Audit reports 2014-2015: 11 - Audit of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board
The first objective of the audit was to determine whether the appointment authorities the Public Service Commission (PSC) has delegated to the deputy head of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) were adequately managed. We concluded that most of the key components of an appointment framework were in place and that VRAB sub-delegated managers had access to staffing-related tools, training and human resources support. We also found that VRAB’s area of selection policy should be revised to ensure that it provides reasonable access to internal appointments and a reasonable area of recourse for internal non-advertised appointments. The conditions of sub-delegation should also be formally established.
The second objective of the audit was to determine whether VRAB’s appointments complied with the Public Service Employment Act, the Public Service Employment Regulations, the PSC’s Appointment Framework and VRAB’s own organizational policies with regard to merit and priority entitlements. In the two advertised appointments audited, VRAB was able to demonstrate that the person who was appointed met the essential and asset qualifications established by the deputy head. We also found that persons with a priority entitlement were considered before appointments were made.
Table of contents
Audit of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board
11.1 The Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) was created by Parliament in 1995 to provide veterans and other applicants with an independent avenue of appeal for disability decisions made by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). VRAB is located in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and had 77 employees as of March 31, 2014. The organization had a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with VAC to provide staffing services as it does not have its own human resources (HR) unit. VRAB remained responsible for the appointments made within the organization although it received staffing services from another organization.
11.2 This audit covers VRAB’s appointment activities for the period between November 1, 2012, and October 31, 2014. As part of the audit, the Public Service Commission (PSC) conducted interviews with VAC HR professionals and VRAB sub-delegated managers involved in appointment activities, analyzed relevant documentation and audited two advertised appointments. The PSC also examined five-non-advertised appointment processes to determine whether the person appointed met the education criteria and whether the non-advertised process met PSC and VRAB policy requirements.
Observations on the management of delegated appointment authorities
PSC expectation: The PSC delegates many of its appointment authorities to deputy heads who, in turn, may sub-delegate the exercise of these authorities. As a result, the PSC expects the organization to have a sub-delegation instrument in place that is well managed and accessible across the organization.
11.3 During the period covered by the audit, we found that the deputy head had established a sub-delegation instrument and staffing policies to support the exercise of these authorities. The instrument also identified the management levels authorized to exercise certain appointment authorities. We found that sub-delegated managers had taken staffing-related training and had received a letter confirming the sub-delegation of appointment authorities from the deputy head.
11.4 We also found that the deputy head had not formally established conditions of sub-delegation, such as training, that must be met prior to exercising these appointment authorities. In practice, the service provider applied the conditions of sub-delegation that were in place in its own organization. We found that this omission posed a low risk as VRAB’s sub-delegated managers had taken staffing-related training from the service provider and had received a letter confirming the sub-delegation of authorities from the deputy head. Moreover, VRAB’s sub-delegated managers were consistently supported by the service provider when exercising these authorities.
11.5 We were informed that VRAB’s appointment framework, including the sub-delegation instrument and staffing policies, was designed based on the service provider’s framework. While many elements of the framework were transferrable, we found instances where it was not adapted to VRAB’s unique circumstances. For example, VRAB’s area of selection policy, which was based on that of the service provider, established a minimum area of selection that could have had the effect of limiting access to internal job opportunities and recourse to its own employees. In a larger organization, this minimum area of selection would have provided reasonable access to internal appointments and recourse to potential candidates. However, in the case of VRAB – a smaller organization that is based solely in Charlottetown – the application of the minimum area of selection outlined in its policy would not always provide reasonable access to internal appointments and area of recourse as the organization has a limited number of employees in certain professions, particularly at the senior level.
Recommendation 1: The Chair of VRAB should review its area of selection policy to ensure it provides reasonable access to internal appointments and area of recourse, given the size of the organization, and establish formally the conditions that sub-delegated managers must meet before exercising appointment authorities.
PSC expectation: 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.
11.6 Through the MOU with their service provider, VRAB sub-delegated managers had access to staffing-related tools and training and to an HR advisor who had passed the PSC’s Appointment Framework Knowledge Test. This test is designed to evaluate the knowledge of all parts of the PSC’s Appointment Framework (policy, delegation and accountability) and the legislative framework.
Observations on appointments
PSC expectation: Appointees meet the essential and asset qualifications required for the appointment. The PSC’s and organizational policy requirements on area of selection and criteria for non-advertised appointments are met.
11.7 We found that, in the two audited advertised appointments, VRAB demonstrated that the person who was appointed met the essential and asset qualifications and was within the established area of selection.
11.8 For the five non-advertised appointment processes that we examined, all appointments met the education criteria and the non-advertised policy requirements. However, in one case, we found that the area of recourse was restricted beyond what was stated in VRAB’s area of selection policy. As a result, reasonable access to recourse was not provided.
PSC expectation: Persons with a priority entitlement are considered prior to making an appointment and a priority clearance number is obtained before proceeding with an appointment process or appointment.
11.9 We found that persons with a priority entitlement were considered prior to the appointment being made in all applicable appointment processes (i.e., a priority clearance number was obtained from the PSC before the appointment was made). We also found that a priority clearance number was obtained from the PSC before proceeding with an appointment process.
Overall response by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board
The Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) accepts the overall recommendation of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and has developed an action plan to address the audit recommendation.
VRAB is committed to reviewing its area of selection policy and formally establishing the conditions for sub-delegation in consultation with our service provider, Veterans Affairs Canada, the PSC and bargaining agents with a view to further strengthening and communicating the requirements.
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 Veterans Review and Appeal Board’s management response and the actions it has taken or has committed to take to address the audit recommendation. 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.
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