Departmental Legal Services Unit
Canada Border Services Agency
2. Observations – Management Framework
2.1 Governance and Strategic Direction
Governance and strategic direction are essential components of an effective business operation, allowing for internal coherence, corporate discipline, and alignment to planned objectives. These components also provide managers with the ability to effectively allocate human and financial resources to address priorities in an ever-changing environment.
Governance and strategic direction are clear and reflected in the CBSA LSU business plan.
Management has developed a business plan that reflects the legal services units’s overall strategic direction; identifies priorities, risk, and risk mitigation strategies; and includes a human resources (HR) staffing plan. The business plan, the first one developed by the LSU, was included in the overall strategic plan of the PSDI Portfolio. The plan identifies the following priorities for fiscal year 2010-11:
- stabilization of human resources;
- improvement of the LSU’s tracking of resource expenditures to ascertain that they support CBSA’s priorities;
- development of a revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the LSU and the CBSA to replace the one expiring at the end of fiscal year 2010-11;
- completion of LSU working groups’ activities planned for fiscal year 2010-11, including closing inactive files, improving training of new staff, finalizing the office procedures manual, and ensuring improved timekeeping processes and use of iCase.
The Senior General Counsel and team leaders regularly monitor the business plan and the HR staffing plan for progress. The plans are discussed on a timely basis at LSU meetings (i.e. team, one-on-one, and all-staff).
In our opinion, management provides the required governance and strategic direction for LSU staffing, resourcing, and corporate programs.
All management decisions affecting the CBSA LSU need to be formally documented to safeguard corporate memory.
The Senior General Counsel advised the audit team that minutes are taken at meetings where critical LSU management matters (e.g. LSU management framework, flexible work arrangements, reorganization issues) are discussed. We reviewed these minutes and found them to be appropriate. Staff are apprised by email of formal decisions reached at these meetings.
At all other meetings with team leaders and staff, formal minutes are not taken. However, at these meetings, the Senior General Counsel takes informal notes on the topics discussed, decisions taken, action required, and responsibilities assigned for follow-up at subsequent meetings. These handwritten notes are kept by the Senior General Counsel for personal reference purposes only and are not circulated to staff.
In our opinion, all decisions affecting the management of the LSU should be formally documented in order to preserve corporate memory.
Recommendation and Management Response
1. It is recommended that the Senior General Counsel ensure that minutes are taken to document all decisions affecting the management of the LSU to safeguard corporate memory. (Low Risk) Footnote 2
Agreed. The Senior General Counsel will ensure that all decisions affecting the management of the LSU are documented for the purposes of ensuring corporate memory. The types of decisions that will be recorded will include all high-level management decisions that will have a long-term impact for the management of the LSU. These decisions will be documented in a concise set of minutes to be kept at any management team, all-staff, and lawyers’ meetings when such decisions are taken. All LSU staff will be advised of this new procedure and will be able to access the minutes electronically. The LSU’s Office Procedures Manual will be updated to reflect this approach. This procedure will be implemented immediately.
Effective business planning activities and documentation are essential for directing an organization toward the achievement of management’s strategic goals, priorities, and objectives. Formal plans need to incorporate objectives for all key areas of the organization.
The business plan needs to be finalized and fully integrated.
The LSU has developed a business plan that focuses on overall strategic direction, objectives, risk mitigation strategies, priorities, and HR staffing. We found that the business plan, which was still in draft form during the audit fieldwork, does not include budget information. Furthermore, the HR staffing plan, originally developed in August 2009, has not been updated to reflect all staffing actions either completed or under way since then.
Senior management confirmed with the audit team its intention of completing an integrated business plan by the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year, which will also include financial information and an updated HR staffing plan. In our opinion, management should take the appropriate steps to finalize the business plan.
The business plan has been communicated to staff.
Senior management has shared the contents of the draft business plan with LSU staff. Regular and open discussions surrounding objectives, priorities, risks, and risk mitigation strategies are held at staff meetings and one-on-one meetings with team leaders to support and informally monitor progress against objectives.
We were told that it is management’s intention to request comments from staff on the draft version of the plan before it is issued in its final format. Once these comments have been reviewed (and incorporated into the report, if appropriate), the final business plan will be distributed to LSU staff and provided to the ADAG, PSDI Portfolio.
In our opinion, the business plan has been effectively, if informally, communicated to staff.
The LSU contributes to the CBSA planning process through open communications and membership on different committees.
During the year, LSU management participates in the CBSA planning process through membership on various CBSA committees, such as the Executive Committee, the Program Standing Committee, and the Human Resources Standing Committee. LSU management shares information with CBSA management at these meetings to sustain the planning process at the client level. For example, the Senior General Counsel negotiates the yearly budget for the LSU support staff salaries, the O&M expenditures, and the cost recovery budget for all legal services provided by the Department of Justice to the CBSA including LSU lawyer salaries, based on a combination of the previous year’s figures and the forecasts provided by HQ and the regions. Furthermore, the LSU regularly monitors actual expenditures against budgeted amounts to assess outcomes and improve future forecasting of operational expenses assumed by CBSA.
The LSU uses iCase, a web-based integrated case management and reporting application, to manage legal files and track time lawyers spend on files. We were told that the LSU is working on improving the reporting capacity of iCase to be able to provide the client with a breakdown of time spent on files by activity and by client. An internal LSU working group has been assigned this task and its successful completion will result in additional planning information being available to the client.
Collaboration between the LSU and the CBSA is a normal part of the planning process. Both parties work together to develop additional tools that may contribute to an improved planning process. For example, starting in early 2011, a Risk Management Framework, specific to the CBSA LSU, will be developed with the assistance of the CBSA Risk Management Group.
In our opinion, the LSU contributes successfully to the CBSA planning process.
Recommendation and Management Response
2. It is recommended that the Senior General Counsel ensure that the business plan is finalized and fully integrated. (Low Risk)
Agreed. The Senior General Counsel will ensure that the business plan is finalized and fully integrated to include the necessary budgetary information and the Human Resources Plan by November 15, 2011.
An effective organizational structure encompasses clear definitions of roles and responsibilities that are vital to the successful management of an organization.
The role and responsibilities of CBSA LSU staff are well defined.
Since its inception in early 2004, the CBSA LSU has been required to respond quickly to a changing organizational environment in order to meet its client’s needs. In that respect, the LSU developed a reorganization plan in March 2010 to match a new operational arrangement adopted by the CBSA. The proposed plan was developed with input from staff and discussed at team leader, team, and general staff meetings prior to its enactment in March 2010. The audit team reviewed the reorganization plan. We found that key activities, responsibilities, skills, level of effort, and working conditions were defined and communicated to staff.
We further reviewed the organization chart from the perspective of span of control and found it to be appropriate: three team leaders report to the Senior General Counsel and each Team Leader is responsible for approximately 10 counsel. The Office Manager, who reports to the Senior General Counsel, manages 12 support staff, including six legal assistants and six administrative staff.
In our opinion, roles and responsibilities are well defined in the CBSA LSU.
2.4.1 Performance monitoring
Monitoring is the ongoing, systematic process of collecting, analyzing, communicating, and using performance information. It is an essential step for assessing an organization’s progress toward meeting expected results and provides support for decision making, accountability, and transparency.
The CBSA LSU needs to formally report on progress made against the business plan and the HR staffing plan to facilitate the monitoring of objectives and resulting follow-up actions.
Management supports an informal communications system to ensure that staff are aware of the LSU’s overall objectives and priorities and the progress realized toward their achievement. For example, team leaders responsible for business plan priorities discuss progress with the Senior General Counsel at one-on-one and team leader meetings. Minutes are not taken for these meetings, nor are formal monthly or quarterly reports prepared to document the progress. Furthermore, while actions have been completed on the HR staffing plan, drawn up in August 2009, none of these actions has been updated in the plan. As a result, the status of progress reached at any specific time cannot be readily assessed against the business plan.
In order to facilitate the monitoring of progress against plans, management should develop and implement a formal reporting process.
LSU management monitors LSU performance through formal processes.
LSU management has developed a formal MOU with the CBSA that addresses the roles and responsibilities of both the LSU and the CBSA, and articulates performance expectations including service standards and client service delivery expectations. The MOU is valid for a period of two years. At the time of the MOU’s renewal, the Senior General Counsel addresses past performance and obtains formal feedback from CBSA management as to required changes to better meet the client’s needs and expectations. The changes discussed and negotiated then become part of the newly signed MOU. At the time of the audit, the Senior General Counsel was discussing with CBSA management the revisions to the next MOU, which is scheduled to be implemented in 2011.
The Senior General Counsel also obtains feedback on the LSU’s performance through quarterly meetings with CBSA management. The information obtained during the meetings is communicated to team leaders and staff at their respective meetings for timely follow-up action.
Finally, the LSU is part of a formal client survey process that is conducted every three years by the Office of Strategic Planning and Performance Management (SPPM) in the Department of Justice. The results of the latest survey are discussed in the Observations – Client Satisfaction section.
In our opinion, management has implemented adequate processes to assess the LSU’s performance with respect to client needs and expectations.
Recommendation and Management Response
3. It is recommended that the Senior General Counsel ensure that formal reporting of progress against the business plan is conducted to facilitate the monitoring of objectives and resulting follow-up actions. (Low Risk)
Agreed. The LSU will adopt a process whereby reporting of progress against the business plan will occur twice a year. The format of the business plan includes a section that reports on the activities of the previous fiscal year, describing those activities as well as the challenges faced and progress achieved over the course of that period. This reporting against the previous year of work will occur at the beginning of each fiscal year as part of the preparation of that year’s business plan. In addition, a review will be undertaken in September/October every year, which will report on the first six months of activity of each fiscal year (April-September) against the business plan. This resulting semi-annual report will be discussed at the management team meeting, finalized, and attached to the yearly business plan. The business plan and the semi-annual report will be circulated to all LSU staff, as well as within DOJ and the client agency as appropriate.
As the auditors have noted, the LSU is currently behind in its business planning cycle. The 2010-11 integrated business plan will be finalized by November 15, 2011. The 2011-12 integrated business plan will be completed by January 31, 2012. This plan will contain a section that reports against the activities of the 2010-11 fiscal year. The 2012-13 integrated business plan will be in place by June 29, 2012 and will contain a section that reports against the activities of the 2011-12 fiscal year. The first semi-annual report will be completed by October 31, 2012. Following this, the LSU will maintain its annual business planning cycle and will report against its business plan twice a year, at the beginning of the new fiscal year and in September/October of each year as described above.
2.4.2 Workload Assignment and Monitoring
Efficient control and administration over the workload assignment process is a fundamental aspect of a manager’s ability to use human resources prudently. In a legal environment, the file assignment process must consider both the experience level and skill sets of resources.
LSU workload is assigned, monitored, and tracked.
Team leaders are responsible for reviewing client requests and allocating work to staff. The CBSA Legal Services Manual sets out the process for addressing client requests for legal opinions and provides procedures for allocating files to team leaders. Team leaders allocate new files to lawyers based on expertise, existing workload information generated from RIMS and iCase, and discussions held at team and one-on-one meetings with lawyers. During these meetings, lawyers’ workloads are revisited to ascertain that client priorities are being met and that work is proceeding in accordance with plans and priorities. The Senior General Counsel reviews workload with team leaders at their one-on-one meetings and at the Team Leader meetings.
In our opinion, workload is appropriately assigned, monitored, and tracked in the CBSA LSU.
Accurate and complete timekeeping information supports effective planning, funding, and management of departmental activities. In the Department, all legal practitioners (counsel and paralegals) and computer specialists (CSs) are required to record their time in iCase in accordance with the National Timekeeping Protocol (NTP). Section 3.1 of the NTP states: “to help ensure data integrity, time should be recorded on a daily basis or as soon as practically possible thereafter”.
The CBSA LSU is addressing inconsistencies identified with respect to timekeeping.
The CBSA Legal Services Manual includes standard operating procedures for counsel, legal assistants, paralegals, and administrative staff. It provides guidelines and procedures for conducting daily activities and implementing departmental policies. The manual also provides instructional material, tools for new staff, and a vehicle to record internal lessons learned. In addition, the manual sets out detailed guidance for staff on the procedures for recording their time in iCase.
The Senior General Counsel acknowledged that the LSU had issues with timekeeping in the past, and as a result, timekeeping was made a priority in the 2010-11 business plan. She indicated that the LSU’s major issue with respect to timekeeping had related to inconsistencies in the choice of categories counsel use to input their time for the same type of work. For example, training and committee work had been grouped under the label “administration” as opposed to being reported under the specific categories of “training” or “committee work”. A working group was assigned responsibility for addressing the issue and identified a list of categories to be used for the different types of work. The list has been distributed to counsel for their review and comments. Once the comments are received, they will be analyzed and incorporated into the CBSA Legal Services Manual. We were told that this work is expected to be completed during the 2011-12 fiscal year.
In our opinion, the CBSA LSU is addressing the inconsistencies identified in the LSU with respect to timekeeping.
2.5 Leading and Communicating
Effective communications are essential in any workplace. They provide the basis for effective leadership within an organization, as the timely sharing of current and correct information will support actions taken by staff in their day-to-day activities.
The CBSA LSU has substantive and timely communications with departmental oversight bodies that support the overall decision-making process.
As the LSU head, the Senior General Counsel is required to interface regularly with representatives from the Department of Justice to address departmental issues and priorities and report on the LSU’s financial results. The Senior General Counsel sits on the Justice Portfolio Heads Committee and participates in the Assistant Deputy Attorney General (ADAG) quarterly Management Committee meetings.
From an operational point of view, the Portfolio Office of Business Management provides support to the LSU for strategic direction, budget preparation, and monthly expenditure reporting. Furthermore, weekly meetings via teleconference are held with the Portfolio and the regions to discuss law-related and other Portfolio issues. As these meetings are held for information purposes only, minutes are not taken.
In our opinion, there are substantive and timely communications between the LSU and departmental oversight bodies that support the overall decision-making process.
The draft CBSA Legal Services Manual needs to be finalized and distributed.
The LSU has developed the CBSA Legal Services Manual, which is a complete operations manual that addresses such topics as the provision of legal services, records management, administrative procedures, financial procedures, human resources, and security. Although the manual is in draft form, it is currently being used by staff for procedural and other guidance. The manual should be finalized and distributed to staff.
Recommendation and Management Response
4. It is recommended that the Senior General Counsel ensure that the CBSA Legal Services Manual is finalized and distributed to staff. (Low Risk)
Agreed. The LSU’s Office Procedures Manual will be finalized by March 31, 2012 and distributed to all staff. While there is a solid draft of the manual already prepared which is currently being used by staff, it is expected that there will be significant new procedures and direction developed over the course of the next six to eight months that will need to be documented in the manual.
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