Audit of Inventory Management
An assessment of this report with respect to provisions in the Access to Information Act produced no exemptions; therefore this report is presented in its entirety.
Table of Contents
- Acronyms and Abbreviations
- Executive Summary
- Management's Response to the Review
- 1. Background
- 2. Objective, Scope, Methodology and Statement of Conformance
- 3. Audit Findings
- 4. Conclusion
- 5. Recommendations
- Appendix A - Audit Objectives and Criteria
Acronyms and Abbreviations
- Major Event Management of Assets
- Plant Maintenance Module
- Risk-Based Audit Plan
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Total Expenditures and Asset Management
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reported inventory holdings of $57.4M in their (unaudited) Financial Statements for the Year Ended March 31, 2014. This included items held at Divisional Stores and at national level warehouses. In addition, significant amounts of in-use equipment are held by various units across the country. Given the financial significance, this audit was conducted to assess whether these inventories are managed effectively and efficiently and whether savings could be realized through process improvements.
Inventory holdings at Divisional Stores exceed current requirements. A portion of the holdings is dormant - some with no issues within the last three years - or slow moving - with current holdings exceeding annual demand. There is not sufficient guidance regarding what items should be maintained by Divisional Stores, and an absence of efficient processes to identify and dispose of obsolete items. Enhanced management could significantly reduce the resulting cost of carrying these items.
In addition, the method that the RCMP has put in place to track in-use equipment costing less than $10,000 and attractive items needs improvement as it is not satisfying the intended objective. Current records of these holdings are not accurate, and the effort required to properly maintain these records using processes currently in place exceeds the value of the resulting information. A review is warranted to determine an alternate method.
As well, monitoring and oversight of inventory management activities are not sufficient. Inventory information is used primarily for financial reporting purposes and not as a means of assessing the management of holdings. Benefits could be realized by analyzing available system information to identify issues that should be proactively addressed.
This audit report includes recommendations that seek to improve the efficiency of existing management practices and which could result in on-going savings. The management response demonstrates the commitment from senior management to address the findings and recommendations. A detailed management action plan is currently being developed. Once approved, RCMP Internal Audit will monitor its implementation and undertake a follow-up audit if warranted.
Management's Response to the Review
Corporate Management agrees with the findings and recommendations. Steps are already underway in relation to some of the observations in the audit such as a detailed review of the Uniform & Equipment program and inventory management practices.
A strategy session, to be led by myself, has been scheduled for March 3-4, 2015 to establish the underlying action plan and will include national and divisional representation from Corporate Management and Operations. The intent is to develop consensus from key stakeholders, the respective policy centres and business lines on the best way of moving forward to enhance the management of materiel held in inventories.
We have taken the contents of this report seriously, and are committed to the development of an appropriate Materiel Management Policy Suite for Inventories including low value assets, an enhanced Performance Management Framework for Divisional Stores and other inventories and recommendations for an improved operational and oversight structure for Divisional Stores. We appreciate the feedback provided by this audit, and we commit to developing a detailed action plan by March 16, 2015. This action plan will contain specific time lines and milestones to which the RCMP will adhere.
Alain Duplantie, MBA, CPA, CGA
Chief Financial and Administrative Officer
In April 2014, the Commissioner approved an audit of Inventory Management as part of the 2014-2017 Risk-Based Audit Plan (RBAP). Previous internal audit engagements within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have examined related areas of asset management including investment planning, moveable assets (land and marine fleets), as well as the management of real property.
The RCMP's inventory is of significant value. As of March 31, 2014, the RCMP reported inventory holdings of approximately $57.4 million, including $30.0 million in uniforms and equipment, $11.5 million in firearms, ammunition and parts, and $15.8 million in 'other'. Best practices in inventory management seek to minimize the risk of having insufficient stock (stockouts) while also minimizing inventory carrying costs, and the amount of money tied up in stock holdings. The objective of this audit was to assess the current situation within the RCMP to determine if these risks have been appropriately mitigated and if process efficiencies related to inventory management are practical.
The RCMP's Assets Management and Programs Branch, through its Moveable Assets and Materiel Management Section, is responsible for developing and maintaining policies and standards governing the acquisition, maintenance, and disposal of materiel. Regional Assets and Procurement Management offices are responsible for the procurement of materiel and equipment to support operational activities and for ensuring sound stewardship of assets through life-cycle management, including inventory counts and disposal processes. Divisional units are responsible for safeguarding 'attractive' items and low dollar value equipment by maintaining records of these items in the Plant Maintenance Module (PMM) of the Total Expenditures and Asset Management (TEAM) system.
The Treasury Board Policy on Materiel Management requires that a materiel management regime be in place that supports cost-effective and efficient delivery of programs. RCMP policies on materiel management are documented in the Asset Management Manual.
2. Objective, Scope, Methodology and Statement of Conformance
The objective of this audit engagement was to assess whether current processes and practices support effective and efficient inventory management.
The audit consisted of an assessment of the processes and management practices in place that relate to the planning, acquisition, tracking, monitoring, safeguarding, and disposal of materiel at Divisional Stores and Armouries for the period of March 2012 to November 2014. In addition, the audit included review of the processes for tracking attractive items and low dollar value equipment as well as some review of inventory related to the Uniform and Equipment Program and inventory held in the Major Events Warehouse.
Planning for the audit was completed in September 2014. In this phase, the audit team conducted interviews and examined relevant legislation, policies, directives, procedures and related management practices. The audit team documented and validated processes by performing walkthroughs of specific processes and activities. Previous engagements performed by other government departments and external groups were also reviewed. This included review of the gap assessment developed for the RCMP by an external consultant relating to the implementation of the Treasury Board Policy on Internal Control.
Sources used to develop audit criteria included Treasury Board and RCMP policies, procedures and directives on management of materiel. The audit objective and criteria are available in Appendix A.The examination phase, which concluded in November 2014, employed various auditing techniques including interviews, documentation reviews, extraction and analysis of data from RCMP corporate information systems, physical observation and audit testing. Random and judgmental sampling methodologies were used to select inventory for testing. Site visits were conducted at four Divisional Stores in selected Regions, as well as one armoury, the Uniform and Equipment Program Warehouse and the Major Events Warehouse. Preliminary results were shared and validated on an on-going basis with local management. Upon completion of the examination phase, the audit team held meetings to debrief senior management of the relevant findings.
2.4 Statement of Conformance
The audit engagement conforms to the Internal Auditing Standards for the Government of Canada, as supported by the results of the quality assurance and improvement program.
3. Audit Findings
3.1 Materiel and Equipment Held in Divisional Stores
Many Divisional Stores are holding significant volumes of surplus items partly due to challenges in completing the disposal process.
Divisional Stores Operations
Divisional Stores have been established to ensure that operationally required materiel and equipment items are available when needed, and that they are purchased economically, taking advantage of volume discounting. Consultation with Criminal Operations officers ensures that Stores are procuring the appropriate inventory to meet operational needs in each Division. The Inventory holdings are also affected by purchases made to meet the specific needs of some units, and also by accepting returned RCMP-specific items from both active and retired members. As a result, and while not the intent, Stores commonly include holdings of items that are not critical to operations, that could be procured directly by units as required, and returned items that should be sent for disposal upon receipt instead of being retained in inventory.
Most Divisional Stores maintain a catalogue of items which they hold or will procure on behalf of clients. A review of the catalogues and analysis of TEAM data demonstrated that most Stores manage approximately 200 line items of active stock holdings. However, many of the items are available in various sizes (S, M, L, XL) or different configurations (i.e. customized for left hand vs right hand), and are accounted for as individual line items. As such, some Divisional Stores appear to be issuing a very limited range of key operational items within a year. Alternatively, several Stores catalogues were broad in their offerings, and included non-operational items. In recent years, some Stores have made efforts to eliminate holdings of administrative items that were previously procured for units, but which now can be more economically purchased off-the-shelf, on a just-in-time basis, in particular, when carrying costs and administrative costs are considered.
The method of delivering the Stores function varied. Some Stores Managers were responsible for more than one Divisional Store and some Divisional Stores were servicing more than one Division. At the time of the audit one Stores location had recently closed and was being serviced by another Division, under the support of the Regional Procurement Branch. One visited location was in the process of consolidating the shipping, receiving and Stores functions as a cost-saving measure. Further efficiency gains could be realized from a review to determine the optimal operating structures and items to be carried in Divisional Stores.
Dormant Stock and Slow-moving items
In general, inventory is considered dormant if no present demand exists and no forecast can be made of future demands. Dormant stock may become obsolete due to their expiry date or technological changes. On the other hand, slow moving items are those for which the supply on hand greatly exceeds annual demand; hence they have a low turnover rate.
Our analysis indicated a significant amount of dormant stock. As can be seen in Table 1 below, for eight Divisional Stores, 20% or more of their active line items of stock had not moved in three years. Two of the eight divisions had no movement on at least 80% of their line items. Two main causes for the existence of dormant stock were the reluctance to declare an item surplus or obsolete, and the challenges in determining an appropriate method of disposal for obsolete items.
|Division Stores||# of active Footnote 1 line items as at Nov. 20, 2014||# of line items with no movement in 3 yrs. or more||Percentage (%) of line items with no movement in 3 yrs. or more|
An analysis of turnover rates Footnote 2 was completed for those items where issues had occurred in fiscal year 2013/14. Table 2 provides results of this analysis. As shown in Table 2, for the analysed divisions, between 45% and 63% of line items had turnover rates of less than 1 (i.e. Stock on hand exceeded one year's requirements). Similarly, between 8% and 20 % had turnover rates less than 0.1, indicating stock on hand exceeded a 10 year requirement, assuming demand remains constant. Holdings which greatly exceed annual requirements increase carrying costs and cause operating funds to be tied up in inventory. This also increases the risk of items becoming obsolete before they are used.
|Division Stores||Total active line items with movement||% of line items with more than 1 year's stock on hand (turnover < 1)||% of line items with more than 3 years' stock on hand (turnover < 0.33)||% of line items with more than 5 years' stock on hand (turnover < 0.20)||% of line items with more than 10 years' stock on hand (turnover < 0.10)|
Taking into consideration both dormant and slow-moving inventory, it is evident that much can be done to streamline holdings and reduce the resulting administration and carrying costs.
Further analysis of slow-moving items indicated that at several Stores slow-moving inventory was the result of purchases for one particular Program. By exception, Divisional Stores kept the inventory items purchased specifically for this program at their warehouse. Because the Program only incurs the acquisition cost if the item is used, it is not responsible for the consequences of over-ordering. Accordingly, inventory items remained in the warehouse for lengthy periods of time, or indefinitely. At times the Program had changed its requirements, or lowered its demand for the items. Consequently, the Stores were left to transfer or dispose of the excess stock, absorbing the expense of the procurement. During the planning phase of the acquisitions, attention to the practices being employed to meet the unique needs of this Program may be required.
Disposal was a key concern expressed by Divisions. They reported that there was a lack of guidance and support regarding whether and how to dispose of items, particularly operational items that cannot readily be disposed of through the Government of Canada surplus system (GCSurplus). The RCMP policy centre has not established or adequately communicated procedures to dispose of operational items when they are damaged, obsolete or returned to the Divisional Stores by members. Existing disposal policy in the Asset Management Manual was last updated in 2010 and does not give sufficient guidance regarding the disposal of operational items. As a result, divisions are left to determine how best to dispose of these items in a cost effective manner. Consequently, many of the items remain in inventory for extended periods of time or indefinitely.
Existing processes do not clearly document the authorization for disposal of Stores inventory. Furthermore, it is not possible to readily produce a report using TEAM regarding disposal activity over a specific period of time. Various reason codes can be used in TEAM to report a disposal, but they are not used consistently. For example, an adjusting entry reason code, normally used for stocktaking purposes, in some cases was used to record a disposal. In other cases, disposal of inventory was recorded in TEAM; however, no supporting documents were available to demonstrate that authorization and appropriate disposal had taken place. For sensitive inventories in particular, a more robust process for authorizing and confirming disposal activities is required.
The absence of an effective approach to manage slow-moving items and to dispose of surplus inventory is causing inventory to accumulate, which adversely affects carrying costs.
3.2 Stocktaking Practices
Additional efforts are required to ensure that inventory counts are efficient, accurate and completed on a timely basis.
Inventory counts are a key control to validate inventory holdings and confirm the effectiveness of controls relating to safeguarding of inventory. As a good practice, the frequency and scope of the inventory count should be based on the value and nature of the inventory. However, as per RCMP policy Footnote 4, inventory counts are to be performed at least once every two years.
Treasury Board Accounting Standards Footnote 5 require that organizations maintain reliable inventory records to support the amounts recorded in their financial statements. Accordingly, periodic physical inventory counts are necessary to confirm the reliability of the inventory records. The audit reviewed the stocktaking processes for Divisional Stores, the armouries and the uniform and equipment program.
At the time of our audit, Stores inventory was being counted on a bi-annual basis with results being forwarded to the policy centre.
Audit testing identified numerous discrepancies between the physical inventory counts and the records in TEAM. While most were minor in materiality, even a small discrepancy with certain operational items such as batons and ammunition is of concern.
Several weaknesses with the stocktaking process as a whole were observed:
- Records of some stocktaking results included significant overages and shortages. Inventory certifications were approved on the net discrepancy which resulted in keeping the net inventory adjustment percentage within the RCMP-defined acceptable threshold. This highlights recordkeeping weaknesses and reduces the confidence that can be placed in the records of holdings.
- There is not a strong process in place to ensure independence in the counting process. The individuals involved in inventory counts are not always identified in associated documentation and Divisional Stores were able to choose their own resources to complete counts. As a result, segregation of duties is lacking, and individuals creating the inventory records may also be responsible for validating them.
- The policy centre requests re-counts to resolve discrepancies from the first count. In some cases, these may not be blind counts, that is, the desired result may be known ahead of time.
- Adjustments were sometimes made to resolve discrepancies with little supporting documentation. Supporting documentation regarding issues and other inventory movements was not always easy to locate.
Uniform and Equipment Program
An external consultant documented uniform and equipment business processes and tested key controls as part of the implementation of the Treasury Board Policy on Internal Control. Recommendations were made to address identified control gaps. They observed that the Uniform and Equipment Program was not up to date in completing periodic physical inventory counts. The Program advised that recent resource constraints had affected their ability to complete the counts in a timely basis. The Uniform and Equipment Program has implemented a cyclical process to count all inventory over a specific period of time. They advised and provided evidence that previous inventory counts had resulted in minimal discrepancies. The inventory testing performed during the audit also yielded minor discrepancies, and those that were identified were reconciled.
The RCMP's two armouries fall under the responsibility of the Uniform and Equipment Program. The armoury visited during the audit had not completed a count of their firearms inventory in the past five years but had completed counts of their repair parts within the required bi-annual period. A sample count of the firearms inventory at this location could not be completed due to the inaccessibility of many of the items. A complete count is scheduled to coincide with the completion of an expansion project currently underway. Given the critical importance of the items held at this location, controls should be in place to ensure the stocktaking process is completed within the required timeframe. The second armoury advised that they were counting their firearms and parts inventory on an annual basis.
Major Events Warehouse
The RCMP is required on occasion to deploy its capabilities in support of major events or other extraordinary emergency situations. These deployments require materiel support in the form of operational equipment to meet the specific needs of the deployment. In 2002, a warehouse facility in Ottawa was established for the management and tracking of materiel and assets purchased or used in support of major events Footnote 6. Over the years, stock holdings have increased as a result of returns from various major events. While some efforts have been made to dispose of unneeded or expired items, further rationalization of the holdings is warranted.
The Major Event Management of Assets (MEMA) warehouse moved into a new location during the fall 2014. A physical inventory count was not completed at this time. Accurate MEMA inventory information is important to aid in procurement decisions during the planning process of a major event. During a visit to the MEMA warehouse, no testing of inventory holdings was done since most of the items remained wrapped and stored on pallets. MEMA staff plan to complete stocktaking once the inventory items are unpacked.
A draft business process has been developed by the RCMP Assets Management and Programs Branch and efforts are being made to clarify accountability and decision-making procedures for the management of materiel and assets for major events.
In general, robust stocktaking processes increase the likelihood that inventory records used for financial reporting and materiel attestations are accurate. Moreover, they are an important control process to ensure adequate safeguarding and proper recordkeeping. Having an accurate record of holdings provides a baseline to avoid unnecessary purchases and ensures proper management of inventory items. Such counts need not be labour-intensive, if a risk smart approach is used and if surplus inventories are eliminated.
3.3 Materiel and Equipment In Use
The existing process and procedures to record and track equipment in use need to be revisited.
According to the Treasury Board Policy on Management of Materiel, Deputy Heads are accountable to ensure that assets, including equipment in use, are tracked for sound stewardship over the equipment's life-cycle Footnote 7. To satisfy this requirement, the RCMP has elected to track equipment in use using the Plant Maintenance Module within its financial management system TEAM.
The Plant Maintenance Module (PMM)
As per RCMP policy Footnote 8, low value assets with an acquisition cost in excess of $1,500 (but less than $10,000 Footnote 9) and a useful life greater than one year will be managed and tracked on an individual basis using the PMM in TEAM. "Attractive" items costing less than $1,500 may also be recorded in the PMM at the discretion of the Unit Commander.
It was expected that the PMM would:
"Maintain current, accurate and complete asset information to support the effective management and stewardship of equipment/low dollar value assets and enable accurate and effective reporting of the equipment used by the RCMP." Footnote 10
The current equipment records in the PMM were created in large part by a transfer of data from a legacy system. That information was not validated prior to being transferred into the module. As a result, the reliability of the equipment records in the PMM was compromised and units have no faith in the information of items attributed to their units. While some units continue to add and remove items from their equipment in use lists, for the most part the PMM contains outdated information and is not reflective of the equipment in use within the RCMP. Analysis of PMM records demonstrated several deficiencies including:
- Inclusion of items which have been or should be disposed;
- Many records which appear to be duplicates as they contain the same equipment master record numbers;
- Items attributed to cost centres which no longer exist;
- Multiple descriptions for the same equipment items;
- The inclusion of consumable items such as pepper spray; and
- Arbitrary valuations including many items valued at $ 0.01 or $ 9,999.99.
The PMM held information on over 200,000 items in 2013, 54% of which have a listed value under $500 and 80% with a listed value of less than $1,500.
Unit staff cannot add or remove items directly in the PMM. Documentation must be completed and forwarded to a procurement officer. This creates an administrative burden and reduces the likelihood that these records will be properly maintained. In addition, the authorization to dispose is given by procurement officers who do not view the assets to be disposed. Many of the recorded items did not warrant the effort to enter and maintain records in the PMM. As well, insufficient guidance has been provided on what should be considered an attractive item and therefore should be recorded in the PMM.
The current process makes it difficult to ascertain the completeness of reporting on low value equipment assets. When a purchase order is used to procure low value items, a record exists in TEAM in a separate module than the PMM. Additional steps must be taken to enter the item into the PMM. For acquisition card purchases, there is no TEAM record of the specific item, and steps are required to enter the purchased item into the PMM. The policy centre reported doing some reviews to determine if equipment purchased using an acquisition card was reflected in the PMM but no results on this review were available during the audit. Alternatively, attention should be placed on determining whether there is value in maintaining these records in the PMM.
Monitoring and upkeep
Divisions, detachments and units are responsible to ensure data integrity of the PMM. While the low value assets policy in the Asset Management Manual requires that counts be performed on a bi-annual basis, this has not been done, nor is it practical. Interviewees indicated that limited work has been done in the past by some units to review and update the PMM to remove out-dated items. However, a large number of the PMM records continue to be out-dated and inaccurate. Discussions with Divisional senior management determined that they had little to no awareness of the module and of the inventory recorded there, nor did they see value in maintaining this information in a corporate system.
Unit staff also had limited knowledge and awareness of the PMM, and confirmed that it was not actively being used to report recent low value equipment purchases.
The PMM in its current state is not being used effectively to manage and safeguard low value inventory assets, and is therefore not providing effective oversight. Several alternatives can be considered, and it would likely be more beneficial to restrict recording to only operationally significant equipment and attractive items. In addition, the need for recording these items in a corporate system should be assessed.
3.4 The Policy Centre
The policy centre needs to clearly define its role and determine how best to provide guidance and oversight regarding the management of materiel and equipment in use.
The Materiel Management Policy Centre was established in 2007 following an extensive review that determined that materiel and equipment under $10,000 was not being managed appropriately.
Organizational Structure and Policy Design
The framework to support the Materiel Management Policy Centre was drafted but was never approved or fully implemented. The framework included creation of several positions in the policy centre and later in the Regions. Ultimately, the policy centre was created and staffed with 3 positions: a Director, a Manager Materiel and a disposal clerk. The focus of the policy centre since its inception has been on drafting policies. RCMP policies on low value asset management and materiel management were published within the Asset Management Manual in 2008. However, much of the work and effort put into developing other policies since that time has not been finalized. Review of the existing draft policies Footnote 11 determined that they are now out-dated. Additionally, the policies that have been published require revision for added clarification. Reviews of the policies determined that they do not offer specific guidance to address the current challenges being faced by personnel in the Divisions who are managing materiel and equipment.
There is no direct reporting relationship between the Divisional Stores and the policy centre. With the exception of providing stocktaking results and certification, interaction between the two groups is limited. Since its creation, the policy centre has had limited success in influencing the operational activities of either the Divisional Stores or the units managing equipment in use. Divisional Stores personnel interviewed were very knowledgeable about the inventory they managed and were able to complete most activities independently. Their most significant challenge related to disposal of operational items. They were not always aware of the resources available at the policy centre, such as the disposal clerk at the policy centre. Instead, Divisional Stores personnel consulted their peers at other Divisional Stores or within Regional Procurement for assistance. However, it was noted that one division had recently approached the policy centre for guidance and had received helpful assistance in recommending which items should be held in stores and which should be procured directly by the units.
The policy centre currently has little visibility over the activities of the Divisional Stores. Performance expectations regarding turnover rates, carrying costs, stockout rates etc. have not been established and these attributes of sound materiel management are not being measured. The TEAM records are used simply to document holdings, but not to assess how well the holdings are being managed. During the audit, data analysis was completed to assess the status of the Stores' inventory for most of the Divisions. Statistical information on slow-moving items, disposal transactions and procurement history was analyzed. This analysis provided useful insight into the operational activities and highlighted areas of concern for further examination during site visits. The policy centre is encouraged to conduct similar analysis to assess materiel management performance. In this way they can provide proactive assistance in areas of concern.
The policy centre has yet to determine the role it can or should play and the resources required to best fulfill this role. Benefits can be realized by making use of available system information to analyse Stores' performance. The results of such actions can lead to a useful evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of inventory investments in support of RCMP operations.
During the audit, several opportunities for improvement and potential savings with respect to inventory management were identified. Current policies should be enhanced to provide additional support to Divisional Staff, in particular, as it relates to disposal and the criteria for carrying items in Divisional Stores. This would result in reduced levels of inventory and the inherent carrying costs. As well, risk smart approaches to managing low dollar value equipment and attractive items should be explored to determine a method that provides adequate safeguarding, and is both effective and efficient. Finally, benefits can be realized by establishing performance standards and leveraging available system information to evaluate the management of materiel and equipment.
- 1) The Chief Financial and Administrative Officer should:
- Review and provide recommendations regarding the optimal operating structure for Divisional Stores along with the criteria for items to be included in the Stores holdings.
- 2) The Chief Financial and Administrative Officer should:
- Develop enhanced guidelines, policies and procedures for the Divisional Stores related to dormant inventory and disposal of operational items.
- 3) The Chief Financial and Administrative Officer should:
- Develop and communicate a risk smart process to support the stewardship of low dollar value equipment and attractive assets used by the RCMP.
- 4) The Chief Financial and Administrative Officer should:
- Use data analytics to monitor and evaluate management practices related to inventory management.
Appendix A - Audit Objectives and Criteria
Objective: The objective of this audit engagement is to assess whether current management practices support effective and efficient inventory management.
- Criterion 1: Policies, procedures, and clearly defined roles and responsibilities are in place to support materiel and equipment management.
- Criterion 2: Inventory practices ensure adequate stock levels to efficiently meet organizational needs, and ensure assets are safeguarded and tracked in accordance with policy requirements.
- Date modified: