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A report by the Public Service Commission of Canada

October 2009

Public Service Commission of Canada
300 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0M7
Canada

Information: 613-992-9562
Facsimile: 613-992-9352

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Public Service Commission of Canada, 2009

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

Table of Contents

Summary

1. Infrastructure Canada was created in 2002 and is responsible for federal efforts to enhance Canada’s public infrastructure through strategic investments, key partnerships, sound policies and research. The department’s strategic outcome is quality, cost effective public infrastructure that meets the needs of Canadians in a competitive economy, a clean environment and liveable communities. The department has faced and continues to face a significant shortfall of staff.

2. The objectives of this audit were to determine whether the department had an appropriate framework, systems and practices in place to manage its staffing activities and to determine whether its appointments and appointment processes complied with the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), the instrument of delegation signed with the Public Service Commission (PSC), and other governing authorities.

3. We found that Infrastructure Canada did not include human resources (HR) planning, including a staffing strategy, as an integral part of its business planning process. For the fiscal year (FY) 2006-2007, it had no approved HR plan in place. The department did have approved HR plans for FYs 2007-2008 and 2008-2009; however, they were general and lacked specific direction for management and HR professionals.

4. The department’s monitoring of staffing performance needs to be strengthened. Infrastructure Canada has a Human Resources Committee (HRC) that is accountable for reviewing staffing activities, but was doing so with incorrect staffing data and without a strategically aligned HR plan. The Deputy Head had not been performing monitoring, as required by the PSC, of certain types of appointments.

5. Infrastructure Canada used non-advertised appointment processes for expediency in order to address their HR needs. We found that sub-delegated managers were unable to demonstrate how the use of this type of process was linked to the department’s HR plan, departmental criteria for non-advertised appointment processes or the PSEA’s appointment values. In some cases, this resulted in limited access to the department’s employment opportunities.

6. We observed instances where the tools and methods used to assess candidates did not address all of the essential qualifications identified for the position. This led to assessments that were insufficient to demonstrate merit. Of the 45 appointments we examined, there were eight cases where the person appointed to the position did not meet one or more essential qualifications. We also found cases where assessment tools and methods were inconsistently applied. This resulted in unfair assessments. We have referred files in which these issues have been raised to either Infrastructure Canada’s Deputy Head to investigate and take appropriate action, as required, or to our Investigations Directorate to determine if an investigation is warranted. The PSC will monitor these files to ensure that corrective action is properly carried out.

7. The PSC has placed conditions on the delegation of staffing authorities at Infrastructure Canada. The PSC will require that Infrastructure Canada’s Deputy Head formally report to the PSC on a semi-annual basis. Further, the Deputy Head must provide copies of all staffing-related presentations as well as the related committee minutes to its restructured HR Committee, which is now referred to as the People Management Committee.

Introduction

8. In 1994, the federal government established the Canada Infrastructure Works Program under the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. The program was created to assist with the maintenance and development of infrastructure in local communities and the creation of employment. In 2002, Infrastructure Canada was established as a department. At that time, it reported to the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, was subsequently transferred to the Minister of Industry and later to the Minister of Environment. Since 2006, Infrastructure Canada has reported to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

9. This department provides a focal point for the Government of Canada on infrastructure issues and programs. This includes clean air and water, roads and bridges, public transit, green energy, broadband connectivity and cultural and sport facilities. The department delivers or coordinates several funding programs and works to build the necessary policies, knowledge and partnerships to support them.

10. Since its creation in 2002, Infrastructure Canada has been responsible for an increasing number of infrastructure programs. Initially, these programs were valued at over $8 billion for four funds, which increased to over $30 billion for eight funds by 2008. With the government’s Economic Action Plan announced as part of Budget 2009, the department’s responsibility has grown to include the delivery of 12 federal programs, totalling almost $38 billion.

11. Infrastructure Canada does not have stable salary funding. Operational funding is obtained on a program basis and must be risk-managed by the department. In March 2008, 253 positions were approved and there were 203 employees on staff. Except for two employees in Alberta, all employees were located in the National Capital Region. The speed and magnitude of growth in Infrastructure Canada’s business, together with the absence of stable salary funding, has contributed to a significant challenge in predicting staffing needs and retaining staff, including analysts and human resources (HR) specialists, who are in high demand throughout the federal public service.

12. Several Acts provide the legislative authority for the department to conduct its work. The Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund Act (CSIF) establishes the CSIF program and contains the authorities for funding strategic infrastructure projects. For all other projects, the minister responsible for the department is able to enter into transfer payment agreements and contracts related to infrastructure initiatives under an
Order-in-Council. Appointments to positions in the department are governed by the Public Service Employment Act and the Public Service Employment Regulations.

13. In 2007, Infrastructure Canada was identified for an audit by the Public Service Commission. This was based on a large volume of staffing transactions relative to the size of the department and because it had a high percentage of casual workers who became employees through non-advertised staffing processes. The department itself had also identified the HR function as a risk area and conducted its own internal audit of staffing and classification functions in spring 2008.

Focus of the audit

14. The objectives of the audit were to determine whether:

  • Infrastructure Canada had an appropriate framework, systems, and practices in place to manage its staffing activities; and
  • Appointments and appointment processes complied with the Public Service Employment Act and other governing authorities, and with the instrument of delegation signed with the Public Service Commission.

15. This audit covered the period from January 1, 2006 to August 30, 2008. We examined a sample of 45 appointments out of 214 appointment activities. These appointments, from the National Capital Region, included acting appointments for periods of four months or more and appointments resulting from advertised and non-advertised, internal and external appointment processes. Details of the audit sample are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Appointments and appointment processes audited
Type of Process Audited
Type of Appointment Advertised Non-Advertised Total
Indeterminate 23 10 33
Term 0 2 2
Acting – 4 to 12 months 2 5 7
Acting >12 months 2 0 2
Reclassification 0 1 1
TOTAL 27 18 45

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission of Canada

16. We analyzed documents related to HR management at Infrastructure Canada and we also interviewed managers and HR specialists. For more information on the audit, refer to the About the audit section at the end of this report.

Observations and recommendations

17. In accordance with the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) appointment framework, deputy heads are expected to establish systems and practices that will contribute to the effective management of their delegated authority. These systems include HR planning to ensure that their appointments and appointment processes are aligned with their business plans and priorities. Deputy heads are to manage risk factors to ensure good management and compliance with the PSC's policy and delegation requirements, the appointment values and other statutes. They are expected to monitor and adjust their organizational staffing performance to meet their staffing objectives.

18. The Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) provides the statutory basis for a merit-based, non-partisan public service that is professional, representative of Canada’s diversity and able to serve Canadians with integrity and in their official language of choice. The preamble of the PSEA articulates the core appointment values of merit and non-partisanship and highlights the guiding values of fairness, transparency, access and representativeness in staffing.

Staffing management systems need improvement

Human resources planning did not provide direction

19. Human resources (HR) planning is required to effectively manage appointments and appointment-related authorities. HR planning enables staffing to be conducted so that competence is maintained, skill shortages are minimized, renewal of staff is addressed and other HR priorities are supported. Deputy heads are expected to ensure that staffing decisions are strategic and in line with current and future HR requirements.

20. For the fiscal year (FY) 2006-2007, Infrastructure Canada did not have an approved HR plan in place. The department did have approved HR plans for FYs 2007-2008 and 2008-2009; however, we found they lacked direction on staffing for the organization as a whole. Although these plans identified gaps between the number of required staff and the current number of employees, they did not take these results into consideration by identifying staffing strategies that would address these gaps.

21. In an effort to close the department’s HR gap, their 2008-2009 HR plan indicated a need for strategic planning from each of the department’s branches and divisions. These plans were to be developed by the end of FY 2009. An HR plan that provides more specific direction for managers and HR professionals would ensure consistency across the department in addressing its needs and challenges.

22. HR planning is also important when choosing the type of appointment process that will be used. Sub-delegated managers may make appointments either through an advertised or a non-advertised process. In advertised processes, the job opportunity is advertised to potential applicants. Non-advertised processes allow sub-delegated managers to make appointments without soliciting potential candidates. When a
non-advertised process is used, a written rationale must demonstrate how the choice of a non-advertised process meets the Public Service Employment Act appointment values and criteria established by the deputy head.

23. Infrastructure Canada’s policy on the use of non-advertised appointment processes required sub-delegated managers to demonstrate how using such a process was consistent with the division’s HR plan. However, we found that only one of Infrastructure Canada’s divisions had completed an HR plan. As a result, most sub-delegated managers could not comply with the departmental policy when choosing a non-advertised process.

Recommendation 1

The Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada should implement an integrated HR plan that will provide direction to managers and HR professionals on how to make decisions concerning their staffing activities, by outlining the department’s staffing priorities and providing a framework to guide decisions on when and how to staff positions, based on the Public Service Employment Act.

Infrastructure Canada Response 1. Infrastructure Canada is updating its Integrated Human Resources Plan for 2009-2010, to implement a more integrated approach to HR and Business Planning. As part of this effort, a Staffing Strategy is being developed to complement the existing HR Plan, which will document Infrastructure Canada’s approach to meeting its staffing needs, particularly in relation to the Economic Action Plan announced in Budget 2009. The strategy will provide direction to managers on how to make decisions concerning the staffing activities, by outlining the department’s staffing priorities and providing a framework to guide decisions on when and how to staff positions, based on the Public Service Employment Act. The strategy will be used to update the departmental and branch level HR Plans, which will be completed in fall 2009.

Performance monitoring of staffing systems is needed

24. A deputy head’s accountability includes respecting the requirements of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) and other governing authorities and using these authorities within a framework that ensures their accountability to the Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC has established a framework for departments called the Staffing Management Accountability Framework (SMAF) that identifies the indicators used to determine how a department or agency is carrying out its appointment authority. Deputy heads are required to demonstrate that their organization’s staffing system meets the mandatory indicators set out in the SMAF, while respecting the legislative requirements and PSEA values.

25. One of the key elements of the SMAF is Organizational Accountability for Results, where deputy heads are expected to establish their own monitoring practices and make improvements where deficiencies are identified. Since Infrastructure Canada implemented its SMAF, it has issued three monitoring reports and two internal audit reports. As previously mentioned, in 2008, one internal audit report addressed their staffing and classification activities. The other report, of December 2007, was on the management control framework of an infrastructure program and included recruitment and retention as one of eight areas examined. This report identified the critically low levels of resources in the Program Operations Branch and recommended the development of an integrated human resources (HR) plan, detailing the specific staffing processes required to address current and future needs.

26. Infrastructure Canada had a Human Resources Committee (HRC) that was responsible for monitoring staffing activities, procedures and performance standards. It was comprised of four of the department’s Assistant Deputy Ministers and the Director of Human Resources. In addition to its governance role, Infrastructure Canada’s HRC approved high risk staffing transactions.

27. We found examples where the department applied inconsistent approaches to its appointment processes, with HRC approval. For the HRC’s oversight role to be effective, it needs to be aware in a timely manner of the risks and performance of the department’s appointment system. Accurate, relevant and timely HR information is necessary to support staffing strategies and decisions.

Exhibit 1: Conflicting approach to staffing

In one case, the department’s Human Resources Committee approved an appointment through a non-advertised process for a position at the same group and level as positions for which they were conducting an advertised process that was open to public servants. The individual who was appointed was one of the applicants in this advertised process.

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission of Canada

28. Although the HRC routinely received various HR reports, the department’s tracking of HR data on type of appointment process contained appointment coding errors for 40% of the appointments we reviewed. These errors make monitoring of staffing activities against an HR plan difficult and could limit the department’s ability to make effective adjustments in order to achieve its objectives.

29. Monitoring enables information of concern to be communicated as soon as it is discovered, so that decisions can be made and action taken, where necessary. The PSC requires deputy heads to monitor acting appointments over 12 months and the appointments of casual workers to term or indeterminate positions through
non-advertised processes. Monitoring of these activities would take the form of routine data collection and regular reporting. We found that reporting on acting appointments over 12 months occurred once, and was reported for non-advertised appointments only. Monitoring of appointments of casual workers to term or indeterminate positions was reported to the HRC only once and was not part of a structured monitoring system.

30. Sub-delegated managers must be competent to exercise their appointment and appointment-related authorities. As a condition of delegation, the Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada established mandatory training requirements for sub-delegated managers. We observed that the department did not track completion dates for this required training. Therefore, we were unable to determine whether a manager met this condition of sub-delegation for the appointments we examined.

31. In summary, Infrastructure Canada’s staffing systems were not implemented in a strategic and integrated fashion. There was little emphasis on the implementation of an HR plan that is integrated with the department’s business objectives, providing specific direction to the sub-delegated managers and HR professionals, monitoring staffing systems and practices and adjusting programs and processes to ensure the plan’s success.

Recommendation 2

The Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada should monitor the implementation of the HR plan. This includes collecting information to ensure appropriate use of appointment processes and making adjustments, as required, to achieve the plan’s objectives.

Infrastructure Canada Response 2. Infrastructure Canada restructured its HR Committee in May 2009, in order to strengthen management direction and leadership on key HR issues. Now referred to as the People Management Committee (PMC), the membership has been expanded to include additional members of the senior management team, and is now led by the Associate Deputy Minister. One of the committee’s first priorities is to provide a strengthened oversight and monitoring role for the department’s HR activities to the Deputy Head.

In addition, Infrastructure Canada made significant improvements to its monitoring system for HR transactions. The department has implemented the Human Resources Information System (HRIS), which is being used to capture information and generate quarterly reports for senior management on staffing and related matters. More intensive monitoring is being undertaken by the PMC for issues that have been identified, such as the use of non-advertised appointment processes. This monitoring will ensure that corrective actions are implemented, where required, across all of Infrastructure Canada’s HR activities.

Recommendation 3

The Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada should demonstrate that sub-delegated managers have the required authority and competencies prior to exercising their appointment and appointment related authorities.

Infrastructure Canada Response 3. Infrastructure Canada is committed to ensuring that all sub-delegated managers have completed the mandatory training and validation prior to exercising their appointment and appointment-related authorities. As of April 2009, Infrastructure Canada has improved its tracking system to clearly demonstrate the date of which each manager successfully met the requirements. In addition, the Deputy Head has introduced additional mandatory training on staffing, so that managers remain competent to exercise their appointment-related authorities. This training will be completed by September 30, 2009, and will be provided to new managers in the future.

Appointment practices require attention

Choice of staffing processes were not planned

32. As previously mentioned, sub-delegated managers may make appointments either through an advertised or a non-advertised process. Although the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) offers the choice between an advertised or a non-advertised appointment process, PSEA values should lead sub-delegated managers to consider the use of advertised appointment processes more often than non-advertised processes.

33. The Public Service Commission (PSC) expects to see advertised appointment processes as the standard practice. Although non-advertised appointment processes may be used when appropriate, the PSC’s Choice of Appointment Process Policy requires a demonstration of how the choice of a non-advertised process respects the appointment values. This PSC policy also requires that the choice of appointment process be consistent with the organization's human resources (HR) plan to ensure that decisions on choice of process are made within a planned approach in order to meet the organization's needs.

34. In our audit sample, there were 18 non-advertised appointment processes. For six of these processes, the rationales demonstrated how this particular choice of process met criteria established by the department. However, they did not demonstrate how these appointments met the PSEA appointment values. The rationales for the other 12 appointment processes did not demonstrate compliance with the department’s criteria for choosing a non-advertised appointment process nor compliance with the PSEA appointment values.

35. Pressure to fill many vacant positions in the department resulted in managers choosing non-advertised appointment processes and using them in situations that did not meet the criteria established by the department nor comply with the PSEA appointment values. As well, since Infrastructure Canada’s HR plans did not provide sufficient detail on current and future HR needs, the rationales to support a particular choice of process could not be based on a planned approach nor demonstrate that decisions were made in a fair and transparent manner.

Exhibit 2: Appointment values not demonstrated in choosing a non-advertised appointment process

In late 2007, Infrastructure Canada advertised a deployment opportunity for a permanent administrative assistant position to public servants in the National Capital Region. The advertisement stated that only indeterminate (permanent) employees would be considered. The position, however, was offered to a casual worker. Casual workers are not eligible for deployment as they are not considered as employees and therefore, not in the area of selection. This error was not discovered until after the casual worker had accepted a written offer of deployment from the department. To remedy the situation, in February 2008, the department’s Human Resources Committee approved a non-advertised appointment, stating that the position fell into a shortage group since it had been difficult for them to recruit bilingual administrative assistants within the public service. This was a generic administrative position to most departments and agencies. In making this non-advertised appointment, the department also did not assess the individual on all of the essential knowledge and experience requirements they had identified for this position.

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission of Canada

Recommendation 4

The Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada should demonstrate how the use of a non-advertised appointment process meets the department’s established criteria and the appointment values and is consistent with the department’s HR plan.

Infrastructure Canada Response 4. Infrastructure Canada has taken steps to improve the information that is provided to senior management in relation to individual staffing actions, including the use of non-advertised appointment processes. All requests for the use of a non-advertised appointment process must be submitted to the People Management Committee (PMC) for approval. As of July 2009, managers are required to demonstrate how the transaction meets each of the staffing values, and how the request is linked to the department’s Integrated HR Plan. Each request will be reviewed by an HR advisor, whose advice is included in the submission to the PMC.

Merit was not respected in many appointments

36. The Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) requires that all appointments made to and from within the public service be made on the basis of merit. Merit means that the person appointed meets the essential qualifications for the work to be performed, as established by the deputy head. Current and future asset qualifications, operational requirements and organizational needs may also be taken into account.

37. We examined a sample of 45 appointments to positions within Infrastructure Canada. We expected these appointments to comply with the PSEA and related regulations, policies and governing authorities. This includes ensuring that appointments and appointment processes respect the values of the PSEA: merit, non-partisanship, fairness, transparency, access and representativeness. Our observations on merit are presented in Table 2.

Table 2: Observations on merit
Observations No. of Appointments 1 Remarks
Merit was met Assessment tools or methods evaluated essential qualifications and other identified merit criteria and the appointee met these requirements. 22 For 22 appointments, the assessments demonstrated that the individuals appointed met the essential qualifications and any current or future asset qualifications, operational requirements and organizational needs identified by the department.
Merit was not demonstrated Assessment tools or methods did not evaluate all essential qualifications identified. 12 In several cases, one or more of the knowledge requirements were not addressed by the assessment tools and methods. Therefore, merit could not be demonstrated because these essential qualifications were not evaluated.
Assessment tools or methods did not fully evaluate one or more essential qualifications. 2 In one case, the assessment only addressed knowledge of a specific specialization in human resources (HR) whereas broader knowledge of HR management had been identified as the requirement.
No documented assessment. 2 1 No documented assessment to demonstrate that merit had been respected (for an acting appointment of one year in duration).>
Merit was not met The appointee failed to meet one or more of the essential qualifications. 8 In six cases, the educational requirements were not met because the qualification standards were not correctly applied.

In two cases, the individuals appointed failed to meet one or more essential qualifications related to knowledge and abilities. In one of these cases, the appointee also did not meet the language requirements established for the position.
TOTAL   45  

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission of Canada

1. denotes 45 appointments of 42 people
2. Acknowledged by department

Many assessments were insufficient to demonstrate merit

38. An assessment process requires careful planning and execution in the selection of qualified persons who are able to do the job. Assessments must be designed and implemented without bias, political influence or personal favouritism. As stated in the Public Service Commission’s Assessment Policy, processes and methods must effectively assess the essential qualifications and other identified merit criteria and be administered fairly.

39. In several cases, the tools and methods used to assess the candidates’ qualifications did not evaluate all of the position requirements. For example, some of the interview guides and questionnaires did not address all of the essential qualifications identified by the department. In other cases, the guidance document used to rate candidates’ responses was not respected. The use of these inadequate assessment tools and methods led to evaluations that were insufficient to demonstrate merit.

Exhibit 3: Insufficient assessment tools and methods

In a staffing process for office clerks that was advertised to members of the public as well as public servants, the guidance document used to assess the qualifications of candidates did not include all of the essential knowledge requirements that the department had established and advertised for the positions being staffed. This meant that none of the candidates, including the eight individuals who were appointed to the jobs, had been evaluated on and confirmed to meet all of the knowledge established as necessary to perform the work. In this same process, the qualifications of two individuals appointed to positions were assessed using a different and shorter interview questionnaire that did not address several essential qualifications.

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission of Canada

Appointments were made when merit was not met

40. In some cases, qualification standards in relation to educational requirements were not interpreted correctly. In particular, there were errors in applying the education standard for positions in the Information Services (IS) and Economics, Sociology and Statistics (ES) occupational groups. Typical positions in these groups include communications officers and analysts, respectively. The standards are established by the employer, Treasury Board, and represent the minimum requirements necessary to perform the work in a given occupational group. Accordingly, candidates who do not meet these standards are not qualified to be appointed.

Exhibit 4: Merit was not met

In a case where merit was not met, the interview report in the staffing file showed that the individual who was appointed to the job did not meet several essential qualifications that the department had established for knowledge and other competencies. For one of these essential qualifications, the individual received a score of zero. This file has been referred to Infrastructure Canada’s Deputy Head to investigate and take appropriate action, as required

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission

41. In total, there were eight appointments where, although the assessments were completed, the individual who was appointed to the job did not meet one or more of the essential qualifications. In six of these cases, qualification standards related to education were not met because the relevant standards were not properly applied. In the two remaining cases, the individuals did not meet essential qualifications related to knowledge, language requirements and/or abilities.

42. We have referred all files in which issues have been raised to either Infrastructure Canada’s Deputy Head to investigate and take appropriate action as required, or to our Investigations Directorate to determine if an investigation is warranted. The PSC will monitor these files to ensure that corrective action is properly carried out.

Recommendation 5

The Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada should demonstrate that appointments are based on merit. This includes demonstrating that assessment tools and methods fully and fairly assess essential qualifications and other identified merit criteria.

Infrastructure Canada Response 5. Infrastructure Canada is committed to ensuring that appointments are based on merit. As of May 2009, a senior HR advisor works closely with delegated managers at each stage of the staffing process, to ensure that the methods and tools fully and fairly assess the essential qualifications and other identified merit criteria. In addition, new and revised tools are being developed to support delegated managers, which will further improve the quality and consistency of assessment methods. These tools will be shared with sub-delegated managers, as they are prepared, through summer and fall 2009.

Other compliance issues requiring attention

Priority persons did not receive full consideration in some instances

43. In many cases, deputy heads must conduct a search of the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) inventory of priority persons prior to choosing an appointment process. Priority persons are individuals who are entitled under the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) and the Public Service Employment Regulations (PSER) to be considered before all others, for appointment to positions for which they meet the essential qualifications. They include, for example, public servants who have been laid off or Canadian Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police members who have been released or discharged for medical reasons and certified as able to return to work.

44. We found that in six cases out of the 39 appointments where priority persons were considered, essential qualifications and other requirements, such as conditions of employment, were more stringent for the priority persons than those used to assess the individuals who were appointed. In a few cases, the priority persons were assessed on more essential qualifications than the individuals who were appointed. This adversely affects access, fairness and transparency in the appointment process and does not take advantage of a good source of candidates.

Screening of candidates was inconsistent

45. The assessment process may involve various stages where applicants must meet specific criteria or be eliminated from further consideration. An initial screening on area of selection, education, experience or other qualifications is often the first step in the process. Seventeen (63%) of the advertised appointment processes did not properly screen applicants to determine whether they met the initial eligibility. For example, there was evidence of eligible applicants being inappropriately screened out from further consideration while ineligible applicants were screened in.

Active monitoring of staffing processes was weak

46. Persons responsible for the assessment must have the necessary competencies to ensure a fair and complete assessment of candidates’ qualifications. Sub-delegated managers must have access to HR advisors who have a solid understanding of the appointment values as well as the legislative foundations of staffing (PSEA and PSER). Further, sub-delegated managers must have access to HR advisors whose expertise in the Appointment Framework has been validated by the PSC. Infrastructure Canada had three HR advisors with this validation. However, based on the observed level of non-compliance to the PSEA, PSER and PSC appointment policies, HR advice and guidance to managers on the appointment process was not sufficient.

47. We also noted that the responsibility for reviewing completed staffing files lacked independence. In some cases, this responsibility was inappropriately assigned to the same HR employee who assembled the file. In one case, an HR employee reviewed the staffing file for which they were a candidate and were ultimately appointed to one of the positions being staffed. This compromised the integrity of the appointment process.

Recommendation 6

The Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada should demonstrate that appropriate quality control measures are in place to ensure appointments and related decisions adhere to the requirements of the PSEA, the PSER and other governing authorities and that corrective action is taken when required.

 

Infrastructure Canada Response 6. As part of its commitment to improving its HR process, Infrastructure Canada has considerably enhanced its HR capacity, and is expected to be fully staffed in the summer of 2009. With additional resources now in place, Infrastructure Canada has a strong team of HR advisors available to provide timely and relevant expertise in all aspects of HR planning and individual staffing transactions.

In addition, the HR division has now separated its corporate and operational functions into two separately managed units, in order to increase the independence of the oversight. The operations unit conducts active monitoring of staffing actions at each decision point, so that problems can be identified before the action is advanced, and corrective measures can be readily implemented. The corporate unit conducts statistical analysis of staffing patterns to identify evolving risks, and ensure that systemic issues are identified and addressed in a timely manner.

Conclusion

48. Infrastructure Canada did not have adequate systems and practices in place to manage its public service staffing activities. We are particularly concerned about its weak human resources (HR) planning and monitoring activities. The department had a significant shortage of staff which had not been addressed and its HR plan did not provide direction to management on how to deal with the shortfall. The Deputy Head’s monitoring of staffing systems performance lacked rigour. Its Human Resources Committee was approving staffing activities based on erroneous data, an uncoordinated approach and without a detailed plan. Vacancies appeared to be staffed as expeditiously as possible rather than integrated into the department’s business objectives.

49. Tools and methods used to assess candidates’ qualifications were inadequate in many cases and led to evaluations that were insufficient to demonstrate merit. Further, the individuals appointed in eight out of the 45 appointments examined, did not meet one or more of the essential qualifications identified by the department. As a result, greater compliance with the Public Service Employment Act and other governing authorities, and with the instrument of delegation signed with the Public Service Commission (PSC) is required by this department.

50. The PSC has placed conditions on the delegation of staffing authorities at Infrastructure Canada. The PSC will require that Infrastructure Canada’s Deputy Head formally report to the PSC on a semi-annual basis. Further, the Deputy Head must provide copies of all staffing-related presentations as well as the related committee minutes to its restructured HR Committee, which is now referred to as the People Management Committee.

Overall response of entity

Infrastructure Canada’s responsibilities have increased tremendously in recent years, with the rapid growth of federal infrastructure funding programs. The department is proud of the important contribution it is making to the government’s commitments in the Economic Action Plan, including the delivery of 12 programs totalling almost $38 billion.

At the same time, the department recognizes that the speed and magnitude of growth in Infrastructure Canada’s business has created many challenges in HR planning and management. As part of its transition from a very small agency to a more mature and complex organization, Infrastructure Canada is orienting the governance of HR to better support Infrastructure Canada’s mandate and business objectives. Infrastructure Canada is committed to addressing the issues identified in a rigorous and timely manner.

Infrastructure Canada looks forward to working with its staff and with the Public Service Commission in the coming months, as the department reinforces its capacity to achieve excellence in HR planning and performance while continuing to deliver on the government’s commitments in the Economic Action Plan of Budget 2009.

About the audit

Objectives

The objectives of the audit were to determine whether:

  • Infrastructure Canada had an appropriate framework, systems, and practices in place to manage its staffing activities; and
  • Appointments and appointment processes complied with the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) and other governing authorities, and with the instrument of delegation signed with the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Scope and approach

The audit covered the period from January 1, 2006 to August 30, 2008. We examined 45 appointments made under the current PSEA. Our sample was selected as follows:

  • two appointments from 2006;
  • a representative sample of 40 appointments from the period of January 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008; and
  • all three appointments from the period April 1, 2008 to May 5, 2008.

The appointments included acting appointments for periods of four months or more and appointments resulting from advertised and non-advertised, internal and external appointment processes.

We analyzed documents related to human resources (HR) management at Infrastructure Canada and we interviewed managers and staffing advisors.

Criteria

We drew the following audit criteria from the PSEA, the Public Service Employment Regulations (PSER), the PSC’s Appointment Policies, the policies established by Infrastructure Canada, the Staffing Management Accountability Framework and the Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument (ADAI) signed by the Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada and the Public Service Commission.

We expected that Infrastructure Canada would have:

  • Systems in place allowing senior management to use the appointment processes to meet its operational mandate. These systems include HR planning, a structure to implement the plan, management direction and control over the implementation of the plan.
  • Complied with the requirements of the PSEA, the PSER, the PSC’s Appointment Policies, terms and conditions of the ADAI and the policies established by Infrastructure Canada.
  • Appropriately used the flexibilities afforded by the PSEA to effectively achieve Infrastructure Canada’s mandate. This includes HR planning and the knowledge and training related to the use of the flexibilities.
  • HR information that is accurate, relevant, and available on a timely basis for decision-making.
  • Provided its management team with sufficient support and timely staffing advice.

Audit team

Acting Vice-President, Audit and Data Services Branch:

Jean Ste-Marie

Director General, Departmental Audits Directorate:

Dena Palamedes

Director, Departmental Audits Directorate:

Darren Horne

Audit Managers:

Suzanne Vaudry
Suzanne Veaudry-Brown

Auditors:

Cheryl Benoit-Cameron
Jill Hawkins
Donna Lee-Ying
Brenda Mansfield
Christopher Wilson

Glossary

Access (Accessibilité)

One of the guiding values of the Public Service Employment Act requiring that persons from across the country have a reasonable opportunity, in their official language of choice, to apply and to be considered for public service employment.

Acting appointment (Nomination intérimaire)

The temporary promotion of an employee.

Advertised appointment process (Processus de nomination annoncé)

When persons in the area of selection are informed of and can apply to an appointment opportunity.

Appointment Nomination)

An action taken under the Public Service Employment Act to hire or promote someone.

Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument (ADAI) (Instrument de délégation et de responsabilisation en matière de nomination - IDRN)

The formal document by which the PSC delegates its authorities to deputy heads. It identifies authorities, any conditions related to the delegation and sub-delegation of these authorities and how deputy heads will be held accountable for the exercise of their delegated authorities.

Appointment Framework (Cadre de nomination)

Sets out expectations for deputy heads when designing their staffing systems to ensure they respect legislative requirements and values guiding staffing in the public service. The framework has three components: appointment policy, delegation and accountability.

Appointment Framework Knowledge Test (AFKT) (Examen de connaissances sur le Cadre de nomination - ECCN)

A test developed by the PSC to assess Human Resources (HR) specialists’ knowledge of the PSC Appointment Framework and the related legislation. A condition of delegation is that deputy heads ensure that those to whom authority is sub-delegated have access to HR specialists whose knowledge of the Appointment Framework has been validated by the PSC.

Appointment policy (Lignes directrices en matière de nomination)

Under the Public Service Employment Act, the PSC can establish policies on making and revoking appointments and taking corrective action. The PSC has a number of policies on specific subjects that correspond to key decision points in appointment processes and should be read in conjunction with the Public Service Employment Regulations.

Area of selection (Zone de sélection)

The geographic, occupational, organizational and/or employment equity criteria that applicants must meet in order to be eligible for appointment that provides reasonable access to internal and external appointments and a reasonable area of recourse for internal non-advertised appointments. A national area of selection is prescribed by the PSC for certain external appointment processes.

Assessment methods (Méthodes d'évaluation)

Methods such as interviews, written tests, reference checks and simulations designed to assess candidates against the qualifications for the position.

Assessment requirements (Critères d’évaluation)

The PSC Assessment Policy sets out specific requirements to ensure that assessment processes and methods result in the identification of the person(s) who meet(s) the qualifications and other merit criteria used in making the appointment decision and provides a sound basis for making appointments according to merit.

Asset qualifications (Qualifications constituant un atout)

Qualifications that are not essential to perform the work, but which would benefit the organization or enhance the work to be performed. Asset qualifications may include experience, education, knowledge, skills, personal suitability, or any other qualification with the exception of official language requirements.

Barrier (Obstacle)

Physical obstacles, policies, practices or procedures that restrict or exclude persons in designated groups or those protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act from employment-related opportunities in the federal public service. Barriers include attitudes and behaviours that may exclude certain persons or groups of persons from full participation in an appointment process, in particular, and the workplace, in general.

Casual employment (Emploi occasionnel)

A short-term employment option to hire someone. Under the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), a casual worker cannot work more than 90 working days in one calendar year in a given organization, with the exception of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, where, in certain circumstances, the maximum period is 165 working days in one calendar year. The provisions of the PSEA, such as the merit requirement, do not apply to casual workers.

Corrective action (Mesures correctives)

A process aimed at correcting an error, omission or improper conduct that affected the selection of the person appointed in an appointment process, or to address situations where an employee has engaged in an inappropriate political activity.

Deployment (Mutation)

The movement of a person from one position to another in accordance with Part 3 of the Public Service Employment Act. A deployment cannot be a promotion and cannot change the tenure of employment from specified term to indeterminate. A person who is deployed is no longer the incumbent of his or her previous position.

Employee (Fonctionnaire)

A person employed in the part of the public service to which the PSC has exclusive authority to make appointments.

Essential qualifications (Qualifications essentielles)

Qualifications necessary for the work to be performed and that must be met in order for a person to be appointed. These include education, experience, occupational certification, knowledge, abilities and skills, aptitudes, personal suitability and official language proficiency.

External appointment process (Processus de nomination externe)

A process in which persons may be considered, whether or not they are employed in the public service.

Fairness (Justice)

One of the guiding values of the Public Service Employment Act requiring that decisions be made objectively and free from political influence or personal favouritism, that policies and practices reflect the just treatment of persons, and that persons have the right to be assessed in their official language of choice.

Fiscal year (Année financière ou exercice financier)

April 1 to March 31, for the public service.

Human resources planning (Planification des ressources humaines)

A process that identifies an organization's current and future human resources needs and the planned objectives and strategies to meet these needs.

Indicator (Indicateur)

A quantification or qualification characteristic that is measured to assess the extent to which an expected result is achieved and which is used to predict the health of the federal public service appointment system.

Internal appointment process (Processus de nomination interne)

A process for making one or more appointments for which only persons employed in the public service may be considered.

Investigation (Enquête)

An inquiry into an alleged violation of the Public Service Employment Act or the Public Service Employment Regulations.

Merit (Mérite)

One of the core values of the Public Service Employment Act. An appointment is made on the basis of merit when a person appointed meets the essential qualifications for work to be performed, as established by the deputy head, including official language proficiency. The sub-delegated manager may also take into account any current or future asset qualifications, operational requirements and organizational needs.

Merit criteria (Critères de mérite)

Essential qualifications as well as other merit criteria. Essential qualifications are those necessary for the work to be performed; they must be met in order for a person to be appointed. The other merit criteria can include any additional current or future asset qualifications, operational requirements or organizational needs, as established by the deputy head. The sub-delegated manager decides whether to apply the other criteria when making an appointment.

Non-advertised appointment process (Processus de nomination non annoncé)

An appointment process that does not meet the criteria for an advertised appointment process.

Non-partisanship (Impartialité politique)

One of the core values of the Public Service Employment Act, non-partisanship ensures that appointments and promotions to and within the public service are made free from political influence and supports the capacity and willingness of employees to serve governments, regardless of political affiliation.

Occupational group (Groupe professionnel)

A grouping used for classification, comprising similar kinds of work requiring similar skills.

Operational requirements (Exigences opérationnelles)

Current or future requirements to ensure the work to be performed can be completed. For operations that run 24 hours a day, shift work might be an example of an operational requirement.


Organizational needs (Besoins organisationnels)

Current or future needs that are not essential to do the work but could enhance how the organization operates or fulfills its mandate. Organizational needs could include the consideration of employment equity designated group members.

Priority person (Bénéficiaire de priorité)

A person who has an entitlement under the Public Service Employment Act or Public Service Employment Regulations, for a limited period, to be appointed ahead of all others to vacant positions in the public service. To be appointed the person must meet the essential qualifications of the position.

Representativeness (Représentativité)

One of the guiding values of the Public Service Employment Act requiring that appointment processes be conducted without bias and without creating systemic barriers in order to help achieve a public service that reflects the Canadian population it serves.

Staffing Management Accountability Framework (SMAF) (Cadre de responsabilisation en gestion de la dotation - CRGD)

The SMAF sets out the PSC's expectations for a well-managed appointment system and the reporting requirements of deputy heads to the PSC. It serves as the basis for measuring key success factors and the achievement of results and appointment values.

Sub-delegated manager (Gestionnaire subdélégué)

A person to whom a deputy head has sub-delegated, in writing, the authority to exercise specific appointment and appointment-related authorities which have been delegated to the deputy head by the PSC.

Transparency (Transparence)

One of the guiding values of the Public Service Employment Act, requiring that information about strategies, decisions, policies and practices be communicated.