12 Audit of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

Table of Contents

Table of contents

Summary

12.1 The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) is among the largest and most complex organizations in the federal public service. It is responsible for the conduct of Canada's international affairs, including global trade and commerce. DFAIT shapes Canada's positions on global issues and responses to international events, managing bilateral and multilateral relationships, delivering international programs and providing services and assistance to Canadians living abroad. Some 4 800 employees from DFAIT's workforce are appointed under the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) and are composed of two populations (rotational or non-rotational).

12.2 The objectives of the audit were to determine whether DFAIT had an appropriate framework, systems and practices in place to manage its appointment activities and to determine whether appointments and appointment processes in the rotational and non-rotational populations complied with the PSEA, the Public Service Employment Regulations (PSER), the Public Service Commission (PSC) Appointment Framework and other governing authorities.

12.3 We found that DFAIT has an appointment framework in place, but that it needs some improvement. We also found that DFAIT had developed staffing strategies that supported its organizational staffing priorities, but had difficulty measuring the expected results. DFAIT is in the process of developing a new human resources (HR) plan and staffing strategies with expected results that will be more measurable.

12.4 DFAIT had put in place the mandatory appointment policies and criteria as required by the PSC Appointment Framework. In May 2011, DFAIT included the value of representativeness in its policies and updated its Policy on Area of Selection to comply with the PSC Appointment Framework.

12.5 DFAIT mechanisms were in place to ensure that sub-delegated managers and HR advisors were informed of their roles and responsibilities and had the support to carry out their appointment-related responsibilities.

12.6 DFAIT carried out some monitoring activities to ensure that appointments and appointment processes comply with the legislative framework. DFAIT also used control mechanisms such as staffing checklists, signature requirements for rationales and a documented challenge function. Based on evidence on file, discussions with HR officials, and as shown by the compliance results of this audit, we found that the use of these control mechanisms was not always adequate and sufficiently rigorous.

12.7 We found that merit was met in 44% (35 out of 80) of the appointments we audited. However, the compliance results by rotational and non-rotational populations are quite different.

12.8 The percentage of appointments where merit was met was higher in the rotational population (rotational 65%; non-rotational 22.5%). The percentage of appointments where merit was not met was similar for both populations (rotational 12.5%; non-rotational 10%), but the percentage of appointments where merit was not demonstrated was higher in the non-rotational population (rotational 22.5%; non-rotational 67.5%).

12.9 We also found that the percentage of appointments where merit was not met was higher in non-advertised appointment processes (advertised 5%; non-advertised 17.5%).

12.10 In many of the appointments we audited, we were unable to conclude that merit was met largely due to deficiencies found in the assessment tools, especially in the case of appointment processes for the non-rotational population. In addition, most appointment decisions for rotational and non-rotational populations were not supported with sufficient and appropriate documentation, such as, final screening board reports, rationales and appointment (right fit) decisions.

12.11 We found that the rationales for the non-advertised processes met the criteria established by DFAIT, but most did not address at least one of the guiding values of fairness, access, transparency or representativeness.

12.12 DFAIT accepted the audit findings as well as the recommendations and elaborated an action plan to address the issues raised in the audit report.

12.13 The PSC will monitor DFAIT's follow-up action to the audit recommendations through its regular monitoring activities, including the annual Departmental Staffing Accountability Report; as a result, the PSC has decided not to amend the existing delegation agreement with the deputy head of DFAIT.

Background

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

12.14 The Canadian government established the Department of External Affairs in 1909. In 1982, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada was formed as a result of the merger between the Department of External Affairs and the Trade Commissioner Service. The organization's enabling legislation is the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act.

12.15 DFAIT is among the largest and most complex organizations in the federal public service. It is responsible for the conduct of Canada's international affairs, including global trade and commerce. Due to the scope of its mandate and the complexity of its activities, there are two representatives in the federal Cabinet and two Parliamentary secretaries, as well as a minister of state, two deputy ministers (deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and deputy minister of International Trade) and an associate deputy minister.

12.16 DFAIT shapes Canada's positions on global issues and its responses to international events, managing bilateral and multilateral relationships, delivering international programs and providing services and assistance to Canadians living abroad. The organization manages 173 missions abroad, 140 points of services worldwide and 18 regional offices across Canada.

12.17 As of March 2010, DFAIT had just under 10 000 employees in Canada and abroad, in two categories:

  • Locally-Engaged staff (LES) work in diplomatic missions abroad under local labour laws. The LES are appointed under the Locally-Engaged Staff Employment Regulations enacted under the PSEA and they account for 5 161 of DFAIT's workforce.
  • Canada-Based Staff appointed under the PSEA account for 4 810 of DFAIT's workforce and are composed of two populations (rotational and non-rotational):
    • Rotational employees are those staff whose terms and conditions of employment include willingness to be assigned to work for two-to four-year periods at missions abroad. These employees are recruited at entry level on a collective basis and are managed as a pool. They work at Headquarters in Ottawa and in regional offices across Canada, and in missions abroad. They are either foreign services officers (in trade, or political/economic streams), management consular officers, administrative assistants, computer systems specialists or executives.
    • Non-rotational employees work in program areas at Headquarters in Ottawa and in regional offices across Canada. These employees can apply for and may undertake single assignments in missions abroad in the course of their career; however, they are not corporately managed on a pool basis and are recruited at various levels. They work as executives, economists, commerce officers, program administrators, personnel administrators, purchasing and supply officers or financial management officers.

12.18 As of March 2010, some 75% of Canada-Based Staff appointed under the PSEA were located in the National Capital Region, followed by 22% located outside Canada. The rest of the workforce (3%) was dispersed in regional offices across Canada.

12.19 DFAIT operates in an increasingly complex global environment. In 2010, the organization provided intensive support for Canada's hosting of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and the G-8 and G-20 summits. It also contributed international efforts to help Haiti recover and rebuild following the January 2010 earthquake. In 2011, DFAIT was present in Egypt and in the Middle East and North Africa regions to support Canada's commitment to human rights, democracy and stability in the region. DFAIT also co-ordinated urgently needed relief supplies to Japan in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

12.20 DFAIT reported that these changes to its organizational and international environment resulted in an increase of new, temporary and emergency staffing requirements that have significantly affected its staffing operations and the length of time it takes to staff positions.

12.21 Due to the nature of its mandate, DFAIT faces several HR challenges: recruiting and retaining a rotational workforce in hardship and conflict-zone postings; and shortages and high turnover in its non-rotational workforce. As a result, DFAIT identified a need for more systematic approaches to recruitment, retention, learning and professional development.

12.22 In addition, DFAIT was managing a reallocation exercise. The goal was to reallocate positions from Headquarters to missions and regional offices across Canada by March 2012.

12.23 DFAIT also announced a staffing freeze of hires from outside the organization in July 2009. A Committee of Headquarters' Operations (COHO) was established in April 2010 to ensure that DFAIT's financial, human and material resources were aligned and maintained within its reference levels and reflected organizational priorities. As a result, some types of staffing activities and decisions were approved by COHO and were managed on a case-by-case basis.

12.24 The PSC is responsible for the administration of the PSEA. This Act gives the PSC exclusive authority to make appointments, based on merit, to and within the public service. It further allows the PSC to delegate to organizational deputy heads its authority for making appointments. During the scope of our audit, a new deputy head of Foreign Affairs was appointed to DFAIT. The PSC signed an Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument (ADAI) with DFAIT, delegating appointment authorities to the deputy head of Foreign Affairs. The former and current deputy heads had full delegation authority during the period covered by the audit.

Purpose and methodology of the audit

12.25 The objectives of the audit were to determine whether DFAIT had an appropriate framework, systems and practices in place to manage its appointment activities and to determine whether appointments and appointment processes complied with the PSEA, the PSER, the PSC Appointment Framework and other governing authorities.

12.26 Based on a risk assessment of the Appointment Framework and its application, we focussed on the organization's policies, staffing strategies, monitoring of appointment activities and delegation of authorities through interviews with senior management, HR officials and HR advisors. We also reviewed key documentation for the period from April 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010.

12.27 Our approach to assessing compliance with PSEA requirements included examining a representative sample of 80 appointments (40 appointments in the rotational population and 40 appointments in the non-rotational population, both advertised and non-advertised processes) for the period from April 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010.

12.28 Our sample excluded Locally-Engaged Staff as they are appointed under the Locally-Engaged Staff Employment Regulations. The PSEA provided for the regulatory authority to make these regulations. For more details about our methodology and sampling, refer to About the audit at the end of this report.

Observations and recommendations

Observations on the Appointment Framework

Staffing strategies in place were difficult to measure

12.29 We expected DFAIT to have staffing strategies that support organizational staffing priorities. Staffing strategies describe the staffing actions that the organization plans to take to implement the staffing priorities of senior management.

12.30 In June 2009, DFAIT published an Integrated HR Plan for 2009-2012, taking into account the recommendations of the 2007 Report of the Auditor General on HR management at DFAIT. The plan established high-level expected results and included, among others, staffing activities and strategies for rotational and non-rotational populations that were linked to performance measures.

12.31 The HR plan included staffing strategies that addressed staffing priorities of both populations. For example:

  • External and internal, advertised and non-advertised processes to recruit and promote rotational staff to ensure adequate field capacity; and
  • External and internal, advertised and non-advertised processes to recruit and retain non-rotational staff with specialized skills, where shortages have been identified, to ensure a sustainable non-rotational workforce.

12.32 DFAIT reported on the status of the results against the staffing strategies and performance measures as of March 31, 2010. The organization decided not to report on the results the following year because the HR plan was too comprehensive and conceptual in nature, making it very difficult to measure expected results. Moreover, the plan no longer reflected the organization's current operational environment and priorities.

12.33 In May 2011, DFAIT reported that it was in the process of developing a new HR plan and staffing strategies with expected results that are more measurable. The new HR plan will take into consideration the unanticipated changes to its operating environment.

Sub-delegation of appointment authorities were granted

12.34 We expected DFAIT to have established a sub-delegation instrument that is consistent with the PSEA and the PSC Appointment Framework.

12.35 The deputy head of Foreign Affairs signed an ADAI with the PSC and established a sub-delegation instrument that authorized sub-delegated managers to make appointments on the deputy head's behalf. The sub-delegation instrument clearly identified the requirements that managers had to meet in order to be sub-delegated, including mandatory sub-delegation training. Managers also had to sign a staffing accountability agreement from the deputy head confirming that they were sub-delegated prior to exercising their appointment-related authorities.

12.36 The sub-delegation instrument applied to both populations, rotational and non-rotational, with slight differences in the sub-delegation appointment authority levels.

Mandatory appointment policies were updated

12.37 We expected DFAIT's appointment policies to be consistent with the PSC Appointment Framework. The Framework requires that delegated organizations establish mandatory policies on area of selection, corrective action and revocation, and establish criteria for the use of non-advertised appointment processes. The Framework also allows delegated organizations to develop other appointment policies to respond to specific needs and priorities.

12.38 We found that DFAIT put in place the mandatory appointment policies and the criteria for the use of a non-advertised appointment process required by the PSC Appointment Framework. These policies were available to all employees through the organization's intranet site.

12.39 DFAIT's appointment policies applied to rotational and non-rotational populations, but some policies have requirements pertaining only to appointments in the rotational population. For example, the minimum area of selection for internal advertised and non-advertised processes specifies different geographic criteria for rotational and non-rotational populations in the DFAIT Area of Selection Policy.

12.40 In addition, DFAIT's appointment policy suite includes specific policies and guidelines for rotational appointments, such as Guidelines on Appointing to Rotational Positions and the Policy on the Employment of Spouses.

12.41 We found that DFAIT had not revised its Policy on Non-Advertised Appointments and its organizational Policy on Area of Selection to include the guiding value of representativeness, as required by the PSC Appointment Framework. We also noted that the value of representativeness was missing from the DFAIT Acting Policy and Assignment and Secondment Policy and Guidelines. Also, the DFAIT Policy on Area of Selection did not clearly indicate that a national area of selection was to be established for all advertised external appointment processes, as per the PSC Area of Selection Policy.

12.42 In May 2011, DFAIT included the value of representativeness in its policies and updated the national area of selection to comply with the PSC Appointment Framework.

Mechanisms were in place to support appointment-related responsibilities

12.43 We expected DFAIT to have mechanisms in place to ensure that stakeholders were informed of their roles and responsibilities and had the support to carry out their appointment-related responsibilities.

12.44 DFAIT's sub-delegation instrument clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of sub-delegated managers and HR advisors for appointment-related authorities. DFAIT also established HR service delivery standards for compensation, staffing and classification services to clarify the roles and responsibilities of managers and HR advisors.

12.45 DFAIT informed sub-delegated managers and HR advisors of their roles and responsibilities. Key elements of the appointment framework, such as the ADAI, the instrument of sub-delegation, organizational appointment policies, HR service delivery standards and staffing tools, were all available and accessible to sub-delegated managers and HR advisors on DFAIT's intranet site, which includes a comprehensive Staffing Processes Toolbox.

12.46 In order to be granted sub-delegation, managers must meet the requirements established by the deputy head. DFAIT offers mandatory training to provide managers with the knowledge needed to carry out their appointment-related responsibilities. Sub-delegated managers also have access to HR advisors whose knowledge of the appointment framework has been validated through the PSC Appointment Framework Knowledge Test.

12.47 We found that mechanisms were in place to provide sub-delegated managers and HR advisors with continuous learning, such as monthly HR Tips bulletins and technical meetings used to share information and discuss staffing issues.

Monitoring mechanisms were not sufficiently rigorous

12.48 Monitoring is an ongoing process of gathering and analyzing qualitative and quantitative information on current and past staffing results. This allows organizations to assess staffing management and performance, including risk assessment related to appointments and appointment processes. Monitoring also makes it possible to identify early corrective action, manage and minimize risk and improve staffing performance.

12.49 We expected DFAIT to have control mechanisms in place to ensure that appointments and appointment processes are monitored and that appropriate actions are taken, as needed.

12.50 At the corporate level, we found that DFAIT had an approved Staffing Monitoring Action Plan prepared by its Corporate Resourcing Directorate. The activities identified in the plan consisted mostly of monitoring the minimum requirements identified in the PSC's appointment policies, such as use of casual workers, acting appointments over 12 months, and non-advertised appointment processes. Appointment file reviews and dashboard reports were used to monitor these activities.

12.51 In 2009, the Corporate Resourcing Directorate conducted two reviews of a total sample of 50 appointments from the non-rotational population, using staffing checklists to verify compliance with the PSEA and the appointment policies. This review did not include any appointments from the rotational population. Follow-ups were conducted with HR advisors to discuss the results of this review, and actions were undertaken, when required. The results of this review were summarized in a report and presented to HR senior management. The report recommended continuous training to HR advisors and shared responsibility between the HR corporate resourcing and the HR operations directorates for the monitoring of staffing. DFAIT has not conducted any other review of appointments since then.

12.52 The Corporate Resourcing Directorate prepared quarterly monitoring reports, and submitted them to senior HR management for discussion. These reports contained some analysis of overall trends and patterns, but did not include actions required to address specific staffing issues.

12.53 Taking into account the recommendations of its 2006 internal audit report on the Human Resources Management System, DFAIT prepared a Data Integrity Strategy in December 2009 that contained concrete measures to ensure that data is accurate and complete. During the course of the audit, we noted that most of the measures have been implemented.

12.54 In addition, we found that DFAIT used other control mechanisms, such as staffing checklists, signature requirements for rationales and a documented challenge function, to ensure that appointments and appointment processes comply with the legislative framework.

  • Staffing checklists. DFAIT used staffing checklists to ensure that the appointment files contain the appropriate documents. We observed in our sample that the checklists were filled in the majority of the appointment files. However, most appointment files were lacking important documentation to explain the appointment decision, such as the proof of education when required, rationales for non-advertised processes and appointment (right fit) documentation.
  • Signature requirements for rationales for the choice of a non-advertised appointment process. We noted that the sub-delegated manager and the HR advisor are required to sign the rationale for a non-advertised appointment process to ensure that it meets the established criteria and addresses the four guiding values. However, we found that 35% (11 out of 31) of the rationales we reviewed were signed by both the sub-delegated manager and the HR advisor, even though they did not fully address the guiding values.
  • Challenge function. We expected HR advisors to provide a challenge function to sub-delegated managers to ensure that appointments and appointment-related decisions are compliant with the legislative framework, and, that the appointment file contains adequate documentation to support the sub-delegated manager's appointment decision. We found evidence of documented advice in 18% (14 out of 80) of all appointments reviewed.

12.55 These mechanisms are sound practices and would reduce the risk of significant irregularities in the application of legislation, policy and appointment values. Based on evidence on file and discussions with HR officials, and as shown by the compliance results of this audit, we found that the use of these control mechanisms was not always adequate and sufficiently rigorous.

Observations on merit

12.56 Section 30 of the PSEA establishes that appointments must be made on the basis of merit. Merit is met when the Commission is satisfied that the person to be appointed meets the essential qualifications for the work to be performed, as established by the deputy head, and, if applicable, any other asset qualifications, operational requirements or organizational needs established by the deputy head.

12.57 We expected appointments and appointment processes to respect the core values of merit and non-partisanship.

Merit was met in less than half of the appointments

12.58 We found that merit was met in 44% (35 out of 80) of appointments we audited. Merit was not demonstrated in 45% (36 out of 80) of appointments. We found that merit was not met in 11% (9 out of 80) of appointments.

12.59 However, the results for rotational and non-rotational populations were quite different. We found that the percentage of appointments where merit was met was higher in the rotational population (rotational 65%; non-rotational 22.5%).

12.60 The results for merit not met were similar for both populations (rotational 12.5%; non-rotational 10%), but we found that the percentage of appointments where merit was not demonstrated was higher in the non-rotational population (rotational 22.5%; non-rotational 67.5%).

12.61 Table 1 illustrates the compliance results of the 80 appointments audited, which included 40 appointments from the rotational population and 40 appointments from the non-rotational population.

Table 1: Observations on merit
Observations Number of appointments
Rotational
population
Non-rotational
population
Total
Merit was met Assessment tools or methods evaluated the essential qualifications and other merit criteria identified for the appointment; the person appointed met these requirements. 26 (65%) 9 (22.5%) 35 (44%)
Merit was not demonstrated Assessment tools and methods did not demonstrate that the person appointed met the identified requirements. 9 (22.5%) 27 (67.5%) 36 (45%)
Merit was not met The person appointed failed to meet one or more of the essential qualifications or other applicable merit criteria identified. 5 (12.5%) 4 (10%) 9 (11%)
Total appointments audited 40 (100%) 40 (100%) 80 (100%)

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission

12.62 We also found that the percentage of appointments where merit was not demonstrated was similar for both appointment process types (advertised 47.5%; non-advertised 42.5%). The percentage of appointments where merit was not met was higher for non-advertised appointment processes (advertised 5%; non-advertised 17.5%).

12.63 Exhibit 1 illustrates examples where merit was not met in rotational and non-rotational populations.

Exhibit 1: Merit was not met

Rotational population. We reviewed six appointments that were part of a staffing initiative to fill vacancies with employees who had filled these positions on an acting basis. These appointment processes were identical – the positions filled were generic ones and used the same statement of merit criteria (SoMC) and assessment tools.

The assignment history of four of the six appointees provided by DFAIT did not indicate that they had been acting in the position for a period equal to two assignment cycles (minimum of four years) and had served abroad for one assignment cycle (two years). DFAIT was unable to provide evidence that the four appointees met these two essential experience qualifications.

Non-rotational population. We found three appointments where the appointees did not meet the education asset qualification used to make the appointments. At the time of the appointments, the appointees had not yet completed the education asset qualification for the education criterion. For example, one appointee's résumé on file indicated a Master's degree, while other information noted that the Master's program was under way. DFAIT confirmed that the Master's degree was not completed.

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission

Merit was not demonstrated due to deficiencies in the assessment tools

12.64 The objective of the PSC appointment policy on assessment is to ensure that the assessment processes and methods result in the identification of the person who meets the qualifications and other merit criteria used in making the appointment decision, and provide a sound basis for making appointments according to merit. We expected the assessment processes and methods used by DFAIT to comply with this policy.

12.65 In many of the appointments audited, we were unable to conclude that merit was met largely due to deficiencies found in the assessment tools, especially for the non-rotational population. We noted one or more of the following deficiencies:

  • There were no final scores provided for the assessment of qualifications assessed through multiple assessment tools and methods;
  • The narrative assessment did not demonstrate with supporting examples how the appointee met the qualifications;
  • The narrative assessment refers to other assessment tools that were not in the appointment files and that DFAIT was unable to provide; and
  • One or more essential qualifications were omitted from the assessment tool.

12.66 Exhibit 2 illustrates examples where merit was not demonstrated.

Exhibit 2: Merit was not demonstrated

Rotational population. In the case of six appointments, the SoMC identified seven essential ability qualifications. The assessment tool consisted of a reference questionnaire that was completed by the supervisors. The reference questionnaire did not include one of the seven essential ability qualifications. DFAIT concurred with this finding of omission.

Non-rotational population. In the case of one appointment, the sub-delegated manager submitted a narrative assessment that did not evaluate all of the qualifications identified on the SoMC. The narrative assessment stated, for some of the qualifications, that the person met the requirements, but no explanation or supporting examples were provided demonstrating how the appointee met those qualifications. DFAIT was unable to provide additional information.

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission

Observations on guiding values

12.67 The process of selecting and appointing a person requires that decisions be made objectively and respect the guiding values of fairness, access, transparency, and representativeness. Appointment files must demonstrate that these values were respected throughout the appointment process.

12.68 We expected appointments and appointment processes to respect the guiding values of fairness, access, transparency, and representativeness.

Most rationales for the choice of non-advertised process did not respect the guiding values

12.69 The PSC Choice of Appointment Process Policy requires that non-advertised appointments be accompanied by a written rationale demonstrating how the choice of process has met both the established organizational criteria and the appointment values. We audited 40 non-advertised appointments.

12.70 Organizational criteria. Almost all of the 31 rationales found on file demonstrated how the choice of a non-advertised process met the established organizational criteria. However, DFAIT was unable to provide the required written rationale for the remaining nine appointments.

12.71 Guiding values. Based on evidence found on file and discussions with HR officials and HR advisors, in choosing a non-advertised appointment process, DFAIT did not address at least one of the four guiding values of fairness, access, transparency and representativeness in 29 of the 31 rationales on file. Of these, half did not address any of the four guiding values.

Recommendation 1

The deputy head of Foreign Affairs should strengthen the control mechanism for written rationales to ensure that the choice of a non-advertised appointment process demonstrates that all of the guiding values are considered and documented.

Few appointments had indicators of either error, omission or improper conduct

12.72 We found four appointments from the non-rotational population with more than one indicator of either error, omission or improper conduct that could jeopardize the guiding values, particularly the perception of fairness. These appointments were characterized by the following:

  • The appointee occupied the position as a casual prior to being appointed, which allowed the appointee to gain the necessary skills to be appointed to the position as an indeterminate or term employee;
  • The SoMC included very job-specific experience qualifications, such as experience in planning, implementing and evaluating website and e-communications strategies within the framework of DFAIT;
  • Tailoring of language requirements changed from BBB/BBB imperative to English essential in favour of the appointee;
  • A current pool of qualified candidates was not considered in favour of the appointee; and
  • Appropriate advice by an HR advisor was disregarded by the sub-delegated manager.

12.73 In these four appointments, merit was met in one appointment and, merit was not demonstrated in three appointments.

Other observations on compliance

12.74 We also expected DFAIT's appointment files to contain sufficient and appropriate documentation to support selection and appointment decisions. We found that, in many instances, appointment decisions for rotational and non-rotational populations were not supported with sufficient and appropriate documentation.

12.75 Priority clearance process. In 15% (12 out of 80) of appointments, we found that the essential qualifications for the priority clearance request were not the same as identified on the SoMC used for the appointment. This could have resulted in priority persons not being referred for further consideration.

12.76 Consideration of priorities. We expected, pursuant to the PSEA, the PSER and the PSC Choice of Appointment Process Policy, DFAIT to consider priority entitlements before deciding on an appointment process. In 33 out of the 80 appointments reviewed, the PSC referred persons with priority entitlements. In 15% (5 out of 33) of these appointments, DFAIT was unable to provide evidence to demonstrate if priorities were considered.

12.77 Statement of merit criteria. We found examples where the English and French versions of the SoMC were not identical in 5% (4 out of 80) of appointments. If the merit criteria are not the same in both official languages, then access may not be the same for all potential applicants. For example, the English version of the SoMC required that candidates have experience in four or more areas of collections management, whereas the French version of the SoMC required that candidates have experience in all areas of collections management. This may have resulted in a potential applicant choosing not to apply.

12.78 Screening. We observed that DFAIT did not always document decisions relating to the screening process for the 40 advertised appointments reviewed. As a result, we were unable to conclude whether the screening process was administered fairly in 6 advertised processes that accounted for 23 appointments.

Appointment (right fit) decision. We expected the appointment decision to be fully documented, as required by the PSC Policy on Selection and Appointment. We found that DFAIT did not document the appointment decisions in 58% (23 out of 40) of advertised appointments.

Recommendation 2

The deputy head of Foreign Affairs should improve control mechanisms and take the necessary action to ensure that:

  • The processes of selecting, assessing and appointing a person respect the core and guiding values; and
  • All appointment-related decisions are fully and accurately documented and are in compliance with the Public Service Employment Act, the Public Service Employment Regulations, the Public Service Commission Appointment Framework and other governing authorities.

Conclusion

12.80 We examined whether DFAIT had an appropriate framework, systems and practices in place to manage its appointment activities.

12.81 While many areas of DFAIT's appointment framework are in place, others need improvement. Mandatory appointment policies and criteria, as required by the PSC Appointment Framework, are in place. Sub-delegated managers and HR advisors were informed of their roles and responsibilities and had the support to carry out their appointment-related responsibilities. We found that DFAIT had developed staffing strategies that supported its organizational staffing priorities but had difficulty measuring the expected results. DFAIT is in the process of developing a new HR plan and staffing strategies with expected results that will be more measurable. DFAIT carried out some monitoring activities to ensure that appointments and appointment processes comply with the legislative framework and used control mechanisms. However, based on evidence on file, discussions with HR officials, and as shown by the compliance results of this audit, we found that the use of these control mechanisms was not always adequate and sufficiently rigorous.

12.82 We also examined whether appointments and appointment processes from the rotational and non-rotational populations complied with the PSEA, the PSER, the PSC Appointment Framework and other governing authorities.

12.83 We concluded that merit was met in almost half of the appointments we reviewed. However, the compliance results by rotational and non-rotational populations are quite different. The percentage of appointments where merit was met was higher in the rotational population. The percentage of appointments where merit was not met was higher in non-advertised appointment processes.

12.84 In many of the appointments we audited, we were unable to conclude that merit was met largely due to deficiencies in the assessment tools, especially for the non-rotational population. Most appointment decisions for the rotational and non-rotational populations were not supported with sufficient and appropriate documentation.

12.85 We found that most of the non-advertised appointment processes did not comply with the PSC Choice of Appointment Process Policy.

Action taken by the Public Service Commission

The PSC will monitor the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade follow-up action to the audit recommendations through its regular monitoring activities, including the annual Departmental Staffing Accountability Report; as a result, the PSC has decided not to amend the existing delegation agreement with the deputy head of DFAIT.

Overall response from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) is in agreement with the findings and recommendations of this report and acknowledges that the facts presented are accurate. DFAIT is committed to improving its staffing practices and has developed a comprehensive Management Action Plan that addresses the recommendations outlined in this report. Some measures have already been implemented and the remaining will be implemented by March 2012.

We have already increased our monitoring activities by making monitoring a shared responsibility with Human Resources Management Advisors and we have strengthened control mechanisms by using the Publiservice Letter Tool Builder to ensure consistency and accuracy. We have also updated our monitoring checklists.

Senior management is aware of the concerns raised in this report. Our managers have taken ownership and are committed to improving the rate of appointments that meet merit in the future.

DFAIT has worked hard to improve its staffing practices and the Public Service Commission (PSC) has acknowledged this in their report. Our sub-delegation instrument is in place, mandatory appointment policies are updated to include representativeness, mechanisms are in place to support appointment-related decisions and staffing checklists are in use. The department will continue to monitor the progress of implementing the Management Action Plan.

About the audit

Scoping considerations

The audit covered appointment activities and appointment-related decisions within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for the period from April 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010. The objectives of the audit were to determine whether DFAIT had an appropriate framework, systems and practices in place to manage its appointment activities and to determine whether appointments and appointment processes complied with the PSEA, the PSER, the PSC Appointment Framework and other governing authorities.

For more information regarding our methodology and audit criteria, refer to Overview of audit approach at the end of this publication.

Sample selection

Our sample of appointments was taken from the total appointments carried out within DFAIT from April 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010. We audited advertised and non-advertised appointment processes from the rotational and non-rotational populations.

Our sample excluded Locally-Engaged Staff as they are appointed under the Locally-Engaged Staff Employment Regulations. The PSEA provided for the regulatory authority to make these regulations. We also excluded from our sample reclassifications, acting appointments, Special Assignments Pay Plan appointments, appointments through bridging mechanisms, roll-overs as per the Term Employment Policy, deployments, extension of terms, priority appointments, Career Assignment Program appointments, non-advertised appointments for developmental programs, and entry-level advertised appointments for developmental programs in the rotational population. Table 2 provides details of our sample size and types of appointment processes audited.

Table 2: Appointments audited
Type of process Rotational population Non-Rotational population Total of appointments audited
Advertised 20 20 40*
Non-advertised 20 20 40*
Total 40* 40* 80*

Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission

Assuming a measured deviation rate of 20% or less, we can expect a confidence interval of 10% at a confidence level of 90%. This allows for unqualified reporting of audit findings for cells marked with an asterisk.

Audit team

Vice-President, Audit and Data Services Branch
Elizabeth Murphy-Walsh

Director General, Audit Directorate
Yves Genest

Director
Denise Coudry-Batalla

Manager
Jo-Anne Vallée

Auditors
Nathalie Crégheur
David Morneault
Chantal Schryer
Elena Tkalitch
Richard Vallée

Functional Expert
Paul Pilon

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