Analysis of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 Audit Results — Consideration of priority persons in the public service

October 2011

All of the work in this analysis was conducted in accordance with the legislative mandate and audit policies of the Public Service Commission of Canada.

Introduction

A “priority” person is an individual who has an entitlement under the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) or the Public Service Employment Regulations (PSER) to be appointed ahead of all others to vacant positions in the public service, if the person meets the essential qualifications of the position. The Public Service Commission (PSC) plays a leadership role across federal organizations, ensuring that entitlements are respected by all stakeholders and that priority persons are referred to vacancies and appointed if qualified. The PSC is responsible for the priority administration program, oversees the requirements of the legislative and regulatory framework and monitors staffing practices as they pertain to priority administration, including adherence to appointment values. This includes setting priority administration policies and their applications, and establishing and maintaining an administrative infrastructure to link priority persons with jobs.

Background

As part of the organizational audits conducted by the PSC, those staffing actions that required a priority clearance number from the PSC were reviewed to ensure that the clearance number was obtained prior to, or on the date of, appointment, and that the statement of merit criteria used to obtain a priority clearance number was the same as the one used to make the appointment. These issues were reviewed to provide information on whether priority persons were being considered by organizations, as outlined in the PSEA, the PSER, the Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument, the PSC Appointment Framework and the Guide on Priority Administration.

In 2010-2011, the PSC conducted an evaluation of the priority administration program to examine the issues of program relevance and performance. In addition to this evaluation, the PSC undertook an analysis of the audit results it had captured on priority consideration in current and previous audits tabled in Parliament in 2010 and 2011.

This analysis is based on data from 833 appointments (out of 984) that were audited over the past two audit reporting periods. Appointments or staffing transactions that did not require a priority clearance number from the PSC, such as acting appointments for a period greater than four months, as well as reclassifications, were excluded from this exercise. Some 19 organizations were audited in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.

The analysis revealed that, for about 89% of the appointments audited, deputy heads met the expectation of considering priority persons prior to making an appointment. The analysis also found that approximately 11% (89 out of 833) of appointments audited contained issues or errors such as the organization not obtaining a priority clearance number prior to the date of appointment. In addition, cases were found where organizations had not informed the PSC (during the appointment process) of any modifications to the statement of merit criteria. Where these types of issues were found, the PSC noted that such practices may put the guiding values at risk and in particular, may limit fair access to job opportunities for priority persons.

This analysis was supplemented by interviews in some of the audited organizations. Officials interviewed indicated that successful placement of affected employees and/or priority persons is a result of strong leadership and senior management engagement, having a well-established, in-house priority administration system in place and reaching out to professional networks and functional communities.

Results of the analysis

Two key areas relating to priority consideration were reviewed in the 19 audits conducted in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011:

  • The priority clearance number was obtained prior to, or on, the date of appointment; and
  • The statement of merit criteria used to obtain a priority clearance number was not the same as the one used to make the appointment.
Table 1: Results of the analysis
  2009-2010 2010-2011 Total
The priority clearance number was obtained prior to, or on, the date of appointment. 455 289 744
(89 %)
The priority clearance number was not obtained prior to, or on, the date of appointment. 37 52 89
(11%)
Total 492 341 833
(100%)

Table 2: Results of the analysis
  2009-2010 2010-2011 Total
The essential qualifications used to obtain the priority clearance number were the same as those used to make the appointment. 451 295 746
(90%)
The essential qualifications used to obtain the priority clearance number were not the same as those used to make the appointment. 41 46 87
(10%)
Total 492 341 833
(100%)

Results of interviews

We determined from our interviews that organizations are attempting to place affected employees within their own organizations before registering them in the priority information management system (PIMS) inventory. This allows them to retain talent and diminish the financial and human resources (HR) impacts on their organizations.

The interviews noted the following three key areas that support the successful placement of affected employees.

  • Strong leadership and senior management engagement: Our interviews indicated that successful placement of any affected employees and/or a priority person within an organization is a result of strong leadership and senior management engagement. In addition to regular management meetings, special management committees are established to supervise any organizational changes due to workforce adjustment exercises, strategic review or business transformation exercises. Management engagement ensures that employees affected by changes are considered first and foremost for placement within the organization, and that those employees are well informed of their entitlements and are provided with the necessary tools and services to cope with career transitions.
  • Well-established in-house priority administration system: We observed that organizations place their own affected employees using an in-house priority administration system. This system allows the organization to track and monitor employees who require placement within the organization prior to registering them in the PIMS inventory. HR advisors and hiring managers are required to search through their organizational priority system prior to proceeding with an appointment process.
  • Reaching out to professional networks and functional communities: Our interviews revealed that organizations make use of professional networks and functional communities to find opportunities for affected employees outside the organization. Professional networks and communities also encourage collaboration among organizations; the sharing of noteworthy practices can help organizations address their HR issues.

Conclusion

Overall, the level of compliance is high in the two key areas audited that deal with priority consideration. However, the results also found that approximately 11% (89 out of 833) of audited appointments contained issues or errors such as the organization not obtaining a priority clearance number prior to the date of appointment. In addition, the results found instances where the PSC was not informed (during the appointment process) of any modifications to the statement of merit criteria. Continued attention to these areas is necessary to maintain respect for the guiding values and in particular, fair access to job opportunities for priority persons.

To ensure that organizations will continue to consider priority persons, the PSC is currently strengthening the management framework around its priority administration program.

About the analysis of audit results

Criteria

Two audit results were analysed pertaining to whether priority persons were being considered by organizations:

  • The priority clearance number was obtained prior to, or on the date of, appointment; and
  • The statement of merit criteria used to obtain priority clearance number was the same as the one used to make the appointment.

Data used to perform the analysis

Some 19 organizations were audited in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. This analysis leveraged data from 984 audited appointments.

The analysis excluded 151 appointments or staffing transactions that did not require a priority clearance number from the PSC, such as acting appointments for a period greater than four months, as well as reclassifications. We analyzed 833 appointments.