Departmental Legal Services Unit
Canada Border Services Agency
4. Observations – Information systems and management
4.1 Information Systems
Information systems are essential tools in an organization’s decision-making process and should facilitate this process and provide current and consistent information to users. They must also be user friendly and provide relevant, timely, and accurate information.
The CBSA LSU has access to a variety of information systems that support decision making, setting of objectives and priorities, and utilization of resources.
From an operational perspective, the LSU accesses the departmental and CBSA financial systems and the PeopleSoft human resources management system to manage financial resources and employee information. We found that LSU staff populate information into these systems on a timely basis. This allows management to generate the financial and other reports needed to assess the financial position of the LSU at any time and monitor progress against objectives and priorities set in the business plan.
From a client service delivery perspective, the LSU accesses iCase, RIMS, LOPORS, GASPARD, JUSnet, and Folio Views. There is an interface linking RIMs and iCase, so any information entered into RIMS is automatically transferred to iCase. Both systems are used in file management, as RIMS manages the logistical organization of the files (e.g. file number) while iCase produces reports on billable time by counsel, type of work, and the CBSA unit serviced.
The CBSA LSU uses Folio Views, an LSU internal system, to track historical legal decisions and opinions provided to the CBSA. In interviews counsel indicated that while they find Folio Views valuable and use it in conjunction with LOPORS (a similar system used by the Department at large), Folio Views has limited search capabilities. During the audit, the LSU’s Information Management Working Group was exploring options of either replacing Folio Views with another system or upgrading it to address this issue.
In our opinion, the CBSA LSU has access to the systems required to support decision making, setting of objectives and priorities, and utilization of resources.
Information generated from the systems used is adequate, reliable, and complete.
As noted in “Financial Resources”, the CBSA LSU receives financial reports from both the departmental IFMS and the CBSA financial system. Our review of the reports confirmed that the information provided to the LSU is reliable and complete and provides sufficient information to support management’s budget monitoring and planning processes.
The audit team tested information generated from RIMS to ascertain its reliability and completeness. We selected a sample of files from a list generated from RIMS for a specific counsel and we were able to locate the files based on the information found on the list. Mechanisms within RIMS and iCase have been developed to ensure that a file cannot be deleted if time has been charged to it.
The audit team tested iCase for information related to timekeeping and we reviewed a report that outlines the time spent by lawyers on their files. We found that counsel enter time into the system. As noted earlier, the National Timekeeping Protocol requires all counsel to enter time in iCase and the CBSA Legal Services Manual provides guidance on the procedures for entering time into the system.
Management has identified inconsistencies in iCase with the labelling of similar activities reported by counsel against their files. Management has also identified a need to generate a report by type of work activity and has therefore assigned the task of developing a standard activity list to the Time Management Working Group. We were advised that a projected completion date for the project is March 2011.
In our opinion, information from the systems used is adequate, reliable, and complete.
4.2 Information Management
The management and administration of client legal files is fundamental to operate successfully in a legal environment. Appropriate file management allows for effective and efficient responses to client requirements and permits legal counsel to prevail in court proceedings.
The CBSA LSU is addressing identified deficiencies in the records management process through appropriate mechanisms but needs to develop formal criteria for the closing of files.
The Department of Justice issues departmental guidelines to ensure the efficient management of files and records. At the LSU level, the CBSA Legal Services Manual outlines the process supporting the management of electronic data: staff are directed to enter file information on a shared drive and access is provided to those who need to view the information.
As discussed earlier, the LSU has identified the records room as a potential risk, as it is inadequate in terms of security and capacity (i.e. small, crowded, and overflowing with files). Because of these deficiencies, the LSU has undertaken a project to identify which files can be closed and shipped to archives. This activity will be carried forward into the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The CBSA LSU has also developed a manual to support the classification and numbering of files and has circulated this manual to staff. The audit team reviewed the manual and found that it does not contain any formal criteria that can be relied on to determine whether a file should be closed or left active. In the absence of formal criteria, LSU management advised the audit team that files are closed after one year of inactivity on the file. The decision to close a file falls to the lawyer who is responsible for the file. However, as lawyers leave their positions (i.e. promotions, transfers, secondments), responsibility for reading the file and taking the decision to archive it shifts to the newly assigned lawyer. The absence of formal criteria and a reluctance of some lawyers to review and archive files may in part explain why the records room is overflowing with files.
We were told that management has created a Knowledge and Information Management Working Group to review and analyze the existing record management system and review the process used to determine whether files need to be closed and archived. The audit team interviewed the leader of the working group who provided copies of the action plan, report, and lessons learned. We reviewed these and found them to be adequate. However, in our view, the working group should develop formal criteria to support the closing of files.
Management advised us that the LSU has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Justice to undertake a Department-wide information management file plan development and conversion project. While an MOU is not required for internal work within the Department, both parties felt that it would provide a clear understanding of respective roles and responsibilities. The work is under way and the conversion of files is expected to start during fiscal year 2011-12.
Recommendation and Management Response
7. It is recommended that the Senior General Counsel ensure that the Information Management Working Group develops formal criteria to support the closing of files. (Medium Risk)
Agreed. The Working Group is in the process of creating formal criteria to guide the closing of files within the LSU. The criteria and any other appropriate procedures related to the closing of files will be approved by the Senior General Counsel and communicated to staff by September 30, 2011. They will also be incorporated into the LSU’s Office Procedures Manual.
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