuse rate for the status card, equalling about $62 million annually.

The total cost for all four phases is about $17 million, with the first three aspects consuming a little less than $8 million. The fourth phase takes more ongoing funding to process the claims and for necessary equipment. While the project in its entirety is ready to go, the national treasury board has not committed funding for the final phase.

There are about 300,000 applicants in the system seeking a status card. Prior to revamping the registration process, it could be expected an eligible recipient would wait a couple years to receive status. The new system is expected to take 36 hours at worst, using technology to facilitate the process, Dussault said. Improvements include keeping family trees electronically so if another family member applies it is not necessary to do all the research again, manually.

Despite esteemed results the project was not without challenges. “You need to make sure you focus on the requirement not the solution, focus on trying to understand how the project will be used. We lost track of that for a bit and had to back up,” he said.

In 1999, a pilot project was launched in Alberta in conjunction with Treaty 7 organizers to test the plastic status cards plan as well as the issuance process. It was enhanced in 2002 because stakeholders, such at vision and health providers did not have the equipment in place to process the proposed new card. There was also debate about including a chip on the card.

Although Dussault noted some potential users expressed unease, citing the chip resembled a tracking system, the treasury board maintained interest in the technology. A space has been left on the card where the chip could be placed.

The Indian Registry System (IRS)/ Certificate of Indian Status (CIS) pilot project is expected to continue until March 2004.

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