Sunday, June 1, 2008


Canada border documents missing: audit


Canadian Press

June 1, 2008 at 2:36 PM EDT

OTTAWA — Thousands of blank forms used to issue work permits and other valuable documents for visitors to Canada are going missing because border officers are sloppy about security, says a new audit.

Security for the forms, which are highly coveted on the black market, has been mismanaged by poorly trained staff at the Canada Border Services Agency, investigators found.

At least 44,000 of the blanks disappeared from just one office, and although most of those have been recovered 2,000 remain unaccounted for.

The audit report notes that the forms are especially valued by criminals because they can be used as identification to rip off welfare and health programs, or to secure other official documents.

“The risk associated with the forms may not only be fraudulent use to gain entry to Canada, but also the ability to access secondary services offered by the country,” says the internal report.

Not only are the forms disappearing, but top officials at the agency have been kept in the dark about the problems.

“The reporting of immigration controlled forms that were unaccounted for and of other security incidents related to them was not always performed properly,” the agency's auditors warned.

“Senior management had not always been properly informed of security incidents.”

The blank forms are used to create work permits, study permits and temporary resident permits for qualified immigrants at major customs points, such as the airports in Toronto and Vancouver, and the land crossing at Douglas, B.C.

Each coloured form features a unique serial number, the Canada logo and Canadian coat of arms, along with embedded security markings similar to those on a passport. They're required to be kept under lock and key at each location.

The agency declined to provide examples to The Canadian Press for security reasons, although images of the forms are readily available on the Internet.

Almost 285,000 completed forms were issued at immigration points in 2006-2007 by border officers, who took over the job from Citizenship and Immigration more than four years ago.

But the transfer of that responsibility came without proper training, policies or procedures — which has meant hundreds of blank forms remain awol.

After visiting eight border points from British Columbia to Quebec, the auditors found that four stations did not properly document whether they had shredded unused forms. The offices “cannot confirm if the forms . . . were destroyed in the appropriate manner or were actually destroyed.”

Paperwork was incomplete or missing in many offices. Security procedures were lax at almost all locations. And the Canada Border Services Agency had not even appointed a senior official to ensure that policies were up to date and being followed everywhere.

A spokesman said the agency is still looking for the 2,000 missing blanks.

“The CBSA takes the accountability of controlled forms very seriously and will make every effort to locate these forms as quickly as possible,” Derek Mellon said in an e-mail.

Mr. Mellon said the office where the forms went missing, which he did not identify, had been undergoing renovations at the time of the disappearance.

“The CBSA has initiated a review of the current procedures surrounding the recording of the controlled forms and will continue the investigation until all the forms are accounted for.”

Mr. Mellon also said the agency is improving training, has appointed a senior official to oversee forms security, and by October this year will have a monitoring system in place to ensure staff across the country are following the rules.

Applicants seeking work permits must pay a $150 fee; study permit applications cost $125.