Tax Law Services Ottawa Section
4. Observations – Information systems
4.1 Reliability of Information Systems for Decision Making
TLS – Ottawa Section personnel stated that the Fiscal Path search function is not user-friendly.
Information systems are essential tools in an organization’s decision-making process. In-house systems should be developed in such a way that they facilitate the decision-making process and provide current and consistent information to users. They must also be user-friendly and provide relevant, timely, and accurate information.
Fiscal Path is an information system developed in-house specifically for the TLS Portfolio. The system is linked to the departmental information system known as GASPARD, which is a comprehensive knowledge management system maintained by the Department. Fiscal Path is intended to be a knowledge management tool for TLS. The National Training Coordinator, based in Montreal, is responsible for updating and maintaining Fiscal Path, responsibilities which were assigned to the position approximately three years ago. According to the National Training Coordinator, Fiscal Path has been in existence for several years but has not received appropriate maintenance to keep the system relevant and useful for TLS legal counsel. In an effort to increase the system’s usefulness, relevance, and accuracy, the TLS Portfolio has established an Editorial Board with a representative in each TLS regional section to assist the National Training Coordinator in populating the system with data. An administrative assistant in Montreal inputs the data and the National Training Coordinator oversees and monitors the information entered into the system.
All TLS – Ottawa Section management and staff indicated that Fiscal Path is not user-friendly, as the search function is not reliable. Searches often result in few and/or irrelevant results. The weakness of the search function is the primary reason TLS personnel use more dependable databases/sources such as CanLII to obtain necessary legal information for decision making.
TLS – Ottawa Section senior management indicated that Fiscal Path is intended to become the central information system for searching and maintaining past legal factums, court rulings, and other TLS case information. The audit team found that Fiscal Path does not currently operate in this manner. Legal staff advised that they use Fiscal Path for basic administrative purposes such as linking to the TLS phone directory, linking to other relevant Canadian law Web sites, and accessing historical “webinar/training” sessions and materials.
In order for Fiscal Path to become the main source of information for decision-making purposes, improvement to its search functionality will be required.
iCase is an effective information management tool for tracking timekeeping information and the progress of legal files in the TLS – Ottawa Section.
Accurate and comprehensive timekeeping information is essential for supporting management in their decision-making responsibilities. Reliable and accurate timekeeping records are critical to formulate appropriate decisions as they relate to equitable resource and workload allocation.
Within the TLS – Ottawa Section, as with the Department as a whole, it is mandatory for all counsel and paralegals to record their time spent on client files. Each TLS employee is required to record their client time within the iCase system to help ensure iCase data is current. The system is a web-based application and was designed by the Department to improve case management, timekeeping, and the generation of informative management reports. The version of iCase used by TLS – Ottawa Section has been modified and customized to the requirements of the TLS Portfolio.
TLS – Ottawa Section senior management advised the audit team that the iCase system is a very useful tool for monitoring both file progress and time spent by each resource on client files. Through consultations, review of business manuals, and an iCase system walkthrough with TLS – Ottawa Section senior management, we found that iCase is a comprehensive information system that captures pertinent data related to an employee’s daily activities. The system is also used to monitor employees’ time spent on tasks other than file work, such as training and administrative duties. Senior management indicated a high level of satisfaction with the iCase system, particularly its broad functionality. iCase generates regular, meaningful reports for TLS – Ottawa Section senior management. We were told that senior management are satisfied with the data retrieved from each report and that iCase reports are useful for identifying trends and making decisions based on these trends. The audit team was also advised that management is of the view that the usefulness of the reports is a direct result of TLS employees entering their timekeeping information in both a timely and accurate manner.
We found that the iCase system is a valuable information management tool. Its functionality is robust and allows TLS – Ottawa Section management to effectively monitor workload, identify trends, and oversee employee timekeeping records.
Recommendation and Management Response
5. It is recommended that the Director, TLS – Ottawa Section, in conjunction with the ADAG, TLS Portfolio, determine appropriate options for improving the Fiscal Path search functionality. (Medium Risk)
Agreed. The TLS – Ottawa Section will work with the office of the ADAG, TLS Portfolio, which is responsible for the Fiscal Path Intranet site. The Portfolio will also work in close collaboration with the Law Practice Management Directorate as the knowledge management component of Fiscal Path is expected to be integrated into Justipedia. Completion date: By the end of the year (2011), at the discretion of the Department’s Justipedia initiative.
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