Office of the Legal Advisor to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces
TBS has established an extensive framework of policies for managing human, financial, and materiel resources. One of the requirements of these policies is that limited resources are to be managed with prudence and probity.
Human resources plans that support the achievement of an organization’s strategic direction are a key element for organizational success. A sufficient number of people with the necessary skills to support the achievement of organizational objectives are required. An organization should therefore have controls in place to support the training and development of staff and a suitably comprehensive suite of human resources policies and practices aimed at attraction, recruitment, and retention.
The DND/CF LA developed a comprehensive human resources plan as part of its Business Plan 2009-2010.
The DND/CF LA provides detailed input to the PSDI Portfolio’s human resources plan and prepares a separate human resources plan as part of the DND/CF LA’s annual business plan. The human resources plan includes information on the DND/CF LA’s main priorities for human resources. Key challenges are recruiting, developing, and retaining qualified personnel (in particular, civilians from DND for support positions) and providing a sufficiently graduated workforce position structure to allow for effective succession planning and career development. Results from an internal official languages training questionnaire (conducted in 2008-09) and a well-being survey (conducted in May 2008) were used to identify priority areas.
It is the audit team’s opinion that the DND/CF LA’s human resources planning is comprehensive.
The DND/CF LA has an appropriate mix of resources in relation to current demand for its services.
The DND/CF LA’s Business Plan 2009-2010 called for the Office to consist of 59 Department of Justice lawyers, 11 JAG lawyers, and 41 DND (civilian) employees in finance, administration, records, and support staff positions, including 10 paralegals and 15 administrative assistants (who fill a role similar to that of legal assistants in other DLSUs). This represented a growth of five support staff positions from 2008-09. The majority of support staff positions were also converted from temporary to indeterminate positions.
At the time of the audit, the Senior General Counsel and Legal Advisor stated that the DND/CF LA is on track to be resourced adequately in relation to its current demand and that no trade-offs are needed. The DND/CF has a ratio of less than five lawyers for every administrative assistant. Within individual divisions, the ratio of lawyers to administrative assistants varies.
Some directors told us that there was a need for additional resources, either lawyers or support staff, and that they manage shortfalls by juggling priorities and reassigning work. This approach was found to be working satisfactorily, as clients contacted by the audit team stated that service from the DND/CF LA has been efficient, timely, thorough, and professional. These testimonials mirror the findings of the SPPM 2008 Client Feedback Survey. Furthermore, our examination of time reporting in iCase found that regular overtime required for members of the management team (i.e. team leaders and above) or lawyers in positions classified at the same level was not excessive (an hour a day or more on average). We found only one exception to this pattern.
It is the audit team’s view that the DND/CF LA’s mix of resources is appropriate.
The DND/CF LA’s tracking of employees’ professional development requires improvement.
The Department of Justice’s Learning Policy states that every employee shall receive at least five days of professional development per year. As defined in the policy, professional development encompasses a wide range of activities, including classroom training, formal education, conferences, seminars/workshops, practice forums, practice groups, coaching, mentoring, short-term assignments, secondments, job shadowing, job rotation, and reading.
The DND/CF LA has responded to concerns raised by staff in the 2008 well-being survey. The majority of respondents indicated that they had not received adequate training for the work they were doing. The Business Plan 2009-2010 identified increased professional development and training opportunities for career advancement as one strategy to address challenges in attracting and retaining highly skilled and motivated employees.
Lawyers stated that professional development is encouraged and that there is a training budget (per lawyer) for external courses and conferences. However, lawyers noted that finding appropriate external courses and, critically, the time to attend them given the operational workload can be problematic. Time constraints also present challenges to paralegals, administrative assistants, and other support staff. Nonetheless, according to the DND/CF LA’s Business Plan 2009-2010, 96 percent of the support staff who are required to have an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) have completed their current plan. JAG lawyers seconded to the DND/CF LA stated that the availability of legal training in the Department of Justice was superior to that in the DND/CF.
In accordance with the departmental Learning Policy, DND/CF LA management are responsible for reporting on three key learning performance indicators. These include the percentage of base salary invested in learning, percentage of Department employees with individual learning plans, and the percentage of employees receiving a minimum of five days of professional development per year. The DND/CF LA management appropriately reports on the first two of these indicators. However, although the DND/CF LA maintains a list of the courses taken by each employee for each fiscal year, the report currently compiled includes for the third performance indicator only those courses taken by staff that have an associated cost. The report does not capture informal training taken such as coaching, mentoring, short-term assignments, secondments, job rotation, and reading. As indicated above, these are all professional development as defined within the Learning Policy.
In the absence of thorough tracking of all professional development activities taking place in the Office, the DND/CF LA cannot ensure that its employees are receiving the required amount of professional development. It is also not compliant with the Department of Justice Learning Policy.
Performance appraisals are completed in a timely manner.
Performance appraisals for all DND/CF LA staff should be prepared annually. Appraisals are important tools for setting objectives, providing feedback on performance, and identifying training requirements.
The audit team was provided with a list of all the performance appraisals conducted for 2008-09 for both Department of Justice and DND/CF employees. Where a performance appraisal was not conducted, there was an explanation (e.g. employee on sick leave, leave without pay, maternity leave). We confirmed that all performance reviews and employee appraisals conducted were received at the Department of Justice. ILPs have been completed for both Department of Justice and DND/CF employees.
Recommendation and Management Response
3. It is recommended that the Senior General Counsel and Legal Advisor implement a process to track and report all professional development taking place in the DND/CF LA.
Agreed. We have initiated procedures in January 2010 to track all professional training whether or not there is a cost. This procedure is still being refined so as to increase efficiency. We have also begun to track professional training given internally and to report this to the portfolio. We have reminded all counsel and paralegals to record their time in relation to both training received and training provided in the specific files provided in iCase for such purpose. We have informed our lawyers and paralegals that the Department of Justice wants not only time spent for formal training and professional development courses recorded, but also time spent for other professional development opportunities (e.g. mentoring, reading the law, professional developmental secondments, and job-shadowing). By September clarified instructions will be provided to staff about the procedures to be followed for recording all time for professional development in iCase. I have also instituted a procedure with our Human Resources Section to record other professional development opportunities (e.g. secondments, job-shadowing, short-term assignments, and job-rotation).
The financial resources provided to the DND/CF LA by the Department of Justice and its client department have enabled it to provide satisfactory levels of service.
Like most DLSUs, the DND/CF LA receives funding from the Department of Justice A-Base and from its client. Almost 85 percent of the salary costs for lawyers, all of the salary costs for support staff, and all of the regular O&M budget are provided by the DND/CF. Planned expenditures for regular O&M and salaries for 2009-10 were approximately $11.3 million. (The DND/CF LA also manages a budget to cover claims for damages caused by the CF.)
In its Business Plan 2008-2009, the DND/CF LA identified requirements to create two new senior legal manager positions. The Business Plan 2009-2010 identified requirements for five additional support staff positions as well as for the reclassification of seven other support staff positions to a higher level. The senior legal manager positions were staffed by the time our on-site examination phase had started, and the support staff positions were being filled during that phase of the audit.
The Senior General Counsel and Legal Advisor advised the audit team that most of the resourcing that the DND/CF LA identified as necessary was complete, and that the LSU was on track to be resourced adequately in relation to the current demand for legal services.
The audit team is of the opinion that the DND/CF is adequately resourced to provide satisfactory levels of service to its client department.
The DND/CF LA follows the required DND financial administration policies and procedures.
The DND/CF, with over 90,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff across Canada and around the world, has a very decentralized financial management system. Therefore, in following DND financial administration policies and procedures, the DND/CF LA can have O&M expenditures processed against its budget for legal staff who are on travel status or deployed in international operations. The largest O&M expenditures tend to be associated with payments related to claims.
The DND/CF has implemented pre- and post-verifications of transactions based on the perceived risk. The organization of the DND Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Finance and Corporate Services regularly reviews credit card invoices, claims, and travel expenditures. Any procurements and associated invoices that cannot be paid for with a corporate credit card are processed by the organization of the DND ADM Materiel. Some areas where procedures and control mechanisms needed to be corrected to comply with policy had been identified in 2007 and 2008. However, reports prepared for the DND/CF LA by these organizations in 2009 did not identify any significant compliance issues.
The DND Chief, Review Services, who is responsible for internal audit and evaluation, has also implemented a continuous auditing regime to provide ongoing assurance on the adequacy of the financial controls within the DND/CF.
The audit team is of the opinion that the DND/CF LA is following the required financial administration policies and procedures.
Key physical assets are protected in an appropriate manner.
The DND/CF LA’s key physical assets are provided by the DND/CF, which is also responsible for keeping an inventory of these assets. When items are purchased, the DND ADM Materiel’s organization is responsible for ensuring that these items are inventoried. No losses have been reported in the last four years, with the exception of three DND-supplied laptop computers. The loss was reported to the Military Police at that time. Locks for laptop computers were issued and their use mandated in response to the incident.
Moreover, adequate measures are in place to protect the DND/CF LA’s assets. The DND/CF LA is housed in a secure DND/CF building. All visitors must present themselves to a reception desk on the ground floor. Reception staff verify the visitor’s identity (a photo ID must be surrendered in exchange for a badge). Reception staff also call the appropriate DND/CF LA staff member to verify the appointment. Visitors are escorted to and from the DND/CF LA’s suite of offices and must swipe their visitor’s badge on entry and exit to the elevators. Signs in the building’s lobby notify visitors that they may be subject to search as a condition of going to office floors.
We are of the opinion that the measures taken by the DND/CF LA to protect key physical assets are appropriate.
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