Performance measurement: Canada’s perspective

17 October 2023
By Sean P. Borg, Director, Policy Integration, Planning and Performance Oversight Division, Trade and Anti-dumping Programs, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

Crafting a performance measurement system

Measuring performance shows a commitment to transparency, accountability, and effective governance. For a nation embarking on this path, the approach of the CBSA may offer guidance. A wise move would be to establish a small oversight team, akin to the five-person planning and performance oversight unit I oversee at the CBSA, to provide direction and consistency in practices.

The team should craft a performance measurement system by taking the following steps:

  1. Outlining objectives: taking a cue from the CBSA’s approach, start by outlining objectives when it comes to Customs operations including revenue optimization, integrity preservation, and continual refinement.
  2. Harvesting relevant data: identify relevant data sources and points. This could include Customs operations data, revenue collection statistics, and trade figures.
  3. Harmonizing with global practices: consider integrating KPIs from the WCO PMM. These KPIs establish a universal framework for assessing Customs performance, allowing for thorough analysis and comparative evaluations.
WCO launches its Performance Measurement Mechanism

The WCO Performance Measurement Mechanism (WCO PMM) was endorsed by the Council in June 2023. See the article introducing this new tool in this edition of the magazine.

Embarking on programme oversight

Oversight refers to the actions taken to review and monitor policies, plans, programmes, and projects, to ensure that they are achieving expected results, represent good value for money, and are in compliance with applicable policies, laws, regulations, and ethical standards.

Individuals or teams in charge of oversight activities should:

  1. Understand the fabric of Customs operations from the ground up. This requires conducting comprehensive assessments of existing practices.
  2. Design an oversight framework that designates dedicated oversight teams or individuals responsible for monitoring the performance of Customs operations according to the measurement system KPIs.
  3. Fuse data by combining oversight data with performance data. This synergy paints a nuanced picture of Customs operations’ intricacies.

Using the WCO Performance measurement mechanism

The WCO PMM and CBSA performance measurement model are similar. This is no coincidence, given the collaborative approach adopted by the Customs administrations who participated in the WCO Working Group on Performance Measurement.

For a Customs administration taking its first steps towards performance measurement and programme oversight, the WCO PMM and its guidance materials provide an excellent starting point and platform. Committing to continuous improvement, integrating PMM KPIs, fostering collaboration, and nurturing effective governance paves the way for Customs operations that are transparent, efficient, and accountable.

The engagement of CBSA in the work of the WCO brought me to Kingston, Jamaica in January 2023, where I partnered with the WCO Secretariat to deliver a performance measurement planning workshop to the Jamaican Customs Agency (JCA). The Agency had been striving to develop a national assessment system to assess the outcomes and impact of its various units’ activities. Thanks to the workshop, participants understood the linkages between performance measurement data, strategic decision-making and the betterment of their agency and were all enthusiastic at the prospect of using the WCO Performance Measurement Mechanism.

A Performance Measurement Mechanism Project Team (PMMPT) has been set up by the WCO to maintain and develop the mechanism and CBSA will continue working on performance measurement with the Customs community through this new working body. I hope many other administrations will join as well.