Opening Remarks by Anne-Marie Robinson, President, Public Service Commission of Canada at the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates concerning the PSC’s 2012-13 Annual Report
December 10, 2013
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am pleased to be here to discuss, on behalf of myself and my fellow Commissioners Susan Cartwright and Daniel Tucker, the Public Service Commission’s 2012-2013 Annual Report, which was tabled in Parliament on November 6.
The mandate of the Public Service Commission is to promote and safeguard merit-based appointments, and in collaboration with other stakeholders, to protect the non-partisan nature of the public service.
We welcome this opportunity to report to Parliament on our mandate. Today, I will be focusing my remarks on three areas. I will discuss the results of our oversight, make observations on the hiring and staffing activities, and highlight some of the areas where there is still more work to do.
Oversight of staffing system
Mr. Chair, oversight of the staffing system is a priority for the Public Service Commission. Based on all our oversight and feedback mechanisms, which includes monitoring, audits and investigations, the Commission has concluded that the management of staffing in departments and agencies continued to improve in 2012-13.
The 12 audits the PSC conducted this year found that most of the key elements of effective staffing management were in place; and deputy heads and managers respected their delegated authority. Some areas still require further attention. For example, some organizations need to continue to improve their internal monitoring of appointment processes, which allows them to detect and correct issues in a timely way.
This brings me to our investigations. This year, 44 cases were founded. We saw more cases involving fraud, for instance, the use of false educational or professional credentials. Many of these cases were detected as a result of improved monitoring by departments and agencies as well as by the PSC.
However, I would like to note that the number of founded investigations and problematic transactions is actually very low in the context of the more than 100,000 hiring and staffing activities conducted on average each year.
Hiring and Staffing in the Public Service
With respect to hiring activities, this was an unusual year in many ways as departments and agencies focused their efforts on redeploying employees and placing persons affected by workforce adjustment, thereby altering normal staffing patterns.
Overall hiring to the public service declined by 28.3%. This includes indeterminate, specified term and casual hiring, as well as the hiring of students. With fewer hires and more departures, the overall population that is covered by the Public Service Employment Act declined by 5.4%.
Public service hiring declined throughout the country, but more particularly in the National Capital Region. While student hiring was down, over 9 500 students were still hired for part-time and summer employment. They represented 31% of all hiring to the public service, a percentage that has consistently increased over the past four years.
We also saw enhanced access to public service jobs. National Area of Selection continues to allow more Canadians to apply for opportunities no matter where they live. As well, Canadians without any previous work experience in the public service accounted for 41.7% of new permanent hires, the largest component for the first time in over a decade.
Now, I would like to turn to the support that the PSC provided to organizations in managing workforce reductions. In 2012-13, the PSC enhanced the Priority Administration Program which allows the public service to retain qualified employees who have the skills and experience needed for the future. Working in close collaboration with departments and agencies, the PSC placed 956 priority persons, 17% more than last year, even though permanent hiring and staffing was down by some 60%.
Since April 1st, I am very happy to say that we have successfully re-deployed another 953 priority persons. The vast majority were surplus employees.
At the same time, the PSC has seen a drop in the placement of persons in other priority categories including a significant decline in the placement of Canadian Armed Forces veterans who have been medically released. At the request of Veterans Affairs, the PSC provided technical options to address this issue for their consideration. The Government has recently introduced Bill C-11 An Act to amend the Public Service Employment Act with respect to priority hiring for medically-released veterans. Should Parliament approve the proposed amendments, the PSC is ready to implement them.
Public Service Renewal
I would now like to turn to public service renewal. Fewer graduates entered the public service in 2012-13. There are also fewer employees 35 years of age and younger; they represented 18.4% of the public service in March 2013, down from 21.4% in March 2010. In this context, a focus on renewal and the recruitment of new employees will gain greater importance as the public service moves forward.
Future recruitment must also take into account our increasingly diverse population. According to the most recent population data published by Treasury Board Secretariat, overall we are making progress with regard to the representation of employment equity groups in the public service. However, we still have work to do.
This year, the PSC conducted further research to better understand the challenges that the employment equity groups experience and to use the findings to better target areas for specific action. For instance, we looked more closely at how being a member of an employment equity group affects chances of promotion.
One of the notable findings was that both men and women with disabilities were less likely to be promoted when compared to those not belonging to employment equity groups. Even though the findings represent a single snapshot over a period of one year, we are concerned and we are now undertaking more detailed work using this year’s data. As part of this, we are taking a deeper look at the career progression of the designated groups.
In the meantime, we are sharing these findings with those in the public service who have leadership responsibilities for employment equity, including deputy ministers and heads of HR. We have also shared these results with the Champions and Chairs of the respective employment equity committees.
With respect to innovation, the PSC continues to leverage its technology and expertise to offer departments and agencies efficient and cost-effective services tailored to their needs.
This year, the Commission expanded its e-testing capacity. We have seen a steady increase in on-line testing, which now represents 50% of all tests administered by the PSC. We also made further advances in the use of unsupervised Internet testing and computer-generated testing.
These innovative tools are a valuable link in enhancing access to public service jobs and effectively managing high volumes of applicants.
Non-partisan public service
I would now like to turn to the issue of non-partisanship. Safeguarding the political impartiality of the public service continues to be of critical importance.
Our 2012 staffing survey found that employees’ awareness continued to increase. 73% of respondents were aware of their rights and responsibilities with respect to political activities, up from 69% found in last year’s survey.
We will continue to collaborate with departments, agencies and other stakeholders to find ways of sustaining this momentum.
It has been seven years since the implementation of the Public Service Employment Act, and we are reflecting on how we can continue to evolve our risk-based approach to audits, for example, with respect to small and micro organizations.
Going forward, the PSC is committed to working collaboratively with departments and agencies to help build a stronger culture of compliance while providing independent oversight and assurance to Parliament on the health of our staffing system and non-partisanship of the public service.
Finally, Mr. Chair, you may have noticed that the PSC itself was among the 12 organizations that were audited in 2012-2013. The Commission put robust measures in place to mitigate risks concerning possible conflicts of interest. The findings and three recommendations in the audit are being addressed through the implementation of a detailed action plan.
I would be pleased to respond to your questions.
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