Opening Statement by Maria Barrados,
President of the Public Service Commission,
at a meeting of the Senate National Finance Committee concerning 2010-2011 Main Estimates and Report on Plans and Priorities

April 13, 2010

Check Against Delivery

Mr. Chair and Honourable Members, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss our Main Estimates and Report on Plans and Priorities for the upcoming year. I will speak to you about our activities and budgets, and I would also like to discuss some of the challenges we face.

I am here today with Donald Lemaire, Senior Vice President of Policy, and Richard Charlebois, Vice President, Corporate Management Branch.

Planned Spending

In our Main Estimates for 2010-11, the PSC is authorized to spend $99 million compared to $91.8 million in 2009-10. This increase of $7.2 million is mainly due to approved funding of $6.8 million, through Supplementary Estimates, for our electronic recruitment system, the Public Service Resourcing System (PSRS). For 2010-11, that funding is included in the Main Estimates.

Our net planned spending for 2010-11 is lower than our forecast spending for 2009-10 by $9.2 million, largely due to the size of the carry forward and other adjustments. More detailed information can be found in the Table that was distributed to you.

In addition, the PSC has an authority to recover up to $14 million of the costs of our counseling and assessment products and services provided to federal organizations.

As you know, the PSC participated in the Horizontal Review of Human Resources, and as a result, we had a permanent reduction of $4.6 million beginning in 2009-10.

As we look to the future, the PSC faces additional pressures. Funding for the Public Service Resourcing System ends this year. This decrease is reflected in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 spending in our RPP. We are currently working with Treasury Board Secretariat and other departments to put in place a permanent funding mechanism to cover the cost of operating the system.

As expected, the restraint measures announced in Budget 2010 will have further impact on our spending. Our operating budgets are frozen, and any salary increases established by collective agreements applying from the beginning of 2010-11 until the end of 2012-13 will be absorbed by the PSC. We estimate that this will mean an annual reduction of $1.2 million for the next three years, for a total baseline reduction of $3.6 million. In addition, the financial ceilings currently in effect for travel, hospitality and conferences will remain in place. We are committed to streamlining our operations in order to manage within these limits and achieve these budget reductions. Also, under Budget 2010, strategic reviews will be maintained, and a review of administrative services and operations of government will be launched in order to improve their efficiency and eliminate duplication. We do not yet know the impact of these reviews.

Strategic Outcome and Priorities

Our strategic outcome, as set out in the Estimates, has remained constant — to provide Canadians with a highly competent, non-partisan and representative public service, able to provide service in both official languages, in which appointments are based on the values of fairness, access, transparency, and representativeness.

In support of our strategic outcome, we have four main priorities:

  1. First, we are conducting an assessment of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA). A review of our appointment policy is well underway. We have done a lot of work and consultations especially on the issue of non-partisanship. We will be seeking the input of Parliamentarians before finalizing our recommendations. Our assessment will form part of the 5-year legislative review of the Public Service Modernization Act, led by the Treasury Board Secretariat; we continue to work closely with them. We plan to submit a report to Parliament on the results of our assessment in Spring 2011.
  2. Second, we continue to improve the quality of our oversight of staffing and non-partisanship. We're implementing the recommendations that resulted from a 2009 independent review of the PSC's oversight activities.
  3. Third, we will continue to develop and deliver innovative staffing and assessment services and products for departments. We'll maintain our ongoing support of Public Service Renewal through our recruitment programs. During our third year of expanded cost-recovery, we'll continue to improve internal capacity and infrastructure.
  4. And fourth, we'll continue to focus on our own organization, to ensure our employees have rewarding work, are productive and have the opportunity to develop their skills and abilities. Several ongoing initiatives support this goal, including regular online employee surveys and our talent management program.

Program Activities

Our strategic outcome and priorities are supported by four program activities.

We plan to spend $11.1 million on maintaining policy frameworks that support the integrity of our appointment processes and on managing, among other things, delegation agreements, priority administration, and the political activities regime.

Our oversight activities include monitoring, audits and investigations; $22 million have been allocated here.

Our staffing and assessment services account for the largest portion of our spending  — $42.7 million. In addition to our many services, this activity also covers the costs of operating a network of regional offices, managing the jobs.gc.ca web site and running major recruitment programs including Post-Secondary Recruitment (PSR) and the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP). The Personnel Psychology Centre also provides evaluation and assessment services and tools for recruitment, selection and development at all levels of the public service. Our centralized services and support systems generate economies of scale and we offer those efficiencies to departments and agencies.

Finally, planned spending for internal services is $37 million. This covers all central services and systems in support of PSC programs, including finance, human resources and information technology. It also includes the offices of the President and Commissioners, the library, and internal audit. We have centralized other corporate support services within this program activity such as communications and parliamentary affairs, legal services, and acquisition of office furniture and IT equipment.

Risks and Challenges

Now, I would like to turn to some of the challenges in the public service that have implications for public service staffing. There is high interest in public service jobs and, given the current economic situation, this level of interest is expected to increase, while the number of federal job opportunities will likely decrease as departments implement Budget 2010.

The PSC is providing more and more of its counselling and assessment services on a cost-recovery basis. We have dedicated considerable effort to delivering services tailored to the specific needs of departments and agencies. We have some concern that uncertainty over future funding may slow down the use of the PSC's services, with potential impact on our revenues and operations. In the meantime, we will continue to invest in modernizing the Public Service Resourcing System and automating more tests, making them less labour intensive for the PSC and across the public service. We will also be promoting the value and quality of our services in helping managers achieve their HR goals.

With resource constraints, and fewer opportunities into the public service, the need for vigilance and commitment to maintaining fair and transparent staffing will be even greater.

The PSC raised a number of issues in its 2008-2009 Annual Report, such as time to staff and non-partisanship. It is also time to consider succession planning for the current Commission. As such, I would like to see two new Commissioners appointed to start staggering appointments and transition to the new Commission. I would be pleased to elaborate on these issues in response to your questions or at a future meeting.

Conclusion

Mr. Chair and Honourable Senators, the PSC is committed to excellence in its work on behalf of Parliament and Canadians. We have received clean audit opinions from the Auditor General the last four years, and we received strong ratings by Treasury Board on our Management Accountability Framework. We have a robust organization that has made significant progress in implementing the vision enshrined in the PSEA. As keeper of the values of merit and non-partisanship, the PSC has been given a special mandate by Parliament. On behalf of Parliament, we will use our resources to ensure that Canadians will continue to benefit from a professional and non-partisan public service.

Thank you. We are happy to take your questions.

Table 1 – Difference between forecast spending of $108.20M in 2009-10 and planned spending of $98.96M for 2010-11