Wednesday, 17 October 2007

More on LAC's budget

As a public servant focused on delivering a program I found the government budgetary process arcane, a shell game. Reallocations, freezes, suspense accounts and over-programming meant one could never really be sure of the financial situation. Finance officers seemed to make sport of moving money around.

On the face of it, according to its 2007/2008 Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP), available here, the government appropriation to Library and Archives Canada will decline from this year. It lists the following spending for Budgetary Main Estimates:

2006/07 - $109.6M
2007/08 - $119.9M
2008/09 - $101.5M
2009/10 - $99.9M

However, LAC DG of Services, Michelle Doucet, last Friday explained to me that the peak spending this year is attributable to one-time funding for capital projects, largely the National Portrait Gallery. That funding had not been anticipated in prior years. In the 2006/07 RPP the amount for this year was planned as $104.3M. In the 2005/06 RPP $91.4M was planned for this year, well below the $119.9M eventually allocated.

Given this record Michelle expressed her conviction that there is no need to be concerned there will be a drastic cut in the funding appropriated to LAC in 2008/09, if you don't count one time capital allocations. Variation owing to capital projects funding can always be anticipated. As is common everywhere in government there is a chronic lack of resources. Client support for the organization mission is always helpful.

According to Michelle the cut in hours of opening at 395 Wellington occurred because management made a decision to reallocate funds away from keeping the building at 395 Wellington open for as many hours as previously. The funds are reallocated to digitization initiatives.

The impact of the cut in hours is apparent in downloading of costs to researchers of all types who must stay extra days in Ottawa, or make extra trips to the building to complete their research. Sometimes a conflict with work hours makes visiting all but impossible.

For some of those researchers the pain might have been easier to bear if the benefits of increased digitization were made obvious. Sometimes one can tolerate short term pain for long term gain if the gain is sufficiently attractive. Instead we are given an intangible, digitization. That has the air of pie in the sky when you died by and by, especially for those wanting to examine records where the prospects of digitization are remote.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

As Jerry Maguire said "Show me the money"!! If what the LAC says is to be believed, what are the exact dollars/resources that have been re-allocated and what is the "digitization" plan. To date, the LAC has never identified what its digitization plan is in either the short or long term (again there would need to be consultation one would assume and there has been NONE to date). If resources have truly been re-allocated (with the public service cut back announcement of August, we now have had TWO months of LAC thinking), what exactly has been re-allocated and where have the dollars/resources gone or are the LAC's public statements just smoke and mirrors or as you say a "shell game."

WJM said...

Not only that - a lot of the material that has already been digitized has been POORLY digitized. I've been pleasantly surprised to find links to some scanned material, only to then find that the resolution is so bad that the scans are nearly useless given the originals, having not been produced or made available at a high-enough resolution.

Yet another problem that would have been avoided if LAC had consulted with its users BEFORE embarking upon something. Really, LAC, is that too much to ask?