Portfolio Offices
December 2010


1.1 Background

Pursuant to the Department of Justice Act, Justice Canada is responsible for the legal affairs of the government as a whole and for providing legal services to individual departments and agencies. A significant proportion of the Department’s counsel are assigned to one of the 40 departmental legal services units (LSUs), which are co-located with client departments and agencies. LSUs provide client organizations with legal advice to facilitate their operations and ensure that the conduct of their affairs is in accordance with the law. In doing so, LSUs also provide advice with respect to the statutes and regulations that apply to the Government of Canada as well as strategic advice concerning policy development and other initiatives.

Organizationally, each LSU is part of a Department of Justice portfolio. The Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM)/Assistant Deputy Attorney General (ADAG) of the portfolio has functional and operational responsibilities with respect to the LSUs and functional responsibilities with regard to regional offices. This audit examined the activities of three of the five portfolios in the Department: Business and Regulatory Law (BRL), Central Agencies, and Public Safety, Defence and Immigration (PSDI). Footnote 1

The BRL Portfolio provides legal services to 38 client departments and agencies through 19 LSUs, two secretariats (Property Law, and Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law), and the Commercial Law Section. Most of its LSUs are located in the National Capital Region while some others are located in client departments across the country. The BRL Portfolio Office provides senior level guidance on all legal issues affecting the portfolio’s clients (including functional direction to the Department’s six regional offices in relation to the work undertaken on behalf of the portfolio’s client departments and agencies across Canada), manages ongoing client relations, and coordinates all operational aspects of the portfolio (e.g. budget allocation, financial management and reporting, cost-recovery, staffing, timekeeping). Planned 2009-10 expenditures in the BRL Portfolio including regional expenditures were $83,727,860 for salaries (of which $59,260,477 was from cost recovery) and $6,241,341 for O&M (of which $5,315,395 was from cost recovery) Footnote 2. The Assistant Deputy Minister Office (ADMO) O&M was $400,000.

The Central Agencies Portfolio comprises seven LSUs located in the National Capital Region. It manages horizontal legal policy and operational issues related to the central agency functions of government (e.g. laws governing financial institutions, public service employment law, labour law, tax law, Crown law, Crown corporations, and the federal budget). Regional offices (especially Ontario and Quebec) and the Litigation Branch provide litigation services to Central Agencies Portfolio clients, most frequently in connection with labour and employment law. The Central Agencies Portfolio Office also coordinates administrative and financial management in the portfolio. Planned 2009-10 expenditures were $11,296,900 for salaries (of which $7,056,882 was from cost recovery) and $594,817 for O&M (of which $441,317 was from cost recovery) Footnote 3.

The Public Safety, Defence and Immigration Portfolio supports the responsibilities of the ministers of National Defence, Public Safety, and Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism by providing legal services through nine LSUs and the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes sections. The PSDI Portfolio Office provides support to the government as required in relation to commissions of inquiry (e.g. into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182). Lawyers in the Department’s regional offices are responsible for all litigation relating to clients in the regions. There is a high volume of litigation, often involving sensitive and highly publicized anti-terrorism files and immigration matters (e.g. citizenship revocations). The PSDI Portfolio Office coordinates the legal and management functions of the portfolio and maintains relationships with the legal and corporate offices of the Department of Justice, client organizations, and central agencies. Planned 2009-10 expenditures in the portfolio were $57,087,893 for salaries (of which $21,995,664 was from cost recovery) and $5,568,767 for O&M (of which $1,540,300 was from cost recovery) Footnote 4.

1.2 Audit Objectives and Scope

The main objectives of this audit were to review and assess:

  • the management control framework (policies, practices, and procedures related to planning, organizing, controlling, leading and communicating, and the management of human, financial, and materiel resources) in each Portfolio Office;
  • the reliability of information systems for decision-making and accountability purposes;
  • the extent of compliance with key legislation, regulations, and central agency/departmental policies (Financial Administration Act, Official Languages Act, Contracting Policy);
  • the appropriateness of communication mechanisms directed at strengthening links with LSUs and regional offices (e.g. committees, meetings, conferences, directives);
  • the appropriateness of operational and strategic planning at the portfolio level;
  • the appropriateness of interfaces with other sections in the Department of Justice (e.g. Public Law Sector, Civil Litigation, and regional offices);
  • the appropriateness of interfaces with the Management Sector (e.g. Strategic Planning and Performance Management (SPPM), Human Resources) and Chief Financial Officer Branch;
  • the level of satisfaction with the services/advices provided by each Portfolio Office to LSUs and regional offices (e.g. financial, administrative, human resources, cost recovery).

The audit also examined:

  • the leadership role played by the Portfolio Offices in relation to significant LSU operational issues, particularly those that may have horizontal implications;
  • the extent to which Portfolio Offices identify and communicate best practices and lessons learned;
  • the level and appropriateness of direction provided to LSUs and regional offices (legal, finance, administration, management reporting);
  • appropriateness of the span of control (extent and nature).

The scope of the audit included the operations and activities of the three Portfolio Offices: Business and Regulatory Law, Central Agencies, and Public Safety, Defence and Immigration. The planning and the on-site examination phases for this audit were carried out between November 2009 and April 2010.

Details concerning the audit methodology are outlined in Appendix A.

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