Internal Audit Committee Annual Report 2019-2020

Table of contents

Introduction

This annual report of the External Members of the Internal Audit Committee (the Committee) of the Public Service Commission covers fiscal year 2019-20.

Although the Treasury Board Policy and Directive on Internal Audit no longer includes a requirement for departmental audit committees to produce an annual report, the Committee has concluded that an annual report is helpful in assessing its performance over the past year and in establishing priorities for the next year.

Context

During 2019-20, the PSC continued to advance its priority areas including New Direction in Staffing (NDS), GC Jobs Transformation and integrated intelligence.  As well, the PSC was given a number of specific priorities, including reducing the time to staff and supporting the recruitment of Indigenous people and people with disabilities.

On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.  Government operations and administration were affected as employee social distancing became wide-spread.  The PSC implemented its business continuity plan and, at the time of writing, PSC employees are still working from home and societal social distancing continues. The President of the PSC implemented daily Special EMC meetings by teleconference on COVID-19 to support effective risk analysis, decision-making, and monitoring, and the Committee has been regularly briefed, including having IAC meetings by teleconference, and regular updates from the Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive (CAEE).  

The NDS provides flexibility in recruitment and hiring, and the PSC has noted that NDS implementation has progressed during the pandemic in a number of departments and agencies.  In addition, the PSC has provided additional flexibilities for departments.  Deputy heads have been delegated authority for second language evaluations and expiring language test results have been extended for employees responding to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, or who are essential to maintaining government operations.  As well, there have been additional flexibilities for staffing positions related to the COVID-19 situation or to ensuring the effective functioning of the Government of Canada. 

Of particular note is the support provided by the PSC to Health Canada in establishing the Volunteer Recruitment Initiative. Through the GC Jobs recruitment platform, the PSC supported Health Canada in developing an inventory of individuals for case and contact tracing, health system surge capacity, and case data collection and reporting. As of June 9, there were 23 requests for referrals with approximately 25,000 volunteers referred for consideration to province and territories to support pandemic response efforts.

The CAEE has been an active partner in the PSC COVID-19 response and has helped senior management navigate new and emerging risks. The CAEE also produced an overview of early actions and documented lessons learned that will be used to support short and medium term planning.  

The "new normal" is not yet clear.  The PSC and the Committee will need to consider effects on risk management processes, and there may be new risks, both in the short term and medium term, which emerge as a result. To support the integration of emerging risks into departmental plans, the PSC held an Executive Management retreat in early June 2020. It is unclear how long and how extensively COVID-19 will impact operations and so the Committee will have to adapt and remain agile.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of many. During this unprecedented period, the Committee would like to express our sincere thanks to the staff of the PSC for continuing their important work.

Annual Overview

Summary of the Committee’s work

During 2019-20 the Committee held 3 in-person meetings; the March 2020 meeting agenda was dealt with by 2 teleconferences, due to COVID-19.  During the morning before each of the in-person meetings, the External Members, along with the CAEE, met with PSC officials to receive a variety of briefings on specific topics.  These morning meetings were followed by an in-camera working lunch with the President, before the start of the formal Committee meetings, to discuss key risks and challenges and opportunities facing the organization.  Separate in-camera discussions were also held with the President, Chief Financial Officer and the CAEE following the Committee meetings.

In terms of the mandatory and core areas of responsibility, the Committee played a solid challenge function and offered independent advice to the President on each of these areas:

  • Values and ethics;
  • Risk Management;
  • Management Control Framework;
  • Internal Audit Function;
  • External Assurance Providers;
  • Follow-up on Management Action Plans;
  • Financial Statements and Public Accounts; and,
  • Accountability Reporting.

Annex A provides a summary of key activities and discussions in 2019/20.

With respect to formal reports produced by the Internal Audit and Evaluation Division (IAED) during this period, the Committee provided advice on the following:

  • Assessment of the Sustainability of GC Jobs;
  • Evaluation of the Veterans Hiring Act draft report;
  • Audit of PSC Values and Ethics;
  • Evaluation of the PSC Data Management Strategy;
  • The MRAP for the Veterans Hiring Act evaluation report;
  • Internal Audit and Evaluation Plan 2020-23;
  • Draft final report and MRAP for the Evaluation of the Recruitment of Policy Leaders report; and,
  • Review of PSC Governance

The Committee had set 3 priority areas of focus for 2019-20:

  1. Implementation of NDS, both inside the PSC and across the public service, with a particular focus on the design and implementation of appropriate performance measures and indicators;
  2. Effective project management for the GC Jobs Transformation project; and
  3. Implementation of knowledge/data integrated intelligence across the PSC.

The Committee received regular updates on each of these areas and provided a challenge and advisory function to officials and to the President on these issues.

Annex B provides details of progress against the Committee's 2019-20 priorities.

Assessment of the Public Service Commission

The Committee continues to have a positive view about how the PSC is managed.  Progress is being made on all priorities and the President is keenly engaged on priorities and also welcomes advice from the Committee.  The support of the President of the Public Service Commission is particularly noted and appreciated.

In terms of the internal audit and evaluation functions, the Committee notes the continued strong leadership of the CAEE.  Both the internal audit function and the evaluation function met our expectations with respect to standards of performance, quality, quantity and timeliness of products.  Internal audit is independent from line management, is perceived as such and brings value.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the PSC, as it has challenged all of government and so has presented increased risk to achieving the priorities of the PSC.  The Committee has been kept informed, both by the CAEE and the President, of how the PSC is dealing with these challenges.  The March 2020 scheduled in-person Internal Audit Committee meeting was replaced by two teleconferences so that the Committee has been able to remain active and informed.

At this time, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on PSC priorities is continuously evolving, as senior management collects data and information and makes key decisions to ensure the continued effective functioning of the department.

Results of the annual Internal Audit Committee self-assessment

Committee members are very satisfied with the functioning of the Committee and the support that is provided.  Members have also found that the briefings and updates that are provided for the External Members meetings are helpful.  Ex-officio members were also highly satisfied with the functioning of the Committee.

The self-assessment also indicated a very positive assessment of the work of the CAEE and with his relationship with the Committee.  The Committee has noted that the CAEE takes a government-wide perspective in undertaking his role.  Two examples are the evaluations of the RPL program and of the implementation of the Veterans Hiring Act.  In both cases the CAEE worked with colleagues from other departments to ensure a cross-department perspective.   This focus has continued into 2020-21 as IAED has started planning and evaluation of the National COVID-19 volunteer recruitment campaign with colleagues from Health Canada and the Public Health Agency. 

Priorities for 2020-21

The Committee recognizes the difficulty of setting priorities for 2020-21, given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Priority areas from last year will continue to be important:

  • Pursue the implementation of NDS, both inside the agency and across the public service, with a particular focus on the design and implementation of appropriate measures and indicators;
  • Effective project management for the GC Jobs Transformation project; and
  • Implementation of knowledge/data integrated intelligence across the PSC.

An additional priority for 2020-21 will be identification and close monitoring of new risks and of opportunities for rethink coming out of the current situation.

Annex A- Summary of Key Activities & Discussions in 2019/20

Area of responsibility Information provided to the IAC Jun Sep Dec Mar
Values and Ethics Values and ethics audit, Ombudsman update X X
Risk management* Regular updates on risk management X
Management control framework Regular updates on control elements X X X X
Internal audit function CAEE quarterly updates on the function X X X X
External assurance providers Included as part of CAEE quarterly updates X X X X
Follow-up on management action plans Review of action plan implementation X X X X
Financial statements / public accounts Review of quarterly /annual financial reports X X X X
Accountability reporting* Review of PSC accountability reporting X X X X

* IAC external members reviewed documentation related to these items secretarially throughout the year.

Annex B- Progress against 2019/20 IAC Priorities

  1. Pursue the implementation of NDS, both inside the agency and across the public service, with a particular focus on the design and implementation of appropriate measures and indicators:
    • IAC external members were briefed on the implementation of NDS from a central agency perspective by Policy and Communications Sector officials at each quarter as part of in-person meetings.
    • The Committee was briefed by the Director General, Human Resources Management Directorate on implementation of NDS from a PSC departmental perspective.
    • The Committee was provided a presentation by a Deputy Minister from an organization located outside the National Capital Region to obtain their perspective on the implementation of NDS.

     

  2. Effective project management for the GC Jobs Transformation Project:
    • The Committee was provided quarterly updates by the Project Sponsor and Project Director on progress of the project.
    • The CAEE presented an Assessment of the Sustainability of PSRS at the June meeting and the CIO presented an internal study performed on the expected remaining life of the system and the key risks that have to be managed until a new system is brought into operation.
    • The Committee was briefed by a third part consultant who had conducted a project health check.

     

  3. Implementation of knowledge/data integrated intelligence across the agency:
    • The Committee was briefed by the Director General, Policy and Strategic Directions on the implementation of the integrated intelligence framework that is being implemented within the PSC in response to an evaluation report conducted in 2018.
    • Key integrated intelligence products were presented to the Committee as part of quarterly management action plan follow-up activities.
    • The Committee was briefed on the National Recruitment Directorate new service delivery model which also aims to better use knowledge and intelligence gathered from across the PSC to support policy development and program delivery.
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