Audit reports 2014-2015: 6 - Audit of Western Economic Diversification Canada
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 Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) were adequately managed. We concluded that these authorities were adequately managed. WD had a sub-delegation instrument in place that was accessible across the organization. We also found that those who have been assigned a role in appointment processes were informed of their roles and responsibilities and had access to tools and the human resources support to carry out this role. In a few instances, we found however that persons who assessed candidates in appointment processes had not been sub-delegated this authority, which is a requirement that WD has established in its sub-delegation instrument.
The second objective of the audit was to determine whether WD’s appointments complied with the Public Service Employment Act, the Public Service Employment Regulations, the PSC’s Appointment Framework and WD’s own organizational policies with regard to merit and priority entitlements. We concluded that the appointments complied with these requirements in all cases. In all 24 appointments audited, WD was able to demonstrate that the person who was appointed met the essential and asset qualifications established by the deputy head. We found that persons with a priority entitlement were considered before appointments were made.
Table of Contents
Audit of Western Economic Diversification Canada
6.1 Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) was established in 1988 under a provision of the Western Economic Diversification Act. WD’s mandate is to promote the development and diversification of the economy of Western Canada and to advance the interests of the West in national economic policy, program and project development and implementation. WD’s western base enables the department to foster partnerships with Western Canadian business and community organizations, research and academic institutions and provincial and municipal governments. In September 2014, WD’s workforce was comprised of 279 employees.
6.2 This audit covers WD’s appointment activities for the period between August 1, 2013, and August 1, 2014. WD made 39 appointments during that period. As part of the audit, the Public Service Commission (PSC) conducted interviews with human resources (HR) advisors and sub-delegated managers involved in appointment activities, analyzed relevant documentation and audited a representative sample of 24 appointments.
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.
6.3 During the period covered by the audit, the deputy head had established an instrument to sub-delegate appointment authorities to managers and outlined terms and conditions of sub-delegation. The instrument was accessible to all sub-delegated managers, employees and bargaining agents.
6.4 As outlined in WD’s sub-delegation instrument, in order to be sub-delegated at a certain level, an individual had to be in a managerial position, complete the required training, receive a sub-delegation letter from the deputy head and sign the letter to confirm their acceptance of the sub-delegated authorities. In order to maintain their sub-delegation of authorities, managers were required to take re-validation training every five years and receive a re-validation letter from the deputy head confirming the sub-delegation of authorities. We found that these conditions were generally met, although there was some room for improvement in how the re-validation of sub-delegation was implemented. For example, in some instances, although managers had taken the re-validation training, WD was unable to provide the re-validation letters, which can make it difficult to confirm that managers are authorized to exercise sub-delegated authorities.
6.5 Further, in its sub-delegation instrument, WD had also established a requirement that only managers who have completed the required training, and have been sub-delegated authority by the deputy head, were allowed to use assessment tools to assess candidates in an appointment process. Using assessment tools could include activities such as correcting written exams, conducting interviews and checking references. We found that in 21% (5 out of 24) of the appointments audited, persons using the assessment tools in appointment processes had not been sub-delegated this authority.
Recommendation 1: The deputy head of WD should ensure that expectations of who may assess candidates and under what conditions, are met.
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.
6.6 We found that roles and responsibilities were defined, documented and communicated through WD’s HR Toolkit for Managers. It included the instrument of sub-delegation, the organizational appointment policies, staffing checklists, templates and tools. This toolkit was available to employees through WD’s intranet site.
6.7 We also found that WD’s sub-delegated managers had access to an HR advisor 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.
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.
6.8 We found that, in all 24 appointments, WD demonstrated that the person who was appointed met the essential and asset qualifications established by the deputy head.
6.9 We also found that the audited appointments met PSC’s and WD’s policy requirements on area of selection and criteria for non-advertised appointments.
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.
6.10 We found that, in all of the 24 appointments, persons with a priority entitlement were considered prior to the appointment being made (i.e., a priority clearance number was obtained from the PSC before the appointment was made).
6.11 With respect to seeking priority clearance before proceeding with an appointment process, we were informed that WD 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 from an existing pool (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.
Overall response by Western Economic Diversification Canada
Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is in agreement with the observations and the recommendation of this report, and concurs that the facts presented are accurate. The organization takes its delegated authorities seriously. It will continue to ensure that appointments are made in accordance with the Public Service Employment Act, the Public Service Employment Regulations, the PSC Appointment Framework, and WD’s own organizational policies, with regard to merit and priority entitlements.
WD is committed to continuously improving its staffing regime and to addressing the issue raised in the audit in a timely and effective manner. To this end, an action plan has been developed to address the observations and the recommendation outlined in this report. WD is engaged in a successful implementation of the recommendation.
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 Western Economic Diversification Canada’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.
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 addressing this finding.
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