Portfolio Offices
December 2010


9. OBSERVATIONS – PUBLIC SAFETY, DEFENCE AND IMMIGRATION

9.1 Leading and Communicating

The PSDI Portfolio Office has made progress in developing procedures.

Documented policies and procedures help promote the conduct of activities in a consistent, efficient, and economical manner.

The PSDI Portfolio Office provided the audit team with a document of procedures that was characterized as a work in process. The Office indicated that it plans to continue developing procedures (e.g. on preparing and authorizing training forms) as required by its LSUs. When we reviewed these procedures, we noted several minor omissions, but observed that they were otherwise appropriate.

We concur with the PSDI Portfolio Office’s plan to continue to develop procedures that are responsive to LSU issues.

The PSDI Portfolio Office provides appropriate leadership and communications to its LSUs on administrative issues.

Effective and appropriate leadership and communications are essential in ensuring that departmental LSUs have the information they need.

The PSDI Portfolio’s business office has been proactive in identifying areas where LSUs are experiencing problems and in preparing guides and delivering training to address common problems. The Business Manager told the audit team that the business office planned to develop additional guidance for LSUs to assist them with various administrative issues.

Most LSU heads interviewed were satisfied with the services they received from the Portfolio Office, especially with regard to budgeting, forecasting, and reporting back to the centre of the Department. LSU heads were also generally satisfied with the support and direction they received from the Portfolio Office on administrative matters, such as setting up standard service agreements with clients and staffing procedures.

The PSDI Portfolio Office also has a variety of mechanisms for communicating best practices on legal matters. The National Litigation Coordination Team, which operates at the Portfolio level and manages all litigation, scans portfolio litigation files (primarily immigration-related) for novel or significant legal issues. The team then analyzes them for legal trends, disseminates the information on the trends to LSUs and regions, and prepares briefings and opinions. The National Litigation Coordination Team holds weekly conference calls with LSU heads. A roundtable, which is part of these weekly meetings, also helps to identify substantive advisory issues that multiple LSUs regularly face. There is also a teleconference every two weeks involving the team leader, LSU heads, and key litigators from the Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia regional offices.

It is our opinion that the PSDI Portfolio Office’s leadership and communications are appropriate.

9.2 Information Management

Improvements are required to the PSDI Portfolio Office’s paper file management practices.

We were told that the PSDI Portfolio Office’s Records Clerk opens files in RDIMS and places on file the documents provided when the request is made to open the file. Assistants print the paper version of documents subsequently created and ensure they are placed on file. It is expected that files will be kept up-to-date and that the assistants will print the documents on an ongoing basis. The Records Clerk provides periodic email reminders to the assistants on the importance of keeping filing up-to-date as well as specific details on the requirements of the process.

Some of the PSDI Portfolio Office’s lawyers keep files in their offices. We were told that the Records Clerk has tried repeatedly to have lawyers send their files to the records room after they are finished working with them, but has had limited success. Instead, lawyers tend to allow files to accumulate in their offices for quite some time before giving them to the Records Clerk. This has created a file-processing backlog for the Records Clerk (i.e. in eliminating duplicate copies and ensuring that all documents are on file). In the summer of 2009 the Portfolio Office hired a student to clear the backlog. The student continued to work one day a week from September 2009 until May 2010, which has helped keep the records up-to date.

It is the audit team’s opinion that the PSDI Portfolio Office needs to identify mechanisms (e.g. a periodic file clean-up day) that will promote the more timely movement of inactive files from individual lawyer’s offices to the records room for file closure and archiving as necessary.

The PSDI Portfolio Office has undertaken to improve its management of electronic information.

We were told that in the absence of procedures regarding electronic filing, the PSDI Portfolio Office does not have a standard approach for managing electronic information. As a result, in some cases a significant amount of time has been spent trying to find the electronic version of a document. We were also told that developing procedures for managing electronic information has recently been given a higher priority. We concur that managing electronic information should be a priority in the Portfolio Office’s development of additional information management procedures.

Recommendation and Management Response

6. It is recommended that the ADAG, PSDI Portfolio, identify mechanisms that will encourage the Portfolio Office’s lawyers to turn over their files to the Records Clerk as soon as they have finished working on them.

Agreed. PSDI has already taken steps to improve file management in general. Before the end of January, 2011, we will be organizing an information session for all Portfolio staff to "refresh" and clarify our file management responsibilities, including the need to turn over files in a timely way to our records clerk. We will also be encouraging Portfolio staff to take the online DOJ Information Management training. PSDI will also be undergoing the File Plan exercise during this fiscal year, which will allow us to sort and regularize our files and institute new and more robust record keeping practices that are in line with DOJ policies and obligations.

9.3 Interactions with the Litigation Branch

The current interactions between the PSDI Portfolio and the Litigation Branch are satisfactory.

Because of the extensive amount of litigation involving the PSDI Portfolio, the Portfolio created the National Litigation Coordination Team, which is located in the Portfolio Office. The National Litigation Coordination Team is in regular communication with the Litigation Branch.

We were told that the roles and responsibilities for litigation associated with immigration matters are well understood. Most of this litigation is undertaken by the regional offices in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.

Roles and responsibilities for litigation associated with national security, which is handled by the National Security Group within the Litigation Branch, are less clear. This area of law has taken on considerable importance since 2001 and the law is still evolving. The PSDI Portfolio Office and the Litigation Branch were finalizing the statement of roles and responsibilities at the time of the audit.

We were told that structures have been put in place since 2008 between the PSDI Portfolio Office and the Litigation Branch to provide greater assurance that key information is shared. The ADAG, PSDI Portfolio, and the ADAG, Litigation Branch, have regular discussions. Neither advised the audit team of any need for additional changes at this time.

We are of the opinion that the current interactions between the PSDI Portfolio and the Litigation Branch are satisfactory.

<
Date modified: