Audit reports 2014-2015: 8 - Audit of the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada
We concluded that the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (ORSCC) had most elements of an appropriate framework, practices and systems in place to manage its appointment activities. ORSCC had put in place a sub-delegation instrument that was accessible to all employees. Related controls around the exercise of sub-delegated appointment authorities were established, although there is room for improvement in how these controls are implemented. We found that staffing plans and related strategies were in place, monitored and communicated. Also, we found that the mandatory appointment policies and criteria for the use of non-advertised processes were established and compliant. We found that roles and responsibilities were defined and communicated to managers and human resources professionals. Finally, we found that ORSCC had undertaken the mandatory monitoring outlined in the Public Service Commission’s Appointment Framework and adjusted practices accordingly.
We found that the ORSCC demonstrated that the person appointed met the essential and asset qualifications and organizational needs established by the deputy head in 74% (14 out of 19) of appointments examined and that merit was not demonstrated in 26% (5 out of 19) of these appointments. Further, we found that persons with a priority entitlement were considered before appointments were made.
Table of Contents
Audit of the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada
8.1 This audit covers the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada’s (ORSCC) appointment activities for the period of April 1, 2012, to August 31, 2014. The first objective of the audit was to determine whether ORSCC 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 the ORSCC 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.
8.2 The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) is Canada’s final court of appeal. The ORSCC enhances the independence of the Court by providing all necessary administrative services and support for the Court to process, hear and decide cases. It also serves as the interface between litigants and the Court. The Registrar is the deputy head of the ORSCC and is responsible for the management of its employees, resources and activities.
8.3 The ORSCC had 218 employees in fiscal year 2013-2014. All employees are located in the National Capital Region. With the exception of the Registrar and Deputy Registrar, SCC’s employees are appointed under the PSEA.
8.4 Of the 89 appointments carried out by the organization during the period covered by the audit, 59 were appointments to law clerk positions and 30 were appointments to other positions. Of the 30 appointments to other positions, 19 were audited as part of a representative sample. As part of our audit, we conducted interviews with human resources (HR) professionals and sub-delegated managers involved in appointment activities.
Observations on the Appointment Framework
Sub-delegation of appointment authorities
8.5 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.
8.6 The Registrar had established a sub-delegation policy and an Instrument of Delegation – Human Resources Management Authorities to sub-delegate appointment authorities to managers. These documents set out the terms and conditions of sub-delegation and were accessible to all employees.
8.7 In order for managers to have sub-delegated appointment authorities, the deputy head of the ORSCC required that they must occupy a position with direct reports, have financial delegation and a responsibility centre, have completed the required training, have access to an HR advisor with expertise in the PSC’s Appointment Framework and must have received a letter signed by the Registrar giving the authority and have accepted the sub-delegation of authority. We found that the organization was able to demonstrate that 8 out of 10 managers who signed offers in the appointments examined met all the conditions of sub-delegation. For one manager, ORSCC was unable to locate the manager’s sub-delegation letter, and, for another manager, the organization was unable to provide evidence of financial delegation.
8.8 We observed that 7 out of 26 offers of appointment made through non-advertised processes between September 10, 2012, and August 31, 2014 were signed by two different sub-delegated managers who did not have the appropriate level of signing authority required by ORSCC’s sub-delegation instrument. Refer to recommendation 1 at the end of this report.
Planning for staffing
8.9 Organizational staffing plans and related strategies describe organizational staffing priorities and how and when they will be achieved. The PSC expects deputy heads to establish staffing plans and related strategies that are measurable, approved and communicated to employees.
8.10 We found that the organization had established a Strategic Plan 2012-2016 as well as organizational staffing priorities and strategies. The Strategic Plan and the staffing priorities and strategies were reviewed, updated and approved by the Executive Committee, which was chaired by the deputy head, each year during their planning retreat.
8.11 We also found that the ORSCC’s organizational staffing plans and related strategies for 2013-2014 were measurable, approved and communicated to all employees.
8.12 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.
8.13 We found that the mandatory appointment policies and criteria were in place and contained the provisions required by the PSC. These policies and criteria, along with other appointment-related policies, were accessible and communicated to all employees as well as bargaining agents.
Capacity to deliver
8.14 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.
8.15 We found that the organization’s sub-delegated managers who were assigned a role in appointment processes were informed of their roles and responsibilities and had access to tools to carry out this role 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.
8.16 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.
8.17 We found that the organization conducted monitoring through file reviews to ensure that the exercise of delegated and sub-delegated authorities and appointment decisions were compliant. Results were reported to senior management and action taken, as needed.
8.18 We also noted that the organization monitored the results of its staffing plans and related strategies and an explanation of variances was documented and reported to senior management.
Observations on appointments
8.19 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.
8.20 We found that the ORSCC demonstrated that the person appointed met the essential and asset qualifications established by the deputy head in 74% (14 out of 19) of appointments to positions and that merit was not demonstrated in 26% (5 out of 19) of these appointments.
8.21 In these five appointments, the organization was not able to demonstrate that all essential qualifications were assessed as a result of missing information, such as proof of education and assessment material. In one out of the five appointments, the assessment of some qualifications did not demonstrate how the appointee met the qualifications of the position. The Appendix includes tables detailing our observations concerning merit for the appointments audited. Refer to recommendation 2 at the end of this report.
8.22 For appointments to law clerk positions, the PSC is committed to work collaboratively with the deputy heads of the organizations that hire law clerks to clarify administrative requirements around these appointments.
8.23 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.
8.24 In the 19 appointments, we found that the PSC requirements that are designed to ensure that qualified persons with a priority entitlement are appointed ahead of all others were respected.
1. The deputy head of the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada should ensure that the organization is able to demonstrate that managers meet the conditions of sub-delegation before exercising appointment and appointment-related authorities.
2. The deputy head of the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada should ensure that all of the qualifications used to make an appointment are fully assessed and that appointment decisions are documented.
Overall response by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada
As a small organization, the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court (ORSCC) is fully aware that staffing each position in a timely manner with a qualified, competent and knowledgeable candidate is essential in achieving its mandate. The ORSCC is committed to maintaining a strong and dynamic staffing framework which helps to ensure that appointments are made in accordance with all relevant legislative and policy requirements, as well as being reflective of public service staffing values and the merit principle.
We welcome the Public Service Commission recommendations and look forward to implementing an action plan to address those areas where our staffing program can be improved. Throughout the audit, we have taken action where we could to address issues brought up during the audit process. Our action plan reflects those actions already taken.
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 the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of 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.
For appointments to law clerk positions, the PSC is committed to working collaboratively with the deputy heads of the organizations that employ law clerks to clarify administrative requirements around these appointments.
|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||14 (74%)|
|Merit was not met||The person appointed failed to meet one or more of the essential qualifications or other applicable merit criteria identified||0 (0%)|
|Merit was not demonstrated||Assessment tools or methods did not demonstrate that the person appointed met the identified requirements||5 (26%)|
|Total appointments audited||19 (100%)|
Source: Audit and Data Services Branch, Public Service Commission
|Reasons for merit not being met or demonstratedFootnote *||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||0|
|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||5|
|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||1|
|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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