Audit reports 2014-2015: 3 - Audit of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
We concluded that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) had an appropriate framework, practices and systems in place to manage its appointment activities. A sub-delegation instrument was established and communicated. We found that AAFC demonstrated that most of the sub-delegated managers had met the terms and conditions for sub-delegation, including the training established by the deputy head, and that most of the individuals exercising appointment authorities were duly sub-delegated to do so. However, we found that the authority to sub-delegate appointment and appointment-related authorities and limit or revoke sub-delegation, which may only be exercised by the deputy head, was sub-delegated and used. We found that the mandatory appointment policies and criteria for the use of non-advertised processes were established and compliant. We noted that roles and responsibilities were defined and communicated to managers and human resources professionals. Finally, we found that AAFC had undertaken monitoring activities and adjusted its practices accordingly.
We also concluded that most of AAFC's appointments and appointment processes were compliant with the Public Service Employment Act, any other applicable statutory and regulatory instruments, the Public Service Commission's Appointment Framework and the organization's own appointment policies. We found that AAFC demonstrated that the person appointed met the essential and asset qualifications and organizational needs established by the deputy head in all 40 appointments audited. In addition, we found that persons with a priority entitlement were considered before appointments were made. In some instances, we found that the information used to make the priority clearance request and that was used to make the appointment decision was not the same, which could have had an impact on the consideration of persons with a priority entitlement. Finally, in several instances, we found that the English and French versions of the advertisements did not contain the same information, which could have had an impact on the decision of potential applicants to apply or avail themselves of their recourse rights.
Table of Contents
Audit of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
3.1 This audit covers Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) appointment activities for the period of October 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014. The first objective of the audit was to determine whether AAFC had an appropriate framework, practices and systems in place to manage its appointment activities. The second objective was to determine if appointments and appointment processes in AAFC complied with the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), any other applicable statutory and regulatory instruments, the Public Service Commission's (PSC) Appointment Framework, including the Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument (ADAI) and the organization's own appointment policies.
3.2 AAFC was created in 1868. Its mission is to provide leadership in the growth and development of a competitive, innovative and sustainable Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. AAFC provides information, research and technology and policies and programs to help Canada’s agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector compete in markets at home and abroad, manage risk and embrace innovation.
3.3 AAFC is a large organization, comprised of 5 287 employees as of March 31, 2014. It is regionally diversified, with approximately 63% of its employees located outside of the National Capital Region.
3.4 As a result of Spending Review 2012, AAFC underwent a structural reorganization and a reduction of its staff. The focus of the organization, over the period covered by the audit, was on managing workforce adjustment and most appointment requests were submitted to a senior management committee for approval. Therefore, the audit team did not audit whether AAFC established staffing plans and related strategies that were measurable, approved and communicated to employees.
3.5 The organization carried out 203 appointments within the scope covered by the audit. As part of our audit, we conducted interviews with human resources (HR) professionals and sub-delegated managers involved in appointment activities, analyzed relevant documentation and audited a representative sample of 40 appointments.
Observations on the Appointment Framework
Sub-delegation of appointment authorities
3.6 The PSEA gives the PSC exclusive authority to make appointments to and within the public service. The PSC delegates many of its appointment and appointment-related authorities to deputy heads who, in turn, may sub-delegate the exercise of these authorities. The PSC expects deputy heads to have a sub-delegation instrument in place that is well managed and accessible across the organization.
3.7 We found that the deputy head had established an Instrument of Delegation of HR Authorities to sub-delegate appointment and appointment-related authorities. The sub-delegation instrument has been communicated and made accessible to all employees.
3.8 We found that the authority to sub-delegate appointment and appointment-related authorities and limit or revoke sub-delegation, which may only be exercised by the deputy head, was sub-delegated. We found that this authority had been exercised by sub-delegated managers. AAFC officials indicated that they were in the process of reviewing the instrument of sub-delegation.
3.9 We also found that the deputy head established terms and conditions of sub-delegation and mechanisms to ensure that terms and conditions of sub-delegation were met. AAFC demonstrated that most of the sub-delegated managers (21 out of the 23 managers who signed the 40 offers of appointment within the audit sample) had completed the training required for sub-delegation established by the deputy head.
3.10 In addition, we found that AAFC demonstrated that most of the individuals exercising appointment authorities were duly sub-delegated to do so. However, in 3 out of the 40 appointments, the manager who signed either the offer of appointment or the rationale for the use of a non-advertised process did not have the level of sub-delegated authority to do so, as per the sub-delegation instrument established by the deputy head. Refer to recommendation 1 at the end of this report.
3.11 The PSC expects deputy heads to establish mandatory appointment policies for area of selection, corrective action and revocation, as well as criteria for the use of non-advertised processes. The PSC also expects the other appointment policies that organizations develop be compliant with the PSEA, any other applicable statutory and regulatory instruments and the PSC's Appointment Framework.
3.12 We found that AAFC put in place the mandatory appointment policies and criteria for the use of non-advertised processes and that they were compliant with the PSC's Appointment Framework. AAFC's policies were communicated and accessible to all employees.
3.13 In the audit sample, 35 out of 40 appointments required an area of selection to be established. We found that all 35 instances complied with AAFC's Area of Selection Policy. Furthermore, for internal advertised processes, AAFC's policy identified different geographical areas, depending on the group and level of the position being advertised. In all instances, this requirement was adhered to.
Capacity to deliver
3.14 The PSC expects deputy heads to ensure that those who have been assigned a role in appointment processes have been informed of their roles and responsibilities and have access to tools and the HR support to carry out this role.
3.15 We found that those who were assigned a role in AAFC's appointment processes were informed of their responsibilities and had the support to carry them out, primarily through mandatory training provided to managers and through various staffing tools and templates.
3.16 We also found that sub-delegated managers had access to HR advisors who had passed the PSC's Appointment Framework Knowledge Test. This test is designed to evaluate knowledge of all parts of the PSC's Appointment Framework (policy, delegation and accountability) and the legislative framework.
3.17 Monitoring is an ongoing process that allows deputy heads to assess staffing management and performance related to appointments and appointment processes. Monitoring makes it possible to identify issues that should be corrected to manage and minimize risk and to improve staffing performance. The PSC expects deputy heads to undertake the mandatory monitoring outlined in the PSC's Appointment Framework, including the ADAI, and adjust practices accordingly.
3.18 We found that AAFC conducted monitoring through file reviews and other mechanisms to ensure that the exercise of delegated and sub-delegated authorities and appointment decisions were compliant. The mandatory monitoring of risk-based policy areas such as acting appointments over 12 months was conducted. Results were reported to senior management and action taken, as needed.
3.19 Following a monitoring exercise, AAFC was implementing a plan for verification of evidence of academic credentials during the period covered by the audit. Therefore, the audit team did not examine whether appointees met the standard in terms of education, occupational certification or qualification.
Observations on appointments
Appointments – Merit
3.20 The PSEA requires that all appointments 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 asset qualifications or organizational needs identified by the deputy head.
3.21 We found that AAFC demonstrated that the person appointed met the essential and asset qualifications and organizational needs established by the deputy head in all 40 appointments audited. The Appendix includes tables summarizing our observations concerning merit for the appointments audited.
Appointments – Other requirements
Persons with a priority entitlement
3.22 The PSEA and the Public Service Employment Regulations provide an entitlement for certain persons who meet specific conditions to be appointed in priority to others. The organization must take into consideration persons with priority entitlements prior to making appointments and must obtain a priority clearance number from the PSC before proceeding with an appointment process or an appointment.
3.23 In the audit sample, 40 appointments required priority clearance from the PSC. We found that persons with a priority entitlement were considered prior to the appointment being made in all appointment processes (i.e., a priority clearance number was obtained from the PSC before the 40 appointments were made).
3.24 With respect to seeking priority clearance before proceeding with an appointment process, we were informed that AAFC had identified its intent to consider persons with a priority entitlement at the same time that it identified a candidate that it proposed to appoint (i.e., in the event that no persons with a priority entitlement were available and found qualified). This audit observation highlights a need for the PSC to clarify its expectations of how this policy requirement should be implemented.
3.25 We noted five instances where there were differences in the information used for the appointment decision and for the priority clearance request, which could have had an impact on the consideration of persons with priority entitlement. For example, there were differences between the essential qualifications or the conditions of employment used for the appointment decision and those used for the priority clearance request. Refer to recommendation 2 at the end of this report.
Information on appointment processes
3.26 The PSC's Policy on Advertising in the Appointment Process and Policy on Official Languages in the Appointment Process require that information be provided to allow persons in the area of selection to make an informed decision and that the information concerning appointment processes is communicated in both official languages, when required.
3.27 We found that in seven appointments there were differences between the English and French versions of the advertisements or Statements of Merit Criteria (SMC). For example, in four instances, we found essential qualifications included in the English version of the SMC, but not included in the French version. Inaccurate information on an advertisement or SMC could have had an impact on the decision of potential applicants to apply or persons in the area of selection to avail themselves of their recourse rights. Refer to recommendation 2 at the end of this report.
1. The deputy head of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada should ensure:
- To retain the authority to sub-delegate appointment and appointment-related authorities and to revoke sub-delegation, as required by the PSC through the ADAI; and
- That managers meet the conditions of sub-delegation and have the appropriate level of sub-delegation before exercising appointment and appointment-related authorities.
2. The deputy head of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada should ensure that:
- Each request for priority clearance includes accurate information; and
- The English and French versions of advertisements and Statements of Merit Criteria contain the same information.
Overall response by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) welcomes the observations and recommendations of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and accepts the findings. AAFC recognizes the accomplishment that all appointments reviewed by the PSC demonstrated the core value of merit, which is a foundational element of Canada's professional public service.
AAFC agrees with the audit recommendations, which will help strengthen an already robust staffing regime. Furthermore, AAFC agrees with the observation that the PSC must clarify expectations of policy requirements related to priority clearance when bridging students and appointing from pools.
Following the recommendations of the PSC, AAFC has developed an action plan that addresses the findings outlined in this audit. Most measures have already been implemented and all remaining actions will be implemented by March 2016. Senior management has taken action to address the concerns raised in this audit, which will position AAFC to continue a practice of excellence in people management.
Action taken by the Public Service Commission
Organizations that have been audited by the Public Service Commission (PSC) receive guidance and assistance from the PSC to develop an action plan that will address the audit recommendations. The PSC systematically reviews audit information, the organization's management response and associated action that it has taken or will take in response to the audit recommendations to determine whether any action should be taken by the PSC. As a result of this review, the PSC is satisfied with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's management response and the actions it has taken or has committed to take to address the audit recommendations. The PSC expects the deputy head to monitor the implementation of the organizational action plan and the PSC may request an update on the action plan. The PSC can provide assistance for this implementation as required.
The Commission has also noted that audit observations highlight a need for the PSC to clarify its expectation of how the policy requirement to obtain a priority clearance before proceeding with an appointment process should be implemented and is committed to address this finding.
|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||40Footnote *|
|Merit was not met||The person appointed failed to meet one or more of the essential qualifications or other applicable merit criteria identified||0|
|Merit was not demonstrated||Assessment tools or methods did not demonstrate that the person appointed met the identified requirements||0|
|Total appointments audited||40 (100%)|
Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission
|Reasons for merit not being met or demonstrated||Number of incidences|
|Appointee did not meet one or more essential qualifications (experience, knowledge, abilities, competencies, personal suitability)||0|
|Appointee did not meet the official language proficiency||0|
|Appointee did not meet the education/occupational certification or qualification standard||n/aFootnote *|
|Appointee did not meet the additional qualifications (asset and/or organizational needs) used to make the appointment||0|
|The essential qualifications (experience, knowledge, abilities, competencies, personal suitability) of the appointee were not fully assessed||0|
|The official language proficiency of the appointee was not fully assessed||0|
|The education/occupational certification or qualification standard were not fully assessed for the appointee||n/aFootnote *|
|The additional qualifications (asset and/or organizational needs) used to make the appointment were not fully assessed||0|
Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission
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