Opening Statement by Anne-Marie Robinson, President of the Public Service Commission, at a meeting of the Government Operations and Estimates Committee concerning 2012-2013 Main Estimates and Report on Plans and Priorities

May 28, 2012

Check against delivery

Mr. Chair and Honourable Members, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to meet with you this afternoon to discuss our Main Estimates and Report on Plans and Priorities for this fiscal year.

Planned Spending

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is accountable to Parliament for safeguarding the integrity of the public service staffing system and the political impartiality of federal public servants.

In our Main Estimates for 2012-13, the PSC is authorized to spend $92.7 million and it has an authority to recover up to $14 million of the costs of our counseling and assessment products and services provided to federal organizations.

The Main Estimates do not reflect the contribution that the PSC is making to Budget 2012. As a result, the PSC’s budget will be reduced by $8.9 million; this is a reduction of 10 % of the review base, and it will be implemented over a period of three fiscal years.

In developing our proposals for reduction, the PSC was guided by several imperatives. Our priority was to protect our ability to carry out our mandate. We focused on ensuring that the PSC will continue to be able to inform and support Parliament as well as support departments, conduct effective oversight, and deliver innovative staffing and assessment services to departments. The PSC will achieve its reduction targets through a variety of means, including redesigning work processes; leveraging advancements in technologies; and benefitting from mature audit and investigation methodologies.

Mr. Chair, I wish to inform this Committee that the PSC was able to contribute its share while maintaining its ability to carry out its mandate. As a result of our reductions, some 87 positions will be eliminated over the next three years. Through vacancy management and attrition, we have already achieved a reduction of 38 positions. As a result, up to 49 PSC employees may be declared surplus. All PSC employees who are directly impacted have been personally informed. I am also pleased to inform the Committee that seven of the employees declared surplus have since been placed in other jobs.

In order to minimize the number of involuntary departures from the PSC, staffing controls will remain in place at our Executive Management Committee for the foreseeable future. This period will be difficult for organizations and for employees. I can assure you that, at the PSC, all employees affected by these reductions will be treated with respect.

Strategic Priorities

Now, I would like to turn to our strategic priorities for this year. They reflect the evolving context for the public service and set the course for our organization in responding effectively to those realities.

This brings me to the support that the PSC has provided, and will continue to provide, to departments and agencies in responding to their staffing activities related to work force adjustments.

While Treasury Board Secretariat has lead responsibility in managing workforce adjustment, the PSC has two specific roles with respect to workforce adjustment, first, providing policy guidance and support to departments in selecting employees for retention or lay-off and, second, managing priority entitlements.

We recently updated our policy guide and tools to provide managers with more detailed and concrete guidance on how to run merit-based, structured processes for selecting employees who will be retained or laid off. To date, the PSC has provided intensive training to some 3,700 managers and human resources advisors. Our approach has been to support departments to ensure that their decisions are based on merit and that their processes are transparent and fair.

The PSC is also responsible for managing priority entitlements. Under our legislation and regulations, “priority” persons are eligible to be appointed ahead of all others to vacant positions in the public service, provided they meet the essential qualifications of the positions. Surplus employees and laid-off individuals have entitlements to priority appointments. These entitlements help the public service retain and redeploy skilled and competent people, and therefore avoid the costs of hiring new employees.

The PSC is responsible for ensuring that these entitlements are respected and it does so through the priority administration program. During this time of transition, it is critical that this program functions well, as the priority system will become a key source of public service hiring over the next couple of years. Internally, we have reallocated resources to this important program and will continue to closely monitor its performance.

Now I would like to turn to our responsibility for conducting independent oversight on behalf of Parliament. We do this through our audits, investigations and ongoing monitoring. Our oversight findings also enable organizations to improve their staffing performance.

Conclusion

Mr. Chair, in a time of restraint and reduced hiring, our staffing values take on greater importance. We continue to work with stakeholders, particularly the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer and bargaining agents, to ensure that our policies, guides, tools and programs provide effective direction and support, and we will continue to adapt them to reflect changing needs.

While a more effective priority administration program will play a key role in hiring, the public service may need to conduct recruitment for those occupational groups where there are shortages.

We will also continue to conduct effective and enabling oversight and report to Parliament, all the while focusing especially on those higher-risk areas of activity.

Thank you. We will be happy to take your questions when it is convenient to do so.