The stage of monitoring and reporting on how well government departments and voluntary organizations are adhering to the accord and codes of good practice, and promoting compliance requires the creation of more permanent machinery. As experience elsewhere has demonstrated, several mechanisms are required for effective monitoring and compliance:
None of the existing agreements have yet developed a satisfactory, visible mechanism for registering complaints, although such a process is in the process of evolving. As noted above, the JAT may wish to consider in advance how the process might work for dealing with complaints about practices of both government departments and voluntary organizations.
- the requirement of an annual report to Parliament, and through Parliament to the sector, on the state of the relationship that surveys and reports on how government departments and voluntary organizations are meeting the undertakings of the accord. Resources for the collection and analysis of such information will need to be booked as part of the VSI.
- a joint working group that has responsibility for producing this report;
- an annual meeting between sector leaders and key ministers and senior officials that results in agreement on an action plan for improvements in the relationship as needed;
- an administrative unit within the federal government that has sufficient credibility with departments that it can promote consistency in practices and that is backed with adequate Ministerial clout that it can command compliance. Such a unit might also be the vehicle for hearing complaints about inappropriate conduct from either side, although this has not been tested in jurisdictions with a framework agreement in place. The unit needs to be centrally placed, rather than in a line department where it would lack the requisite credibility with other departments.22 The natural home of such a unit would be in a central agency, probably the Privy Council Office as a continuation of the Voluntary Sector Task Force. However, housing an interdepartmental coordinating unit would be an uneasy fit for the PCO in its role as secretariat to Cabinet. But, there is no obvious alternative home. The placement and mandate of this unit will be critical to the ongoing monitoring of the accord and thus the VSR and JAT should be prepared to have a position on this.
- ongoing development by a lead organization(s) in the sector that publicizes the accord, informs voluntary organizations of their responsibilities under it and provides access to training for improving practices. Experience in England has shown the importance of ongoing development: the first annual survey of the sector following the implementation of the compact revealed that although most of the sector was well aware of the compact and its scope, there was a lack of understanding about the benefits that it could bring to voluntary and community organizations and only 8 percent had found it useful so far in their dealings with government. The NCVO has hired a full-time Compact Development Office to lead the ongoing information and training initiative. The VSR will need to develop a plan and secure resources for similar development activities and decide in which organization(s) this staff support will be placed.
What kinds of complaints are likely to arise? In the UK, the issues that have been brought forward by the sector to date relate to funding practices (in this case by the Department of Health) and were quite quickly addressed. In the Canadian context, issues related to both funding and consultation can be expected to arise as these are the areas in which government practices most directly impact the everyday activities of voluntary organizations.
In proposing an accord in the first place, the Joint Tables' Working Together report suggested that it should be 'evergreen,' that is capable of evolving as the relationship matures. As a framework agreement, an accord should have sufficient inherent flexibility to allow such natural evolution, but the JAT might want to consider incorporating a more formal provision in the accord for periodic joint review, say every five years.
The final consideration in the ongoing monitoring process is managing expectations. Knowledge about the accord will take time to be diffused throughout the sector, and relationships and practices will not be changed overnight. Nor can the accord alone change the relationship. If the first annual report or two do not yet show major changes, the accord should not be regarded as a failure. A important role of the sector's leadership in this stage will be to continue to build knowledge and support for the accord, but also to prevent overly optimistic expectations from derailing the change that is likely to unfold over time.