Opening Statement by Anne-Marie Robinson, President of the Public Service Commission, at a meeting of the Senate National Finance Committee concerning 2013-2014 Main Estimates and Report on Plans and Priorities

February 12, 2014

Check against delivery.

Mr. Chair, thank you.

The mandate of the Public Service Commission is to promote and safeguard merit-based appointments, and in collaboration with other stakeholders, to protect the non-partisan nature of the public service.

I would like to thank you for this opportunity to meet with you regarding our Main Estimates and our Report on Plans and Priorities for 2013-2014.

Planned spending and strategic priorities

In our Main Estimates, the PSC is authorized to spend $89.9 million and, in addition, it has an authority to recover up to $14 million of the costs of our staffing and assessment products and services provided to federal organizations.

As a result of Spending Review 2012, our budget is being reduced by $8.9 million to be implemented over three fiscal years. Last year, our reductions were $2.2 million, with another $2.2 million this year and $4.5 million next year.

Now, I would like to turn to our strategic priorities. They remain, to provide ongoing independent assurance to Parliament in relation to the performance of the staffing system, to continue to enhance the Priority Administration Program, and to work with stakeholders to foster increased awareness of non-partisanship as a core value of the public service.

Oversight of staffing system

Mr. Chair, our Annual Report was tabled on December 6.

Based on all our oversight and feedback mechanisms, which includes monitoring, audits and investigations, the Commission concluded that the management of staffing in departments and agencies continued to improve in 2012-13.

The 12 audits the PSC conducted this year found that most of the key elements of effective staffing management were in place; and deputy heads and managers respected their delegated authority. Some areas still require further attention. For example, some organizations need to continue to improve their internal monitoring of appointment processes, which allows them to detect and correct issues in a timely way.

This brings me to our investigations. This year, 44 cases were founded. We saw more cases involving fraud, for instance, the use of false educational or professional credentials. Many of these cases were detected as a result of improved monitoring by departments and agencies as well as by the PSC.

However, I would like to note that the number of founded investigations and problematic transactions is actually very low in the context of the more than 100,000 hiring and staffing activities conducted on average each year.

Hiring and staffing in the public service

With respect to hiring activities, this was an unusual year in many ways as departments and agencies focused their efforts on redeploying employees and placing persons affected by workforce adjustment, thereby altering normal staffing patterns.

Overall hiring to the public service declined by 28.3%. This includes indeterminate, specified term and casual hiring, as well as the hiring of students. With fewer hires and more departures, the overall population that is covered by the Public Service Employment Act declined by 5.4%.

Public service hiring declined throughout the country, but more particularly in the National Capital Region. While student hiring was down, over 9,500 students were still hired for part-time and summer employment. They represented 31% of all hiring to the public service, a percentage that has consistently increased over the past four years.

We also saw enhanced access to public service jobs. National Area of Selection continues to allow more Canadians to apply for opportunities no matter where they live. As well, Canadians without any previous work experience in the public service accounted for 41.7% of new permanent hires, the largest component for the first time in over a decade.

Public service renewal

Mr. Chair, I would now like to turn to public service renewal. Fewer graduates entered the public service in 2012-13. There are also fewer employees 35 years of age and younger in the public service; they represented 18.4% of permanent employees in March 2013, down from 21.4% in March 2010. In this context, a focus on renewal and the recruitment of new employees will gain greater importance as the public service moves forward.

Future recruitment must also take into account our increasingly diverse population. According to the most recent population data published by Treasury Board Secretariat, overall we are making progress with regard to the representation of employment equity groups in the public service. However, we still have work to do. This year, the PSC conducted further research to better understand the challenges that the employment equity groups experience and to use the findings to better target areas for specific action.

Priority administration

Now, I would like to turn to the Priority Administration Program. Since April 2012, working in close collaboration with departments and agencies, the PSC has placed more than 2,000 priority persons. The majority were surplus employees.

At the same time, the PSC has seen a drop in the placement of persons in other priority categories including a significant decline in the placement of Canadian Armed Forces veterans who have been medically released. At the request of Veterans Affairs, the PSC provided technical options to address this issue for their consideration.

The Government has recently introduced Bill C-11 An Act to amend the Public Service Employment Act with respect to priority hiring for medically-released veterans. Should Parliament approve the proposed amendments, the PSC is ready to implement them.

Innovation

On the innovation front, we continue to leverage our technology and expertise. We have expanded the use of e-testing, unsupervised Internet testing and computer-generated testing. These tools are a valuable link in enhancing access to public service jobs and allowing organizations to effectively manage high volumes of applicants.

Non-partisan public service

I would now like to turn to the issue of non-partisanship.  Our staffing survey found that employees’ awareness continued to increase. 73% of respondents were aware of their rights and responsibilities with respect to political activities, up from 69% found in last year’s survey. We will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders to find ways of sustaining this momentum.

Going forward

It has been eight years since the implementation of the Public Service Employment Act, so we have a unique opportunity to take fuller advantage of our experience to improve our processes. In this context, we are working more closely with departments and agencies to help them build a stronger culture of prevention and compliance while we continue to deliver on our fundamental responsibility to provide independent oversight and assurance to Parliament.

Finally, Mr. Chair, you may have noticed that the PSC itself was among the 12 organizations that were audited in 2012-2013. The Commission put robust measures in place to mitigate risks concerning possible conflicts of interest. The findings and three recommendations in the audit are being addressed through the implementation of a detailed action plan.

I would be pleased to respond to your questions.

Thank you.