Departmental Legal Services Unit
Canada Border Services Agency
3. Observations – Management of Human, Financial, and Material Resources
3.1 Human Resources
3.1.1. Number and Mix of Resources
The appropriate number and mix of resources deployed to work activities is critical to effective utilization of resources.
The CBSA LSU has the appropriate number and mix of resources to meet the client’s requirements for legal services.
In the Department of Justice, the number and mix of lawyers is determined by the Law Practice Model (LPM), which was adopted after a departmental strategic review in February 2009 and is expected to be fully implemented by April 2012. The LPM requires the following classification mix of lawyers: 26% at the LA1 level, 47% at the LA2A level, and 27% at the senior level (LA2B and above). At the time of the audit, the CBSA LSU’s mix of lawyers was 30% to 35% at the LA1 level, 40% to 45% at the LA2A level, and 16% at the senior level.
Our review of the organizational chart indicated that the LSU has 31 lawyers and 12 support staff. The current HR staffing plan calls for 37 lawyers and 17 support staff. The LSU has established three legal teams, with two teams of 10 lawyers and one team of 11 lawyers. Two legal assistants support each team. Administrative staff (two planning analysis officers and two records clerks) support the three teams. Counsel confirmed through interviews that they are appropriately supported by the administrative staff. Therefore, we conclude that the ratio of support staff to legal staff is appropriate.
The organizational chart showed a vacancy for the position of General Counsel (LA-3A), which would normally provide expertise in high profile cases. The Senior General Counsel was also considering the possibility of creating and staffing a Deputy Director position rather than the General Counsel position, if permissible under the Law Practice Model. At the time of the audit, the Senior General Counsel indicated that she had not decided how to staff this senior position to best meet client requirements, but that the ADAG’s approval would be sought once a decision was made.
At the time of the audit, three LSU administrative positions had experienced sudden turnover that necessitated quick staffing actions to address the void created. While the LSU experienced a backlog of administrative work because of the staff turnover, we found that the remaining staff were working to eliminate the backlog.
We found that LSU management is exercising clear control over its staffing issues and has completed the actions set out in the HR staffing plan. We therefore conclude that the LSU is addressing HR issues in a timely manner and has an appropriate number and mix of staff to properly service client needs.
3.1.2 Professional Development
Professional development must appropriately address the needs of the organization while contributing to the development of each employee’s skill set.
Professional development opportunities meet the needs of the LSU and of legal staff.
We reviewed the job descriptions for LSU lawyers and found them to include work objectives that outline professional development requirements for each classification level. The CBSA Legal Services Manual outlines the procedures for obtaining training and attending conferences. We reviewed a sample of training requests submitted by legal staff and found them to meet the needs of staff and the organization. Each was approved according to the appropriate level of delegated authority.
In our opinion, management is aware of legal staff’s professional development requirements and has approved requests based on these needs.
3.1.3 Performance Appraisal Process
Performance appraisals for all LSU staff should be prepared annually. Appraisals are important tools for setting objectives, providing feedback on performance, and identifying training requirements.
Team leaders’ work objectives need to include their assigned responsibilities for their corporate priority in order to facilitate the performance appraisal process.
The CBSA LSU conducts annual performance appraisals for all legal and support staff. In reviewing these appraisals, the audit team found that the work objectives for team leaders did not include all necessary information on their assigned responsibilities.
The LSU’s business plan sets out the LSU’s annual objectives and priorities. In order to ensure that these are met, senior management created six working groups and assigned each with specific tasks for meeting the objectives and priorities set forth in the plan. Each group reports on their group’s progress to the Senior General Counsel and at the all-staff meeting. Each team leader is part of one of the working groups. In addition, each of the team leaders was assigned a specific corporate priority. We reviewed the priorities identified for these team leaders and found that their work objectives do not incorporate the team leaders’ assigned responsibilities for their corporate priority as identified in the business plan.
In our opinion, team leaders’ work objectives should include their assigned responsibilities for their corporate priority, as this information will facilitate the performance appraisal process.
Recommendation and Management Response
5. It is recommended that the Senior General Counsel ensure that the work objectives for team leaders refer to assigned responsibilities for their corporate priority in order to facilitate the performance appraisal process. (Low Risk)
Agreed. As a result of the redesign of the LA classification standard, the team leaders in the LSU are now included in the Law Management (LC) Occupational Group and are required to prepare performance agreements as set out in Appendix B of the Treasury Board’s Directive on the Performance Management Program for Executives. The Senior General Counsel will ensure that the team leaders’ performance agreements include Key Commitments relating to those that the Senior General Counsel has identified in her performance agreement and that reflect the LSU’s corporate management priorities as outlined in its business plan. As a result, each team leader will have objectives that refer to their priority activities as assigned by the Senior General Counsel. This recommendation is currently being implemented: the PSDI Portfolio is in the process of preparing performance agreements for its executives for fiscal 2011-12 and this recommendation will be implemented as those agreements are finalized.
3.1.4 Flexible Work ArrangementsThe Department of Justice recognizes the need to support employees in balancing their work and personal lives, while maintaining its ability to operate effectively.
Flexible work arrangements are governed by set procedures with no adverse effect on the delivery of client services.
The CBSA Legal Services Manual outlines the procedures to be followed for flexible work arrangements for all LSU staff (i.e. Justice-funded legal staff or client-funded support staff). These arrangements must be approved by the Senior General Counsel for legal staff and by the Office Manager for support staff. From our interviews with LSU staff and client department management, we determined that employees are using flexible work arrangements and that client expectations’ in terms of deliverables are met as planned. In our opinion, senior management is exercising control over flexible work arrangements.
3.2 Material Resources
The proper control and protection of key assets used in a business operation is an essential aspect of management activity. Measures to help mitigate the chances of assets being damaged or stolen should be operating effectively and these measures should be reviewed regularly to help sustain their efficiency and relevancy.
LSU assets are recorded in the CBSA inventory.
The financial operation of the LSU is supported jointly by the Department of Justice and the CBSA. Assets required by the LSU to deliver legal services are paid from the CBSA budget and consequently remain the client’s responsibility. The Office Manager confirmed that it is the CBSA’s policy to capitalize only assets costing more than $10,000 and to record them in a permanent inventory at the time of purchase.
We reviewed the CBSA Legal Services and Laptops Inventory report and selected a specific transaction to test the effectiveness of the controls in place to support the purchase and subsequent payment of the goods, the charge to the appropriate budget, and the recording of the assets in the permanent inventory. We found controls to be adequate and the assets recorded in the permanent inventory.
The CBSA LSU needs to implement the approved remedial plan designed to address issues with the records storage facility.
The LSU has developed procedures to secure access to the premises. All visitors must register with the reception desk prior to accessing the premises and obtain a temporary access card after submitting personal identification and being signed in by an LSU employee. Upon leaving the building, the visitor returns the temporary access card and collects the document used to secure it.
Files are kept in a separate room controlled by a registry clerk and all files are logged in and out. When the registry clerk is absent, the room is secured. The audit team tested the process and all sample files were traced to the location indicated on the charge-out card.
Since the creation of the LSU, the records room has continued to experience an increasing volume of paper files, resulting in a health and safety hazard as well as a security risk. This was identified as a significant risk in the LSU’s business plan and a working group was assigned to address the issue. At the time of the audit, the working group had developed a remedial plan and its recommendations had been approved by the Senior General Counsel. The LSU is working with the CBSA and the Department of Justice to secure funding necessary to set up an additional storage facility. In the meantime, the LSU is planning to change the layout of the current records room to increase its efficiency and effectiveness for dealing with secure files. The LSU is also considering segregating files into two storage areas, with one of the two areas serving as the primary storage facility.
In our opinion, LSU management has implemented appropriate security measures to safeguard assets and ensure the confidentiality of the information contained in files. Management is also addressing identified issues with file storage through the development of a remedial plan. The plan should be implemented to alleviate the risks identified.
Recommendation and Management Response
6. It is recommended that the Senior General Counsel ensure that the approved remedial plan to mitigate the risks associated with the records storage facility is implemented. (Medium Risk)
Agreed. The Senior General Counsel is committed to implementing the LSU’s Information and Knowledge Management Action Plan, and in particular, to managing the most pressing objective of this plan, which is to reduce the risks associated with the record storage facility. The following two elements of the plan are directed specifically towards this objective: reducing the volume of files that the LSU is maintaining in the file room by closing and archiving files that are inactive and seeking renovations to the file room to properly and more securely store the files that are active.
Considerable work has been done over the course of the last six months to reduce the volume of files. Since April an administrative staff member has been working full time to prepare files for closing and archiving and to transfer those files to archives. This will significantly reduce the number of files in the file room and, consequently, mitigate the risks associated with the file room.
LSU staff are also working closely with client officials to plan for construction of a larger and more secure file room. As part of the construction project, an assessment of the security needs for documents within the LSU will be completed and recommended security features will be incorporated into the design of the new file room. It is hoped that construction will commence in winter 2012. If there are significant delays in the planned construction, the LSU will look for alternatives to mitigate the risks, such as segregating the files into two storage areas, with the existing file room likely continuing to serve as the primary storage facility, while files used less often would be removed to another location.
3.3 Financial Resources
The successful management and administration of financial resources within an organization is an essential responsibility of senior management.
The procurement of goods and services is exercised properly and in accordance with the relevant sections of the Financial Administration Act.
We examined a sample of purchases initiated by the LSU and traced the following to the initial request: the invoice, the receipt verification, the payment voucher, and the reconciliation of the monthly financial report. We found these to be properly supported and compliant with sections 32 and 34 of the Financial Administration Act (FAA)in all respects.
The audit team confirmed that the LSU reconciles all transactions approved for payment against the financial report produced to that effect by the corporate services group responsible for the application of section 33 of the FAA. This procedure is done monthly.
The CBSA LSU prepares monthly financial reports to respond to the requirements of the PSDI Portfolio and assumes control over its budget.
The LSU provides financial situation reports (FSRs) to both the PSDI Portfolio and the CBSA with information on the LSU’s A-Base budget, salaries, O&M expenditures, Net Vote Authority, and specified purpose accounts. The LSU also prepares a separate schedule that provides details on the monthly utilization of FTEs by LA groups and levels. The Senior General Counsel approves and signs the FSRs after reviewing them with the Office Manager. Once approved, the FSRs are forwarded to the respective recipient.
Financial transactions controlled by the CBSA are entered into the CBSA financial system as they are incurred and are subject to FAA section 32, 33, and 34 approvals. At month end, all CBSA transactions are reviewed for completeness, accuracy, and timeliness, and any necessary adjustment is done before a FSR report is generated by the system. Once approved, the CBSA FSR report is submitted to the CBSA financial group.
Budget variances are analyzed and explained, and any outstanding issues are investigated and resolved for the next reporting period. We found that LSU management exercises good controls over its budget.
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