Opening Remarks by Christine Donoghue, Acting President, Public Service Commission of Canada, at Public Accounts Committee concerning the Report of the Auditor General of Canada Spring 2015 [Chapter 2]

May 13, 2015

Check against delivery.


Mr. Chair, thank you.

I would like to introduce Michael West who is Director General, Delegation and Accountability in our Policy Branch.

We are pleased to have this opportunity to participate in the work of your Committee with respect to Chapter 2 of the Report of the Auditor General. As the Report notes, the Public Service Commission (PSC) is responsible for promoting and safeguarding merit-based appointments that are free from political influence and, in collaboration with other stakeholders, for protecting the non-partisan nature of the public service.

The PSC is accountable to Parliament for safeguarding the integrity of staffing in the public service and the political impartiality of public servants. We report independently to Parliament on these matters.

The Public Service Employment Act, as amended in 2005, sets out a staffing system based on values, where deputy heads have greater responsibilities. The PSC fulfills its mandate by delegating staffing to deputy heads and providing overall policy guidance and tools to assist them in exercising their delegated authorities. We have delegation agreements with 80 organizations.

Accountability Framework

Since 2005, the Staffing Management Accountability Framework has set out the PSC’s expectations for a well-managed appointment system, and provides a framework for monitoring staffing performance. The PSC has been overseeing the staffing system through regular monitoring, and conducting audits and investigations, where needed.

Deputy heads have been submitting a self-assessment in the form of a Departmental Staffing Accountability Report, in which they report on their organization’s performance.

This provided the PSC the opportunity to assess organizational performance against the Staffing Management Accountability Framework and provide annual feedback to deputy heads. Based on the overall performance of the staffing system, we have been aiming for continuous improvement and lessening the reporting burden on departments and agencies. A mature staffing system has allowed us to move towards a more effective and efficient model of accountability.

Streamlined Reporting

Our efforts to streamline the PSC’s reporting requirements have been acknowledged by the Auditor General in the Report. We developed a framework in consultation with internal and external stakeholders including Deputy Heads. We made it simpler and more focused, with 12 indicators in 2013-14 as compared to the 29 in the previous year.

A shorter, more concise report makes for a more effective and useful management tool for deputy heads as well as the PSC. Reducing our reporting footprint will allow organizations to put their efforts on addressing their own specific risks that reflect their operational realities and staffing challenges.

Information in a Mature Staffing System

Mr. Chair, we have nearly 10 years of experience with a fully delegated system. Our staffing system is maturing and is working well. Organizations are building their internal capacities to monitor their own staffing processes and we are confident that this will lead to improved effectiveness and efficiencies.

The PSC is ready and able to assist organizations in further developing these capacities, which would be more targeted to their needs. At the same time, we have invested considerable effort in developing our own capacity to better utilize the staffing data collected by the PSC, which further alleviate reporting burden while ensuring the overall accountability of the system.

As I mentioned earlier, our audits and investigations also provide important staffing information. In addition, we have a survey, conducted by Statistics Canada, which gathers feedback from hiring managers as well as applicants on their experience with the staffing system. Instead of getting their staffing statistics from the PSC as part of the annual reporting cycle, organizations can now access the latest staffing data through an on-line portal. Where we find problems, we work with organizations to resolve them in real time, as quickly as possible. And we are moving more and more towards an approach based on identifying horizontal systemic issues.

Continuous Improvement

In all of our activities, from outreach to oversight, we look for lessons learned, to identify areas for improvement and to take concrete actions. We share good practices to foster continuous improvement. We are also continuing to adapt our requirements, consistent with the recommendations of the Auditor General.

For instance, this year, we asked organizations to focus their reporting on only three key indicators, in areas of particular relevance, based our integrated information. These are Official Languages qualifications in staffing, areas for ongoing improvements identified in our audits, and priority entitlements.

As you may know, the PSC is responsible for administering priority entitlements and we work closely with departments and agencies to ensure that the rights of priority persons are respected. This collaboration will be critical in implementing the Veterans Hiring Act, Bill C-27, which will provide medically-released veterans with greater access to public service jobs.

Enhanced Integration

Let me now turn to the Report’s recommendation to systematically adjust required reporting on the basis of its effort, cost and value. PSC is reviewing our policy and oversight frameworks. Our consultations with federal departments and agencies are now underway.

We would like to simplify our policies to remove duplication and minimize overlap —while upholding the fundamental principles of the Public Service Employment Act. We also want to more fully integrate all of our staffing information to help organizations and the PSC identify areas where we can improve staffing management and performance.

We will also be looking to remove any unnecessary requirements and to make sure that any reporting considers effort, cost and value. We expect centralized reporting requirements to be reduced which will reduce the effort and costs to organizations. As we more fully integrate the staffing information we have available, it will be of more value to organizations.

Going Forward

We are still at an early stage but we expect that a more integrated approach to the delivery of our policy and oversight functions will provide further opportunities for increased effectiveness and efficiency.

In closing, Mr. Chair, we will be working closely with departments and agencies to help them build a stronger culture of prevention while we continue to deliver on our fundamental responsibility to provide independent oversight to Parliament on the integrity of the merit-based staffing system and non-partisanship of the public service.

I would be pleased to respond to your questions. Thank you.