Internal Audit of Public Service Commission Values and Ethics
1. The Public Service Commission (PSC) is responsible for promoting and maintaining, in cooperation with partners, a non-partisan, merit-based and representative public service that serves all Canadians. Values and ethics are important for all employees to uphold in carrying out the PSC’s mandate. Senior managers, managers and employees are expected to integrate values and ethics into their decisions and their interactions with members of the public, external stakeholders, colleagues and representatives from other federal public service departments and agencies.
2. In 2012, in accordance with the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, the Treasury Board of Canada established the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, which sets out the values and behaviors officials must demonstrate in all activities related to the performance of their professional duties. Specifically, “public servants have a fundamental role to play in serving Canadians, their communities and the public interest under the direction of the elected government and in accordance with the law. As professionals whose work is essential to Canada’s well-being and the enduring strength of the Canadian democracy, public servants uphold the public trust. A professional and non-partisan federal public sector is integral to our democracy.” By working in accordance with these principles, public servants reinforce the ethical culture of the public sector and help maintain public confidence in the integrity of all public institutions.
3. In 2012, the PSC also established its Code of Conduct, which set out values and expected behaviors for employees in carrying out work to support the organization’s mandate and priorities. Because the way goals are achieved is just as important as the attained outcomes, the Code of Conduct provides the guiding principles that support the integrity of departmental decision-making processes. In April 2019, the PSC updated its Code of Conduct to account for new environmental factors.
4. In 2015, the PSC implemented the Values and Ethics Program 2015-18 to support the implementation of the Code of Conduct and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. To bridge the gap between the conclusion of this program and the development a new one, the PSC’s Human Resources Management Directorate developed an action plan for 2018 onward. The intention is to review the organizational context from sources including the results of Public Service Employee Surveys and Have Your Say surveys to inform a new approach to implementing values and ethics within the organization.
5. The PSC is focused on promoting a values-based culture across the organization and the broader federal public service. Over the past few years, there have been a number of major changes that occurred within the organization and to how it operates. The New Direction in Staffing was launched in April 2016 to simplify staffing by reducing the administrative burden on departments and agencies and offering them more flexibility to customize their approach to staffing. It encourages hiring managers to apply their judgment when staffing, and to work with human resources professionals as strategic partners in the hiring process. Building on this policy foundation, in 2017-18, the PSC embarked on a transformation of the public service recruitment system (GC Jobs). Also in 2017-18, the PSC was restructured to better align resources to priorities.
A corporate priority in 2019-20 is to “support the PSC workforce by promoting a healthy and modern workplace that is diverse and inclusive.”
-PSC Departmental Plan 2019-20
6. The results from the 2017 Public Service Employee Survey indicated that the PSC was generally a healthy, respectful and diverse workplace. Survey data also pointed to areas for improvement with regard to harassment and discrimination. Employees reported they would fear reprisal if they were to initiate a formal recourse process for grievances, complaints and appeals. Other areas requiring attention included relatively high staff turnover in certain areas, and ongoing issues related to the federal public service’s pay system.
7. The Clerk of the Privy Council, in a 2018 report, Safe Workspaces - Starting a Dialogue and Taking Action on Harassment in the Public Service, identified measures to better support public servants. The report recommends departments “put in place an Ombuds-type function to provide all employees with a trusted, safe space to discuss harassment without fear of reprisal and to help navigate existing systems.”
8. On October 29, 2018, the PSC established the Office of the Ombudsman in response to PSC Public Service Employee Survey results indicating that improvements were needed in relation to mental health and workplace well-being. The creation of the office, while in progress before the Clerk’s report was issued, is in line with the related recommendation. The Ombudsman’s mandate is to provide all PSC employees with an informal, confidential and impartial space to explore potential options for addressing issues they are experiencing in the workplace.
9. The Ombudsman also provides a safe space for employees Endnote 1 to discuss mental health and wellness issues and obtain references to the appropriate resources. The Ombudsman aims to help foster a healthy and respectful workplace that embodies the values of the public service. To this end, the Ombudsman has been given the following responsibilities:
- Ombudsman services
- values and ethics (conflicts of interest, post-employment, and political activities within the PSC)
- Informal Conflict Management System
- Employee Assistance Program
- employee surveys
- restoration of the workplace (post-conflict, following investigations, team building)
- exit interview program
- coaching services
10. The Office of the Ombudsman has a budget of approximately $500,000 and 4 employees who carry out these functions: a Director (the Ombudsman), Workplace and Wellness Coach, Senior Advisor and Administrative Assistant. The Office of the Ombudsman works closely with the Human Resources Management Directorate in fulfilling its mandate. Prior to the creation of the Office of the Ombudsman, the Corporate Affairs Sector, Workplace Management Division was responsible for overseeing activities related to values and ethics. The PSC also has a Senior Officer for the Disclosure of Wrongdoing, which is fulfilled by the Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive. The Head of Human Resources fulfills the role of Harassment and Violence Prevention coordinator.
Federal public service context
11. Over the past few years, PSC executives, managers and supervisors have had to administer programs and manage staff within an environment that includes system issues beyond the organization’s control. These include ongoing issues related to the federal public service pay system and to the transfer of employee files when they start a new job with a new department.
12. The Corporate Affairs Sector has allocated approximately $700,000 annually to support employees affected by pay system problems. This includes proactive monitoring of employee bi-weekly pay before it is issued to ensure that they will receive accurate remuneration. And when problems are identified, the sector works with the central pay system and the affected employee to help find short-term and final solutions.
13. There have also been growing backlogs of employee file transfers to and from a new federal department. As of November 2019, there are employees who joined the PSC over 18 months ago whose files have not yet been transferred in. This situation presents risks that must be managed by ensuring that employees have the correct leave balances, that their leave is tracked, and that any acting pay is tracked and properly paid — in some cases there is a lag of more than one year after the acting opportunity.
14. These are some of the external factors that have an impact on the current operating environment across the federal public service, including the PSC, and that are being managed within the guiding principles established in the PSC’s Code of Conduct. In this environment, managers and employees need to be aware of, and uphold, their federal public sector values and ethics responsibilities.
Internal audit objective
15. The internal audit objective was to provide reasonable assurance that:
- governance structures are in place to foster an ethical culture and leadership
- policies, guidelines, tools and processes are clearly documented and communicated
- the values and ethics framework and policy implementation are monitored
16. The internal audit scope covers the period from April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2019. The scope period was extended until November 2019 to take new information into account, including the release of the Office of the Ombudsman’s 2018-19 Annual Report. The audit examined activities conducted within the PSC that support a values-based and ethical workplace, with a focus on the activities of its values and ethics program, including the Code of Conduct, as well as the practices, guidelines and processes in place to manage, communicate and promote awareness of the PSC's corporate culture in relation to values and ethics.
Audit criteria and methodology
17. Audit criteria were developed based on legislation, policy instruments and guidance from the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission Framework. To conclude on the audit objectives and criteria, the following activities were undertaken:
- interviews with employees from all levels of the organization
- a documentation review and analysis
- process walk-throughs for key values and ethics related internal controls
Statement of conformance
18. The audit was planned and conducted in conformance with the Institute of Internal Auditors International Professional Practices Framework, as supported by the results of a quality assurance and improvement program.
Audit findings and recommendations
19. This section presents the audit findings and recommendations under 3 general themes:
- governance and leadership
- internal control activities
- monitoring and reporting
Governance and leadership
20. Criterion: The audit team expected to find governance structures that foster leadership and a culture based on the Code of Conduct. Specifically:
- roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly documented and support the PSC’s requirements with regards to values and ethics
- the PSC Values and Ethics Framework is supported through senior management leadership
21. Conclusion: The governance structure for values and ethics changed significantly in 2018 and 2019. The Office of the Ombudsman assumed the responsibilities of the Wellness Champion and Senior Officer for Values and Ethics. The Code of Conduct was updated in April 2019 to take new workplace factors into consideration. Senior management has demonstrated through its actions that it supports a healthy, diverse and inclusive workplace in line with values and ethics expectations of the federal public service.
22. There were 2 opportunities for improvement identified in light of the recent changes. The first relates to reviewing the relevant resources developed within the PSC to support the implementation of the Code of Conduct and obtain approval for the updated policy and guidance documents. As well, a new, multi-year PSC Values and Ethics Program should be developed and implemented, incorporating all related actions and documenting the new governance structure for values and ethics related activities, including clear roles and responsibilities for all stakeholders.
Values and ethics at the Public Service Commission
23. Senior management recognizes the importance of values and ethics in how employees carry out their roles and responsibilities. In April 2012, the PSC’s Code of Conduct came into effect. It was developed in consultation with employees and established in accordance with the requirements set out in the Public Service Protection Disclosure Act. In April 2019, after 7 years of implementation, the Code of Conduct was updated, taking new information and the current operating context into account. The updated code includes references to the roles and responsibilities of the Office of the Ombudsman. The President communicated this update to all staff by email in April 2019.
24. The code includes a number of supporting policies and guidelines relating to:
- disclosure under the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act at the PSC
- guidelines for the acceptable use of the PSC Web 2.0 tools
- IT security
- political activities
- guidelines on media relations
25. The audit found that most of these references were not updated at the same time as the Code of Conduct. These include the Guidelines and Procedures for Media Relations at the PSC, dated July 2012; the PSC Information Technology Security Policy document, dated January 30, 2012; and the Guidelines for the Acceptable Use of PSC Web 2.0 tools, dated September 2009.
26. There is no systematic process to review PSC policies and guidance documents related to the implementation of the Code of Conduct on a regular basis to ensure they are up to date, consistent and coherent with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. In light of the introduction of the changes in 2019, it would be worthwhile to review related sources of information to prevent the application of outdated or unclear guidance and measures, which could place the organization at risk of non-compliance with a number of important legislation and policies related to values and ethics.
27. PSC policies, guidance documents and tools supporting the Values and Ethics Program 2015-18 are listed for reference by all employees on the PSC’s intranet, under the Human Resources and Workplace Tools tabs. These include key policies, guiding principles, declaration forms and other resources for situations that may require disclosures (such as political activities requests). The audit did not find a link to the 2018 onward approach to values and ethics. In addition, the PSC’s intranet search function does not allow employees to search for documents related to values and ethics. This is a broader system issue for the PSC’s intranet, and a project has been identified in the 2020-21 draft IM/IT plan to address the functionality of the search tool.
28. Recommendation 1. It is recommended that the Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Sector, in collaboration with the Office of the Ombudsman, lead a review of the resources developed within the PSC to support the implementation of the Code of Conduct, and obtain approval for the updated policy and guidance documents.
Alignment of the Code of Conduct to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
29. The Code of Conduct identifies expected behaviours and obligations for all staff, reflecting those set out in the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. There are also expectations within the Code of Conduct that directly relate to the organization’s mandate. For example, under the value of Integrity, the code includes additional employee expectations for disclosing conflict of interest over time, acceptance of gifts, merit-based and non-partisan staffing, and providing advice.
Public Service Commission Values and Ethics Program
30. The PSC’s 2012-15 Values and Ethics Action Plan identified governance and key actions to be conducted across the organization. In 2015-16, the PSC updated this document and produced a multi-year 2015-18 PSC Values and Ethics Program. This program identified planned actions to promote ethical decision-making and behaviours for all employees. The program also identified key roles and responsibilities related to the values and ethics framework, and broke down activities by area of responsibility and related performance measurement criteria.
31. In 2018-19 the updating of the Values and Ethics Program was deferred so that the Senior Officer for Values and Ethics (the Ombudsman) could gather data and information from Public Service Employee Surveys and Have Your Say surveys to get a better sense of the areas that require attention. At a presentation to the Executive Management Committee, the Senior Officer for Values and Ethics reported that a new PSC Values and Ethics Program would be tabled for approval in 2020-21.
A new Senior Officer for Values and Ethics
In 2019-20, certain responsibilities of the Values and Ethics Program were transferred to the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman assumed the role of Senior Officer for Values and Ethics.
The 2018-19 Annual Report of the Office of the Ombudsman states that, “these new responsibilities will provide our office with a better overview of the PSC’s needs related to values and ethics. "They will also better position our office to provide feedback to senior management on workplace and systemic issues, and to influence and recommend measures and initiatives that will help foster a diverse, healthy and respectful workplace for all."
32. The Ombudsman, as Senior Officer for Values and Ethics, is responsible for supporting the President in delivering the values and ethics program at the PSC. The Ombudsman, as Senior Officer for Conflict of Interest, is responsible for supporting the President in ensuring that appropriate action is taken by employees to avoid, reduce or manage real, apparent or potential conflict of interest situations, in an ethical manner and in accordance with the PSC’s Code of Conduct and the Treasury Board Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment.
33.Given the transition of the responsibilities for Values and Ethics within the PSC, and the diverse range of activities that the Ombudsman is responsible for, it will be important for the Senior Officer for Values and Ethics to define clear roles and responsibilities for the function, as well as for other stakeholders involved in order to fulfill their respective accountabilities.
34. Recommendation 2. It is recommended that the Office of the Ombudsman, in collaboration with key internal stakeholders, develop a new multi-year Values and Ethics Program incorporating all related actions, and documenting the new governance structure for values and ethics related activities.
35. The Values and Ethics Program should consider the following elements:
- an updated values and ethics governance model reflecting all the relevant committees that are included in decisions relating to values and ethics topics
- planned actions that will enhance the implementation of the PSC’s values and ethics vision
- a logic model that includes inputs, expected outcomes and related performance measures to track performance
- a communication and promotion strategy and planned actions
- monitoring and reporting requirements that meet the needs of various governance committees
- a requirement for periodic review of the Values and Ethics Program and related policy and guidance elements to ensure that they are coherent and continue to meet the PSC’s needs in light of changes affecting the organization
Roles, responsibilities and accountabilities
36. The roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities of the key positions within the values and ethics governance structure were last formally defined in the PSC Values and Ethics Program 2015-18 (see Figure 1) and have not been updated since the Ombudsman became the Senior Officer for Values and Ethics and the new Code of Conduct was implemented in April 2019.
Figure 1- Values and ethics governance (Values and Ethics Action Plan 2015)
|Champion of Values and Ethics|
|Senior Officer for Disclosure|
|Senior Officer for Values and Ethics|
|Departmental Security Officer|
|Departmental Political Activities Representative|
|Harassment and Violence Prevention Coordinator|
|Departmental Officer for Conflict of Interest and Post-employment|
|Executive Management Committee/Branch Vice-presidents|
|Internal Audit Committee|
|Executive Management Committee|
|Resource Management Committee|
|Occupational Health and Safety Policy Committee|
|Major legal cases|
|Learning and development|
|Vice-president, Policy and Corporate Affairs Branch|
|Informal Conflict Management System network|
|Other government departments|
Senior management leadership
37. As mentioned earlier, in October 2018, the Ombudsman took on the role of Senior Officer for Values and Ethics. Before that, the role had been carried out by the Director General, Human Resources Management Directorate.
38. Up until December 2017, the PSC also had a Champion of Values and Ethics who supported the Senior Officer for Values and Ethics in implementing the PSC Values and Ethics Program. The Champion had been the Vice-President, Investigations (it should be noted that this position no longer exists within the PSC organizational structure). The Champion was responsible for promoting and raising awareness of values and ethics, and for engaging employees in dialogue on these matters. The Champion took an active role in the development and implementation of the PSC’s Values and Ethics Program 2015-18 in collaboration with the Human Resource Management Directorate. As such there were 2 roles related to values and ethics at the PSC — a Champion and the Senior Officer.
39. The Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive is the Senior Officer for the Disclosure of Wrongdoing. Their responsibilities, while clearly stated in the Code of Conduct, were not clearly identified in the PSC Values and Ethics Program 2015-18. Information about the Senior Officer for Disclosure of Wrongdoing was difficult to obtain via the PSC’s intranet search tool.
40. The Harassment and Violence Prevention Coordinator role is held by the Director General, Human Resources Management Directorate.
Related governance committees
41. The PSC’s Executive Management Committee supports the President in carrying out Deputy Head responsibilities with respect to values and ethics. Committee members reviewed and discussed values and ethics matters periodically and during regular bilateral meetings with the President. The audit found that values and ethics issues are addressed in a timely manner to ensure that decisions respect all parties involved. The audit team was informed that in instances where matters were not addressed quickly, it was to ensure that all the facts were gathered and vetted before rendering a decision.
“Your managers and I are committed to reinforcing a culture of respect in the public service, and ensuring a healthy, safe and productive workplace for all.”
Patrick Borbey, President
The President’s decision to take on the role of Champion of the 2018 Public Service Employee Survey demonstrates his high regard for a healthy workplace and for public servants’ views.
Survey results provide a snapshot of PSC employees’ experiences, and identify people management trends and issues of concern.
The survey results allow federal departments and agencies to identify areas of strength and concern related to people management practices, to benchmark and track progress over time, and to inform action plans.
42. The Labor-Management Consultation and the Occupational Health and Safety Steering Committees are consultative governance bodies mandated by legislation. The first committee is a forum for exchanging information and obtaining views and advice on problems in the workplace, while the latter committee provides recommendations to help resolve health and safety issues of concern. These committees are composed of employer and employee representatives, as well as bargaining agents, and they meet on a regular basis.
43. The Internal Audit Committee fulfills its roles and responsibilities in accordance with the Treasury Board Policy on Internal Audit and related directives. One of the 8 areas of responsibility for internal audit committees relates to values and ethics. In accordance with the Directive on Internal Audit, the PSC’s Internal Audit Committee reviews and comments on the PSC Values and Ethics Program, and this work is included in the PSC Internal Audit Committee Charter.
PSC employees are entrusted to exercise good judgement in their day-to-day activities, and to seek further assistance or information when in doubt.
-Public Service Commission’s Code of Conduct, 2019
44. PSC employees contribute to carrying out the organization’s mandate and have to abide by the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. Responsibilities of employees, supervisors, managers, and executives are also defined in the Code of Conduct. For instance, managers and supervisors must inform employees of their responsibilities and ensure that they have access to learning opportunities related to values and ethics. Interviewed managers indicated that they were all aware of their requirements as per the Code of Conduct.
45. The Vice-President, Policy and Communications, is the PSC Champion for Diversity and Inclusion. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee has set a tone for positive discussions and awareness of diversity and inclusion across the organization, contributing to the values-based culture of the PSC.
46. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s Positive Space sub-committee is composed of employees from PSC headquarters and the 5 regional offices. The Positive Space sub-committee is focused on creating and sustaining a safe and inclusive workspace by raising awareness on issues related to the LGBTQ2+ community.
The Positive Space sub-committee aims to create a safe and inclusive workspace and to raise awareness on issues related to the LGBTQ2+ community.
Fifteen awareness sessions have been offered since October 2018 to 174 employees in Gatineau, Montréal, Halifax and Vancouver. Monthly sessions are scheduled for the rest of the year.
47. The PSC has also developed a 3-hour positive workspace workshop. Participants discuss realities of the LGBTQ2+ community and learn more about their human rights obligations. They are also receive practical tips on how to support LGBTQ2+ colleagues and contribute to a positive workspace. The workshop has been offered since October 2018. In 2018-19, 8 sessions were offered; 87 employees followed the training in Gatineau and Vancouver. As of November 7, 2019, a total of 87 employees attended one of 7 workshops offered in Montréal, Halifax and Gatineau.
48. In addition to the positive space workshops, the Ombudsman and the Human Resources Management Directorate are implementing a PSC Speaker Series on mental health for employees, by employees. This initiative was launched in 2019-20 to reduce stigma and promote open dialogue on mental health in the workplace. Finally, the Human Resources Management Directorate will be working closely with the Ombudsman (as Wellness Champion) to consult employees on developing a new wellness strategy that will cover a wide range of physical and mental health topics.
Internal control activities
49. Criterion: The audit team expected to find that control activities were documented in policies and procedures on management's guidance to mitigate risks in achieving values and ethics objectives. Specifically:
- strategic and tactical level processes and/or procedures exist to identify, assess and mitigate potential risks related to values and ethics
- processes are in place to review and update the Code of Conduct and other sources of guidance to ensure that values and ethics are integrated into decision-making processes, actions, policies and systems
- training and awareness activities are in place to promote the PSC’s vision for values and ethics
50. Conclusion. The PSC has established and documented policies and guidance on values and ethics, providing employees with information to support the achievement of values and ethics objectives. Mandatory training requirements have been established, and some promotion of values and ethics responsibilities has been undertaken. There were 2 opportunities for improvement in this area. The first relates to reviewing the processes in place for documenting employee training attendance, signed confidential reports, and annual re-affirmations that employees have read and understand their obligations with respect to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. The second relates to developing an awareness approach enhancing employees’ understanding of their roles and responsibilities relating to values and ethics within the PSC.
Values and ethics control environment
51. All PSC executives, managers, supervisors, and employees have responsibilities for implementing the Code of Conduct. To fulfill these duties and be accountable for their actions, they must rely on appropriate advice and effective procedures related to ethical issues, notably when making mandatory disclosures.
Conflict of interest
52. The Code of Conduct identifies designated officials that provide support and advice to all PSC staff and foster a positive values and ethics culture. Preventing, managing or resolving conflict of interest situations is one of the principal means of maintaining employee and public trust and confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the public service.
53. The Treasury Board Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment provides direction and measures to help organizations and public servants effectively deal with real, potential and apparent conflict of interest situations that may arise during and after public service employment. In accordance with the policy, management had established procedures for employees to declare and report situations of conflict of interest. These procedures are detailed in the second part of the 2019 Code of Conduct. The PSC’s intranet site provides limited information on conflict of interest through links to the Treasury Board policy and the confidential report form.
54. A review of the conflict of interest declaration form logs confirmed that cases of conflict of interest were reported and managed by the designated official for conflict of interest, as required under the policy. The audit team found that proper controls were in place and were working as intended to address conflict of interest situations. Furthermore, conflict of interest has been addressed in special training and frequent discussion in many PSC work units — including access to information and privacy, language assessment and political activities. The Human Resources Management Directorate has also put in place a process to ensure all employees who change positions complete a confidential report in accordance with the Code of Conduct and Treasury Board Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment.
55. Procedures have been put in place for reviewing PSC operations and the organizational structure, to designate positions that may be at risk for post-employment conflict of interest concerns.
Disclosure of wrongdoing
56. The Public Service Disclosure Protection Act establishes guidance related to the administration of disclosures of wrongdoings in the public sector. The key aspects of this legislation relate to having procedures in place that enable public sector employees to bring, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, any serious breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and Code of Conduct to the attention of their immediate supervisor, the Senior Officer for the Disclosure of Wrongdoing or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
57. The 2017 Public Service Employee Survey included specific questions relating to values and ethics in the workplace. According to the survey results, 48% of all public service employees believed that they could initiate a formal recourse process (a grievance, a complaint, or an appeal, for example) without fear of reprisal. This compares to 45% for PSC employees who indicated that they could initiate a formal recourse process without fear of reprisal. The 2018 Public Service Employment Survey results demonstrated an improvement for the PSC in this regard, with 50% of employees responding positively, as compared to 48% for the overall federal public service.
58. The Code of Conduct stipulates that when PSC employees believe there may be a serious breach of this code or a wrongdoing in the workplace, they should discuss and report the matter, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, to their manager, the Senior Officer for Disclosure of Wrongdoing or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. The audit team was informed by interviewees that some may be hesitant to raise a serious breach or wrongdoing out of fear of reprisal. This sentiment is consistent across the federal public service, as demonstrated in Public Service Employee Survey results. The Ombudsman’s 2018-19 Annual Report also identified a fear of speaking up. Specifically, “when employees chose not to report inappropriate behaviour on the part of their supervisors, it was mostly due to a belief that nothing would change, or that they would be branded a problem employee, affecting their career growth and reputation.”
59. At the PSC, the Senior Officer for Disclosure of Wrongdoing is the Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive. Procedures have been put in place based on best practices from other federal departments and agencies. In 2017-18, there was one discussion with an employee relating to a potential disclosure of wrongdoing. In 2018-19, no allegations of wrongdoing were brought to the Senior Officer for the Disclosure of Wrongdoing’s attention. Each year, the Senior Officer for the Disclosure of Wrongdoing sends a message to all PSC through the internal communications publication and provides an annual report on the function to the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer. During the past 2 fiscal-years, outreach has also been conducted at the Halifax and Montreal offices of the PSC on this subject.
Promotion of values and ethics
60. The promotion of values and ethics policies, guidance and related processes enhances employee understanding of the importance of performing their work in an ethical manner consistent with federal public service expectations. Having executives, managers and supervisors discuss the importance of this with their employees so that each understands their unique role and responsibilities contributes to a workplace culture that is transparent, open, inclusive and respectful.
61. The PSC Values and Ethics Program 2015-18 focused on promoting values and ethics. A good example of how promotion can lead to enhanced awareness was found in prevention of workplace violence communications that connected this topic to the “People” value statement in the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. As well, senior management often addresses values and ethics and related subjects through sector and all-staff meetings.
62. The audit found that some efforts have been made to connect with employees and make values and ethics concepts more understandable and relatable. The team was informed of 2 sectors that have developed, in consultation with employees, guiding principles or tools documenting their sector’s culture and values. Examples of these types of documents are the Services and Business Development Sector’s Culture and Values, and the Information Technology Services Directorate’s IM/IT Strategy Guiding Principles in Support of our Vision. When developing these types of documents, sectors should ensure that they reference and are consistent with the Code of Conduct and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector.
63. While information has been provided in some areas of the PSC, there has not been a systematic, targeted promotion and awareness session for staff that includes real-life examples. In previous years, all-staff or sector employee sessions were held to promote awareness of values and ethics responsibilities through practical examples. This is a good practice employed by other federal public service organizations. Training and awareness activities promote a values-based culture and contribute to a common understanding of what ethics means across the organization.
64. The PSC’s Code of Conduct specifies that employees are expected to complete mandatory training to enhance their knowledge of their roles and responsibilities with respect to values and ethics in the workplace. Interviewees from all levels of the organization indicated a high degree of awareness of these requirements.
65. The PSC established a list of mandatory training for all staff depending on their roles and responsibilities. There are foundation courses, such as Values and Ethics, and Creating a Respectful Workplace, included in this list. There are other mandatory targeted courses for employees with specific supervisory or delegated authorities. This internal audit reviewed training course completion rates for the values and ethics course and the violence in the workplace course.
66. The PSC set a goal of having 100% of employees take the 90-minute values and ethics course put on by the Canada School of the Public Service. As of October 1, 2019, the audit found that the documentation file for employee training within the PSC indicates that 51% of employees had taken this mandatory training. The audit team was informed that there are challenges in putting together the monitoring reports that track mandatory training, including a 15-20% staff turnover rate within the PSC.
67. Employee training monitoring reports are based on information provided by employees, the Canada School of the Public Service and human resources files. Employees need to notify the PSC training coordinator when they complete a mandatory course so that it is documented for reporting purposes. The audit team was informed that there are data quality issues with the reports and that they are very time consuming to complete. All 16 employees interviewed indicated that they had completed the mandatory values and ethics training. The following considerations may account for the discrepancy between documented attendance and our sample results:
- the monitoring report may not have captured employees who transferred into the PSC from other departments, as well as long-serving PSC employees, who completed the values and ethics course
- some employees may who took the training more than 5 years ago may not realize that their results are no longer valid, due to poor promotion of a March 2019 PSC policy decision requiring all mandatory and recommended training be repeated at least once every 5 years means
- new PSC employees may have completed the mandatory training since the report was generated
68. During the course of this internal audit, processes were put in place to better capture the data and have it verified by vice-presidents. The PSC needs to record employee completion of mandatory courses to ensure that its executives, managers, supervisors and employees have the foundational knowledge to perform their tasks.
69. With regards to the Violence in the Workplace course, Part 2 of the Canada Labour Code and PSC policy stipulate that this training should be taken by all staff every 3 years. The audit found that despite the 100% completion target, monitoring reports indicate that 35% of employees have taken this training. More work is required to ensure that all staff are aware of the requirement to take this mandatory training and that their course completion is properly documented.
70. Recommendation 3. It is recommended that the Office of the Ombudsman review the processes in place to document and confirm that PSC employees have signed their confidential reports and annual affirmations of reading and understanding their obligations with respect to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. It is also recommended that the Human Resources Management Directorate review the processes in place to document information on values and ethics training attendance.
71. These reviews will ensure that processes for employees to document completion of mandatory training are efficient, and that employees understand their values and ethics roles and responsibilities within the organization.
72. The audit found that most managers interviewed did not have a clear understanding of their responsibility to ensure that employees had read the Code of Conduct and Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. As well, interviewees believed that the Code of Conduct was covered as part of employee onboarding processes, but were unsure where else it might be addressed.
73. The audit team was informed of a good practice within the PSC. Given the importance of the work performed in the language assessment function, all language assessment employees must demonstrate integrity, fairness and professionalism in all interactions with clients. As a good practice, the manager emphasized that the Code of Conduct be read and discussed with all employees at monthly meetings.
74. Most interviewees indicated that they had not recently read or reviewed the Code of Conduct. Interviewees who had recently been on-boarded to the PSC indicated they had read it. Most interviewees were unaware that the PSC had updated its Code of Conduct in April 2019.
75. With respect to values and ethics requirements for consultants working for the PSC, most managers interviewed relied on the information provided in the contract and standing offers. It was unclear to interviewees whether the consultants working in their area are aware of their specific requirements when it comes to values and ethics within the PSC. A good practice would be to provide consultants and those working within the PSC from outside with a copy of the Code of Conduct to ensure that they know what is expected of them in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities.
Monitoring and reporting
76. Criterion: The audit team expected to find monitoring and reporting processes related to the PSC values and ethics framework to support decision making, oversight and accountability, as well as to help ensure implementation across the PSC. Specifically:
- processes are in place to identify and report matters related to values and ethics, establish mitigation measures, and confirm action was taken
- performance indicators are in place to measure the overall values and ethics culture within the PSC, with the results and outcomes formally reported to senior management on a regular basis
77. Conclusion: Since 2012, values and ethics action plans and programs have been in place within the PSC to identify targeted actions and performance measurement expectations. Processes are in place and are working as intended to address ethical issues. Monitoring and reporting processes are established, and reports are provided at least annually through the Values and Ethics Snapshot. There is an opportunity to provide more frequent reporting throughout the fiscal-year.
78. During the period audited, the responsibility for monitoring and reporting to senior management on values and ethics was first performed by the Workplace Management Division and is now under the purview of the Ombudsman in their role as Director of the Office of the Ombudsman. The audit found that processes are in place to identify and report matters related to values and ethics, establish mitigation measures and confirm action was taken.
79. To support monitoring activities, information is collected from a number of sources, including statistics on employee training, sick leave, confidential reports, complaints related to violence in the workplace or to harassment, requests for informal conflict management services, disclosures of wrongdoing, as well as survey results.
80. As well, the Exit Interview Program provides departing employees an opportunity to voice concerns and identify opportunities for improvement within the PSC. Through this optional program, employees can participate in an informal interview or complete a short questionnaire to provide feedback on their experience working at the PSC. Information about the program, as well as the exit interview questionnaire, is available on the PSC’s intranet site and has been accessed less than half a dozen times in 2018-19.
81. The audit found that the exit interview program, although an important source of insight on the PSC’s culture, has not been used effectively. Employees typically receive the questionnaire on their last work day. Based on the low completion rate, it appears the program has been under-used by managers and supervisors. The questionnaire is a useful tool for identifying issues, trends and successes, and for improving the state of values and ethics at the PSC. The Ombudsman’s 2018-19 Annual Report emphasized the importance of exit interviews in generating better data on some of the ethical risks facing the PSC and in identifying solutions.
82. The Code of Conduct includes a requirement for regular monitoring and evaluation of the provisions of the code and internal disclosure procedures. In 2017-18, the Human Resources Management Directorate adopted a different type of instrument for reporting to senior management, moving from a comprehensive annual report to a more succinct dashboard-style report. This one-page document, entitled the Values and Ethics Snapshot, presents quantitative information on Values and Ethics Program activities.
83. The 2018-19 Values and Ethics Snapshot included details about the newly created Ombudsman’s Office. With the exception of the snapshot, the audit team did not find a document or process to track the results of actions undertaken as part of the PSC Values and Ethics Program since 2018. As well, other than comparison of year-to-year results from the snapshot and surveys, the auditors could not find mechanisms to identify, assess and document values and ethics risks and mitigation strategies.
84. Although limited in terms of narrative or contextual information, the Values and Ethics Snapshot provides senior management with information to take preventative or corrective measures to address values and ethics issues and improve employee well-being. For example, in light of results indicating a low completion rate for the conflict of interest confidential report, a new mechanism was established. It requires new employees to complete a confidential report either confirming their potential areas for conflict of interest or that they have “nothing to report,” and reminders are issued to employees who haven’t submitted their report.
85. The audit team found that subjects related to values and ethics were discussed on an ad-hoc, and sometimes as required, basis at PSC governance committees. This includes discussions at in-camera meetings of the Executive Management Committee. Other than the annual presentation of the snapshot, there were no routinely scheduled presentations on key performance indicators linked to values and ethics. Regularly scheduled presentations would help ensure that values and ethics considerations inform senior management decisions related to priority setting, programs, resources and policies.
86. In addition to the snapshot, senior management and the National Labour-Management Consultation Committee are both presented with the results and a year-to-year comparative analysis of the Public Service Employee Survey and Have Your Say survey results.
87. A review of Internal Audit Committee meeting minutes for the period under review indicated that members were provided with an update on PSC Values and Ethics Program implementation once a year. As reflected in the Internal Audit Committee Charter, this is an important element of the committee’s work. The audit found that the last comprehensive presentation on the values and ethics program was at the December 2017 meeting, and the snapshot was presented in 2018-19. There is an opportunity for the Senior Officer for Values and Ethics to provide more regular updates to the Internal Audit Committee as work begins on an updated PSC Values and Ethics Program.
88. The governance structure for values and ethics changed significantly in 2018 and 2019. The Office of the Ombudsman assumed the responsibilities of the Wellness Champion and Senior Officer for Values and Ethics. In addition, the Code of Conduct was updated in April 2019 to take new workplace factors into consideration. Senior management has demonstrated through its actions that it supports a healthy, diverse and inclusive workplace in line with values and ethics expectations of the federal public service.
89. The PSC has established and documented policy and guidance regarding values and ethics that provide information to employees to support the achievement of values and ethics objectives. Mandatory training requirements have been established, and some promotion of values and ethics responsibilities has been undertaken. As well, since 2012, values and ethics action plans and programs have been in place within the PSC to identify targeted actions and performance measurement expectations. Processes are in place and are working as intended to address ethical issues. Monitoring and reporting processes have been established and reports are provided at least annually through the Values and Ethics Snapshot. There is an opportunity to provide more frequent reporting throughout the fiscal-year.
90. The following opportunities for improvement were identified in light of recent values and ethics governance changes. The first relates to reviewing the relevant resources developed within the PSC to support the implementation of the Code of Conduct and obtain approval for the updated policy and guidance documents. In addition, a new, multi-year PSC Values and Ethics Program should be developed and implemented, incorporating all related actions and documenting the new governance structure for values and ethics related activities, including clear roles and responsibilities for all stakeholders. As well, reviews should be undertaken of the processes in place to capture data and information to document employee training attendance, signed confidential reports, and annual re-affirmations that employees have read and understand their obligations with respect to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector.
91. This report includes 3 recommendations to address the opportunities for improvement identified. Senior management has agreed with the recommendations, and action plan items have been developed to address the recommendations.
Appendix A: Management response and action plan
It is recommended that the Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Sector, in collaboration with the Office of the Ombudsman, lead a review of the relevant resources developed within the PSC to support the implementation of the Code of Conduct and obtain approval for the updated policy and guidance documents.
Management response and action plan
Management agrees with this recommendation.
- The Office of the Ombudsman and Human Resources Management Directorate will work closely with representatives of the Internal Audit team to define whether a policy or a guidance is part of the PSC Values and Ethics Framework and prioritize the policies and guidance to be reviewed.
- The Human Resources Management Directorate will identify the Offices of Primary Interest for each policy and guidance document to be reviewed and, in consultation with the Offices of Primary Interest, it will develop an evergreen review schedule to update the policy and guidance documents as necessary. The Offices of Primary Interest outside of the Human Resources Management Directorate will be responsible for respecting the timeframe they have established in the schedule.
Office of Primary Interest
Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Sector
- March 31, 2020
- June 30, 2020
It is recommended that the Office of the Ombudsman, in collaboration with key internal stakeholders, develop a new multi-year Values and Ethics Program incorporating all related actions, and documenting the new governance structure for values and ethics related activities
Management response and action plan
Management agrees with this recommendation. Management will:
- Review existing information on roles and responsibilities and the governance model in the area of values and ethics in the PSC Code of Conduct, the internal website, delegation instruments, and other relevant documents, and propose any necessary changes to ensure clarity and consistency.
- Establish a consultative Values and Ethics Committee representing all sectors and regions to determine ethical risks and mitigating strategies based on the mandate of the PSC, lived experiences, future direction and external environment.
- Conduct research and external consultations on the factors that contribute to an ethical culture.
- Propose to the Executive Management Committee a revised, evidence-based Values and Ethics Program and multi-year action plan with monitoring, reporting and measurement strategies.
- Publish centrally on the internal website the revised Values and Ethics Program, information on where employees can turn when facing a values and ethics issue, key contacts within the organization and their roles, and links to additional resources that aim to raise employee awareness on values and ethics.
- Develop scenario-based values and ethics learning materials based on PSC context, with a feedback form to gauge effectiveness.
Office of Primary Interest
Office of the Ombudsman
- May 31, 2020
- June 30, 2020
- October 31, 2020
- March 31, 2021
- September 30, 2021
- November 30, 2021
It is recommended that the Office of the Ombudsman review the processes in place to document and confirm that PSC employees have signed their confidential reports and annual affirmations of reading and understanding their obligations with respect to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. It is also recommended that the Human Resources Management Directorate review the processes in place to document information on values and ethics training attendance.
Management response and action plan
Management agrees with this recommendation.
- Work with the Human Resources Management Directorate to refine and document the process that allows for tracking and completion of confidential reports for all relevant staffing actions.
- Review and update administrative processes that allow for tracking and follow up with employees who have not completed the confidential report.
- Review and update communications, such as letter of offer templates, onboarding information, Office of the Ombudsman presentations, internal website, and conflict of interest analysis templates, to ensure employee and manager responsibilities regarding conflict of interest are clear.
- Publish a yearly desk-top pop up asking employees to confirm that they a) have read the Values and Ethics Code for the PSC, the Policy on Conflict of Interest and the PSC Code of Conduct; and b) understand that they are required to comply with these as terms and conditions of employment.
- The Human Resources Management Directorate will review processes to produce mandatory training completion reports on a bi-annual basis to aid employee personal learning plan development and reporting, to ensure completion of values and ethics training, including identifying a process to advise Human Resources Management Directorate when employees complete related training that is not provided by the Canada School of Public Service.
Office of Primary Interest
Office of the Ombudsman
Director General, Human Resources Management Directorate
- May 31, 2020
- May 31, 2020
- November 30, 2020
- March 31, 2020
- June 30, 2020
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