Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 1 - Evidence - Meeting of November 14, 2007
OTTAWA, Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance met this day at 6:14 p.m. to examine the estimates laid before Parliament for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008.
Senator Joseph A. Day (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: This is the first meeting in the Second Session of this Parliament of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. My name is Joseph Day and I represent the Province of New Brunswick. I am chair of the committee and I am pleased to advise that Senator Stratton, who represents Manitoba, has been chosen as the deputy chair of the committee and Senator Grant Mitchell will be the third member of our steering committee. Senator Mitchell represents Alberta in the Senate.
The committee's field of interest is government spending, either directly through the estimates or indirectly through bills that provide borrowing authority or bear upon the spending proposals identified in the estimates.
I am pleased to welcome this evening Maria Barrados, President of the Public Service Commission. Ms. Barrados has been asked to appear before our committee to discuss the Public Service Commission 2006-07 Annual Report. Honourable senators will have received a copy of the report, which was just filed in Parliament yesterday. In addition, four audits and two statistical studies were delivered to our offices, and we will have some discussion on those studies. I appreciate they were only filed yesterday, but we thought it timely and opportune to meet with the Ms. Barrados to discuss the items, understand some of the highlights, and then if we feel it necessary or desirable to pursue certain aspects after this evening's meeting we will work out some further opportunities with our guests to do so.
The Public Service Commission is an independent agency responsible for safeguarding the values of a professional public service, which includes competence, non-partisanship and representativeness.
Ms. Barrados was confirmed as President of the commission on May 21, 2004. She had been serving as interim President since November 2003. Before her appointment, she had been the Assistant Auditor General, Audit Operations, Office of the Auditor General of Canada, since December 1993.
Ms. Barrados has a solid background in audit, evaluation and statistical analysis and is also active in her community.
Accompanying her this evening are Linda Gobeil, Senior Vice-President, Policy Branch, Donald Lemaire, Vice- President, Staffing and Assessment Services Branch, and Mary Clennett, Vice-President, Audit, Evaluation and Studies Branch.
Welcome, Ms. Barrados and your colleagues. We look forward to your introductory remarks. I think your remarks have been circulated. After your remarks perhaps we could have a discussion and a question period.
Maria Barrados, President, Public Service Commission of Canada: Mr. Chairman, I am here to discuss the 2006-2007 Annual Report of the Public Service Commission of Canada and the four audits that were tabled in Parliament yesterday, as well as two statistical studies that were released on the same day.
Accompanying me this evening are Linda Gobeil, Senior Vice-President, Policy Branch; Mary Clennett, Vice- President, Audit, Evaluation and Studies Branch; and Donald Lemaire, Vice-President, Staffing and Assessment Services Branch of the Public Service Commission of Canada.
The 2006-2007 fiscal year was the first full year of operation under the new Public Service Employment Act.
We have had a busy year at the commission. While the public service workforce grew by only 1.7 per cent, staffing activity increased by 11 per cent, involving more than 110,000 staffing actions in the last fiscal year. Included is permanent hiring into the public service, which grew by more than 50 per cent, from 5,090 appointments in 2005-2006 to 7,720 in 2006-2007.
The commission received more than one million applications in response to almost 5,700 advertisements on the Public Service Commission's jobs website. There is no shortage of interest in public service jobs, but there are specific areas where shortages exist.
Overall, the commission has confidence in the integrity of the staffing system. It feels that departments and agencies have made progress in implementing new approaches to staffing.
Most organizations — 88 per cent — have developed human resources plans that cover a good portion of their workforce, but they need to strengthen the link between their plans and staffing actions.
The commission continues to have concerns about weaknesses in supporting the modernization effort. The capacity of the human resources community and the need for better information to support planning and accountability continue to be areas of concern. The departments and agencies must therefore continue to strengthen their human resources planning.
Let me now turn to two areas of particular concern in the annual report.
We have quantified a pattern of recruitment through the temporary workforce. This is not new, but the size of this type of recruitment is of concern. Over an eight-year period, more than 80 per cent of the 86,000 new indeterminate employees hired for the permanent workforce had prior public service experience, 75 per cent either as casual or term employees.
We are preoccupied with the heavy reliance on building a permanent workforce through hiring temporary workers. Hiring for short-term needs is not the best way to meet long-term requirements, and it is not a good way to attract qualified people who already hold permanent jobs. It will be important for departments to improve their human resource planning and, through their planning, improve how they hire permanent workers.
We also continue to be concerned about employment equity. There are four equity groups that have been identified in legislation. Three of these are well represented in the public service, but we continue to have under-representation of visible minorities.
What is of particular concern to us now is that the rate of hiring of visible minorities has declined. We have seen overall increases in hiring in the public service, but we have not seen an increase in the hiring of visible minorities. While overall recruitment rose by 9.5 per cent, the recruitment for visible minorities dropped from 9.8 per cent to 8.7 per cent. This is an area of concern because this means that the gap that we now have will only continue to widen. We continue to do work in this area to better understand what is behind this phenomenon where we have observed large numbers of visible minority applicants without a corresponding number of hires.
The Public Service Commission, as part of its mandate, continues to be vigilant in maintaining an impartial public service. There is a requirement that public servants must come to the commission to obtain permission before seeking elected office. Ninety-five public servants requested permission to be a candidate in a federal, provincial or municipal election. Of these requests, 70 were for municipal elections. This is a new provision. Not all public servants were aware of this requirement, and one third of the requests did not meet our requirement for timely application.
As part of its oversight role, the Commission has conducted four audits, three of them on small entities. The findings of its audits of the North American Free Trade Agreement Secretariat (Canadian Section) and of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board were satisfactory. However, in an audit of the Office of the Correctional Investigator, the commission found staffing patterns that compromised the values of fairness, transparency and access. Nine out of ten appointments were not compliant with the delegation agreement. The Office of the Correctional Investigator is therefore now under increased supervision.
In the fourth audit, we looked at the pattern of movement of public servants to positions on ministerial staff and back into the public service. We focussed on the years 1990 to 2006. There were about 157 public servants who made these transitions. We examined the nature, duration and type of work, and we retained 58 for further examination. Of those 58, we found 24 staffing actions dealing with 20 individuals that raised questions. In 15 of these staffing actions relating to 13 individuals, we found that there was a misuse of the staffing system. Special efforts were made to move people into positions where they had no intention of staying. This was done to facilitate the movement of the individuals and to ensure that they had an easy route back into the public service.
These types of actions create the appearance of a lack of political impartiality and are not in accordance with the values of transparency and non-partisanship.
We have concluded that there is a vacuum in the policy framework, and we have made a recommendation to the employer, Treasury Board, to fill the policy gap and to better monitor this kind of movement. The Treasury Board Secretariat should develop and recommend to the Treasury Board a clear policy statement and guidelines based on the principles of transparency and political impartiality to ensure effective compliance and monitoring. We had hoped for a clearer commitment on a timely policy statement.
I would now like to update the committee on the national area of selection policy, the policy that sets out who can apply for public service jobs based on where they live.
The commission is committed to implementing a national area of selection for external recruitment. We have continued to expand access to public service jobs. We have gone from making one in five public service jobs available to Canadians in 2006 to making more than one half of them open to the public in 2007.
In 2008, we will expand the national area of selection to cover all full-time federal student work experience jobs. We will be launching pilot projects in December to assess the impacts of extending the national area of selection to all non- officer jobs. We have slowed full implementation to ensure we have the human resource support and tools in place to handle the anticipated large volumes of applications that would be generated by this expansion. We now expect full implementation by December 2008.
We have been working hard to implement the provisions of the Public Service Employment Act. We have dedicated a great deal of effort to building up our audit and oversight capacity. We have also invested heavily in modernizing and transforming our services. Under the Public Service Employment Act, we were directed to take on new activities. In addition, the demand for our services has continued to grow.
Given our current level of resources, we have reached a point where we cannot continue to provide all our statutory activities and support the system as required. We have to find alternative funding mechanisms, particularly because the demand for our support and services has continued well beyond what was expected in the delegated regime. Discussions are currently under way with Treasury Board Secretariat as to how we can meet these funding requirements. We are looking at options to increase our capacity to recover costs from departments and agencies.
The government has made public service renewal a priority. The Public Service Employment Act is a key enabler of the government's renewal agenda. We are continuing to work with deputy heads, their managers and the human resource community to ensure effective modernization of staffing and recruitment in the Government of Canada.
The Public Service Commission will be marking its 100th anniversary in the coming year. In 1908, Parliament created the Civil Service Commission and since then, the Commission has acted on behalf of Parliament to safeguard the integrity of staffing in the public service and the impartiality of public servants.
The Chair: We appreciate your introductory words, and you have made several strong recommendations.
Is it correct that your annual report along with these various studies and audits were filed yesterday? Just to be clear, how are they filed?
Ms. Barrados: That is a very interesting question. The process we have for tabling our reports is through a minister. This is the way it is set out in the legislation. I give my reports to the Minister of Heritage who deposits them in the House of Commons. She does not stand up or make any statements, or speeches, nor does she answer questions about the report. She gives them to the Speaker.
The Chair: You worked for a number of years with the Auditor General. How is the Auditor General's report filed?
Ms. Barrados: The Auditor General tables her reports directly with the Speaker, and on a number of occasions I have suggested that would be a preferable way to go. When the new act was put in, an additional clause was added that provided for the flexibility for the commission to do reports at any time on matters of special interest or importance that were not covered in the annual report.
That provision in particular, I felt, should go directly to the House. We had discussions about that, and I was told that it was not clear enough, so it is anomalous now in the legislation. It was not clear enough in the reference as to how it should go.
The Chair: Does that authority and indirect manner of filing appear in the Public Service Employment Act?
Ms. Barrados: It is in the Public Service Employment Act.
The Chair: This committee, as you will recall, handled the Public Service Modernization Act a few years ago, and it went through this committee, so we are somewhat familiar with the changes that were made to various pieces of legislation. This is the first report and the first exercise for the Public Service Commission in this new regime, as you described it.
Ms. Barrados: It is for the first full year of this delegated regime.
The Chair: Could you briefly explain this delegated regime so it is clear to everyone, and then we will go to questions.
Ms. Barrados: There was a considerable amount of debate, as most honourable senators probably remember, as to what to do with the staffing authority. The decision was that the staffing authority should stay with the Public Service Commission, but there was also a lot of discussion about the best way to operate the system, that being managers being fully responsible for staffing and taking ownership of staffing. Hence, in the act it says that the Public Service Commission may delegate.
Given the discussions around the legislation at the time, it is the commission's view that the intention was to operate as a delegated system, so the commission has fully delegated the authorities with very few exceptions.
Our expectation is that managers seize these authorities and operate them in their departments, but fully compliant with the legislation, so the accountability then works for deputy heads to the Public Service Commission and the Public Service Commission to Parliament.
The Chair: I understand. The hiring has been delegated but you keep an eye on it, in effect?
Ms. Barrados: Exactly.
The Chair: The first senator on my list is from Alberta, Senator Mitchell.
Senator Mitchell: My first question is very specific, and probably quite selfish. I am very interested in becoming bilingual, and I am working on it, and the Senate program is very good. I understand that we do not have a process whereby we can be tested as we progress through stages A, B, C and beyond, and I am wondering whether it would be possible for senators to be tested by your program to see where we stand, so we can be measured.
Ms. Barrados: I believe it would be possible for senators to be tested using our tests. With all the staffing activities that we have going on, we have quite a backlog in the tests, which has been a real frustration to public servants, and particularly in their staffing.
We have taken an approach of doing a triage, so if someone comes to us for a test, the first question is, why do you want the test? If you want the test because are you in a staffing action and you will be appointed shortly, you will get the test very quickly, within two weeks, and we are now giving those tests within two days. If you want the test to see how you are doing, you can wait a little while.
Senator Mitchell: Excellent. I would be prepared to do that.
Senator Stratton: I attend St. Boniface College in Manitoba, and I have a French teacher. This last summer I achieved intermediate level four, which is fairly senior, and a student is able to get a certificate respecting that achievement. My suggestion is, if you are frustrated, try a college or university because they offer courses that will give you that certification.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you, but I am not frustrated, and I do not expect I will be because I am not there yet. I applaud your efforts in that regard, Senator Stratton. It does raise my next question, which is the point about you not having enough resources. I did not realize that I would happen upon this as possibly being an impediment to furthering bilingualism in the public service, which it sounds like it might be, although perhaps not too intense. More generally, you say you are short of resources. What kind of resources are you asking for of this government that you are not getting?
Ms. Barrados: I have to say, first, that we are having good discussions with the government. The reason I raise it at the committee is because I have had those discussions now for over a year, and I want them to come to an end, and I have an obligation to tell Parliament if I am potentially facing a difficulty.
The discussions that we are having with the government at this point are to get a cost recovery authority. We have a situation with this delegated model where people in the departments do not have the capacity to do all the work that has been delegated to them. Public Service Commission has the expertise; we can manage the volumes; we have the technology; we have the tools. We share this and make it available, but people are coming to us more than we had anticipated in this delegated model.
We are proposing a cost recovery authority for these service provisions that will allow me to build up the oversight part of the mandate. When the new legislation came in, the emphasis was on oversight in a delegated model. We did not get any new money. I did not ask for it because I felt we had to ``right size'' things first. We have gone through an exercise of reallocation; we have reallocated about $8 million internally, and I do not think I can reallocate any more. That is a discussion I am having, and so far the response has been quite positive.
Senator Mitchell: I am interested in one of the four audits completed as part of the oversight role with respect to Canadian Forces Grievance Board, which determined that results were satisfactory. I do not know whether it would fall under your purview, but this makes me think it might, and that is the question of post-traumatic stress syndrome for returning military personnel. Can you comment on that, whether you do have a role in addressing that, and what is that role?
Ms. Barrados: We do not have much of a role. We have an indirect role through our priority system, which is the one thing that has not been delegated. The priority system is the system that requires any new government appointment to first have a check to see if there is anyone sitting on these priority lists that might be there because of leave without pay, being declared surplus or being discharged from the military for medical reasons. People with post- traumatic stress could potentially be coming into the public service through the priority system. That is the only relationship we have with that post-traumatic stress.
Senator Mitchell: Is the degree of the problem and the degree to which it has been addressed with adequate resources in your responsibility? It may be that it is somewhere else.
Ms. Barrados: I cannot speak to that.
The result of allowing all medical discharges to come through the priority system is that we have seen an increase in them; however, I do not have any further details.
Senator Ringuette: All my colleagues know of my passion for human resources and the public service. I have many questions and please, if I am taking too long, cut me off and I will go on for a second round.
The Chair: Thank you for that invitation.
Senator Ringuette: The first thing that I would like to comment on is the fact that you are looking at additional funds in order to continue the good work you are doing. From my perspective, there has been tremendous work done since you have taken over the commission, and I say that with deep sincerity.
To that effect, I am a little chagrined that you are in need of additional financial resources in order to get the human resources that you need. One of the aspects that you indicated as being discussed with the Treasury Board is an option to increase our capacity to recover costs from departments and agencies. I am dismayed by that comment because we have been saying for a long time that in regards to staffing, the departments and agencies have bypassed the commission.
If you take the route to charge them for the services that you are providing, then you are taking them away from looking at the commission to provide them with services. That would be very negative from my perspective, and so I hope that you will get the funding that is required because of the additional tasks that the government has imposed on the commission. This is in order to help the departments.
I am pleased to see that we are now at 88 per cent of human resources plans submitted to you when, just a few years ago, we were at 26 per cent. You are doing the work that should have been done a long time ago and I do not agree that we should be moving toward cost recovery from departments and agencies. I feel that it will cast all the good work that has been done in the last few years in a negative light.
One question in regards to cost: You have submitted to us the staffing services volume and the volume of reading tests, writing tests, oral tests and other tests such as occupational tests and test accommodation. Is that huge volume of testing done internally or is it given out on contract?
Ms. Barrados: Most of that testing is done internally. Some of the tests such as the second language evaluation reading tests are done in the departments, and we score them. For some of the oral interaction tests we will train people and the testing will be done in the departments. I turn to Mr. Lemaire who is responsible for this area.
Donald Lemaire, Vice-President, Staffing and Assessment Services Branch, Public Service Commission of Canada: Eighty-five per cent of the Public Service Commission tests are administered by a department. The commission administers the remaining 15 per cent. Out of the 85 per cent, the commission does the scoring, but the departments take care of the administration.
Senator Ringuette: This testing mechanism is not such a considerable financial burden on the commission.
Ms. Barrados: In fact it is.
Senator Ringuette: The cost is 15 per cent.
Ms. Barrados: It is the development, management and scoring of the tests, and we are still responsible for all of the management of the tests when they are done somewhere else.
We have a cost recovery authority for this testing that expires this year. We have had revenues of about $8 million for the testing and people have no problem paying for this. There is no indication that there would be additional problems to pay for some of these things.
One of the advantages with cost recovery is that we have some incentive to keep things efficient, and to have both our demands and our supplies efficient. A lot of it is currently structured ``free goods'' and I have to find the money to pay for it all. People can be very demanding and there is nothing that really serves as a control. Our proposal is not to do everything on cost recover but to put more of it on cost recovery.
Senator Ringuette: Twice you have mentioned $8 million, so you are looking at $8 million in the cost recovery mechanism. That is what you are already recovering from the testing. Is that accurate?
Ms. Barrados: We already have that. That expires this year, so I am looking for $14 million.
Senator Ringuette: You are negotiating with Treasury Board for an additional $6 million.
Ms. Barrados: Yes, $8 million plus the $6 million.
The Chair: We have other honourable senators interested in the hiring and testing of all the federal government employees. It is a subject of great interest amongst politicians.
Senator Nancy Ruth: The Public Service Commission 2006-07 Annual Report, page 59, paragraph 3.74 states:
The PSC's review of departmental and agency HR planning documents (also discussed later in this chapter) found that many organizations do not have staffing strategies to address employment equity gaps, but this work is under way.
Public The employment equity requirements are not new and this is an area where public expectations are quite clear. There has been time for this culture of change in hiring and promotion to happen. Could you provide the committee with a list of those organizations that do not have staffing strategies that include employment equity around both around race and gender? Also, specifically, what work is underway and in what time frame will this be corrected?
Ms. Barrados: Thank you for the question. I can go back and I can provide the committee with names but you will be disappointed because the only thing I will be able to provide you with are a few examples where they are actually doing it. By and large, this provision is not being used, and that is a concern. A couple of organizations are using it, so we can give you those positive examples; however, by default, no one else is doing it.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Do you have any analyses of why they are so resistant?
Ms. Barrados: It is a worry to us that staffing rates, particularly for visible minorities, go down while the rest of the staffing goes up. Before the change in the legislation, the Public Service Commission drove any special initiative for employment equity. It was necessary to get the PSC's approval and we would nag people to do that. The new act has delegated this authority and it allows departments to put in one of the asset qualifications as part of merit that they are looking for someone who is from one of the employment equity groups. That provision is used rarely and that is a concern of mine.
We are doing more work and analyses on what is actually happening. We did a study to find out whether it is a problem in the pool of people not applying, particularly visible minorities; it is not. More visible minorities apply than there are in the population. Is it because they are not qualified? Is it because they do not have post-secondary training that is frequently required? That is not the problem because they have more post-secondary training than other applicants. We looked at the first screening that occurred. Were they screened out when they filled in the application form? Were they filling out the application form incorrectly? That is not the problem. They are not being screened out at that stage. They are not being screened out at the first steps and they are disproportionately applying in terms of the numbers. What is happening here? The next level of analyses, which I did not think I would have to do, is to ask departments why they are not hiring the sets of people, including a good number of visible minorities, that are being sent to them. The good news occurs when there is a centrally run program like the PSC's effort last year to get a pool of pre-qualified visible minorities into the EX group. We had a 50 per cent increase in appointments. When we have management training, for example, we have a very good representation of visible minorities.
The only way that I can characterize what is going on is to say that when the effort and attention is put on it, we do well. If that effort and attention are not applied, then we have bad habits that need to be broken.
Senator Nancy Ruth: To give you a bit of information, I read the testimony of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in the last Parliament on how they were doing the gender-based analyses. An official from the Department of Justice said that their department is 50 per cent women and, therefore, they do not need to have a policy. I could not believe my eyes when I read that. Do they think that all women care about this issue? No way. It is just absurd.
Ms. Barrados: On the basis of women, in some areas and occupational groups women are well-represented and over- represented. That is the function of the work. In the executive category, they are sitting at 38 per cent. In some groups in government, women are under-represented, such as the feeder groups and the scientific groups.
Senator Eggleton: Ms. Barrados has probably answered this question about visible minorities. In view of what you have added to the statistics, this is all the more alarming and really needs a concerted effort by the PSC to help to correct it. We seem to be doing okay on the statistics when it comes to the other employment equity groups in relation to the targets; however, your comments on visible minorities are difficult to understand. This issue needs a lot of attention because it is moving in the opposite direction to that of the population in this country.
Ms. Barrados: I agree and that is why I keep raising it. We intend to look at ways to do more in terms of some of the special programs. It is a big concern too because it relates to the earlier comments I made about the pattern of hiring. When you have a pattern of hiring, which tends to be a function of shorter-term, local hiring, which is what you do for casual and term, then you are not hiring from the pools of the very large groups of visible minorities from bigger cities, where you do not have the concentration of public servants. I see changes there and we have to push harder on the visible minorities. I agree you with you that we have to work on this.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Given the rapid turnover that is expected with baby boomers retiring, is there a level of this movement that causes risks that concern you? What steps would you need to take to address the risks in this kind of turnover in public personnel?
Ms. Barrados: I have a number in the report. We did some analyses in terms of what positions people were in at the beginning of the year and at the end of year. The data come from the pay system so it is fairly crude. We have seen a steady increase in change of 5 per cent per year. Last year, 40 per cent of public servants were not doing the same job at the end of year as they were doing at the beginning of the year. The number is higher for executives — over 50 per cent — and for the human resource management group it is 70 per cent. This is internal and explains the phenomenon of people having trouble keeping staff. This occurs inside the government because people are not leaving but are going to other government departments. We are already in the turnover with the departures occurring but it is at a fairly normal rate. Then, because of it, we are seeing turnover to fill the gaps and opportunities. This needs more attention. Certainly, we have to be more organized about succession planning and about how we train. We have to take initiatives to stop some of this movement.
Senator Nancy Ruth: I would think it is a huge problem at 50 per cent in the EX category. This is huge, and I am glad it is not my company.
Senator Di Nino: Ms. Barrados, for emphasis, and to let you know how seriously we are taking this issue, I would like to record my agreement with the comments made on employment equity. This is truly a shameful situation. I would hope that we could send a message to you that, as appropriate, you would direct more of the resources to come up with solutions and recommendations to this committee on how we can help you achieve it. This has been going on for far too long and to hear, in effect, that we are going backwards is not acceptable.
Ms. Barrados: We are missing an enormous opportunity, which upsets me. I was optimistic last year and said that we would solve the problem because of the numbers and we would be hiring more people, with lots of visible minorities applying, and we would not have to worry about targets. I believed that with the growth in hiring it would happen. Well, I was absolutely wrong and I am discouraged by the numbers.
Senator Di Nino: Something is not right in the system and it has to be addressed. I hope that you can help us to do that. It will not go away and we will not stop pursuing it. I understand that it cannot happen overnight but, at a reasonable point in time, the public service has to reflect the reality of this country.
I have a couple of questions on political neutrality, which you raised in your reports as well. That is of some concern to us because, obviously, if the Public Service Commission is to perform impartially and independently, political interference or lack of political neutrality should be looked at as well. How serious is this in your opinion?
Ms. Barrados: We investigated two cases last year, in which we saw individuals leave the public service, go into ministerial staff and work as exempt staffers. Basically, from their position as exempt staffers, they made sure they had an easy and soft landing back into the public service. We looked at those particular appointments. We did our investigation and said they were improper and that it was a misuse of the system and we revoked those appointments. Then we came to Parliament and we talked about those two appointments. We had many questions about how widespread this was, and how seriously we took the process.
I think any cases like this are serious. We do not want exempt staffers influencing appointments in the public service. That is the reason why the Public Service Commission was appointed.
We set about this exercise to say how many more were there? Unhappily, the answer was not zero. The number is small in that we are talking about 15 appointments involving 13 people in total, plus our two from last year. The number is not large but it is on a base of 157, so there it is large enough to be a concern. However, I think it is something that we can easily address. That is what the point of our report is, where we ended up concluding we are going to look at the specific appointments. We are saying this is a vacuum here; this is a real policy vacuum that needs to be specifically addressed.
Senator Di Nino: You said 15 out of 157. That is about 10 per cent. Is that your best guess that it is a real number?
Ms. Barrados: That is a pretty solid number. We went back as far as our records would allow us to go, to 1990. We used the pay records, which are pretty reliable. We used the pay records to determine how many public servants had left the public service, worked as exempt staffers and came back to the public service. It was that kind of movement and there were 157.
We looked at those 157 in more detail and said, how many of these would be risky? If you are working in a minister's office as a clerk or support individual, is this a risky situation? We thought no, that is not. If you came back in less than 12 months, is that an issue? Not really. This does not worry us. We were worried about those longer-term arrangements, where people were there longer for higher-level professional jobs, and we looked at those in more detail. There were 58 cases. Out of that more detailed examination, we ended up with those 13 individuals — those 15 cases of transactions that were of concern — out of our base of 157. It is a pretty solid number.
Senator Di Nino: You said that most of these would be senior positions. Unfortunately, we just received these documents this morning and have not had a chance to go through them other than very superficially.
Ms. Barrados: They are professional positions, which tend to be IS. There were a few executive positions, not many, but they tend to be more the senior professional positions.
Senator Di Nino: Are there loopholes that need to be closed which allow this type of thing to happen?
Ms. Barrados: Yes, our view is the existing policy framework is not clear or direct enough. There should be a clear policy that provides guidelines for doing this.
We are of the view that it is quite appropriate for public servants to work as exempt staffers. They can gain valuable experience, and it is appropriate for them to come back into the public service. However, the route has to be very clear, particularly for those longer-term situations. It is in those situations that we find the weakness in the policy framework.
I raised this last year at the time of the Federal Accountability Act, and I had a commitment that we would get some policy in place. Then that was deferred. The commitment I have now is one to do something but I am not sure when it will happen.
The Chair: Who should be developing that policy?
Ms. Barrados: It is a policy that would come from the Treasury Board.
The Chair: Treasury Board Secretariat?
Ms. Barrados: Secretariat would develop the policy to recommend to the Treasury Board.
The Chair: We see them here quite often.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Chair, the first thing I want to do is to express a regret and a wish.
I have read your statement several times and I think I am quite used to the bureaucratic style. For each sentence I ask myself, how would I put that in simpler words so that everyone can understand who is not in that profession of staffing and evaluating and human resources, et cetera. I think every sentence can be put in clearer language. I regret that, but I hope that next year an additional effort will be made to make your policies crystal clear.
On page 1, you say that there is certainly no shortage of interest in public service, but there are specific areas where shortages exist. Where are these shortages?
Ms. Barrados: There are two particular areas, and Mr. Lemaire has more of the numbers: Nurses and doctors are areas that are in short supply. When we look at the number of financial people and the number of auditors that apply, they are applying but those ratios are not high enough. We would like to see a larger pool of applicants.
Mr. Lemaire: When we look at the number of available positions, we can see a ratio. We did not carry out a market study to find out if there was truly a shortage. For instance, there is a very low ratio of seven to one in the pharmaceutical industry, whereas we are looking for a much higher ratio of about fifty to one.
I am also surprised by the ratio of eighteen to one in general labour and trades, and that there are about 19 applications for a position.
Senator De Bané: Do you have the data on computer programmers?
Mr. Lemaire: Yes. For example, in the CS group, it was quite high; we are talking about over a hundred.
Sen. De Bané: Ms. Barrados, you say we are preoccupied with a heavy reliance on building a permanent workforce through hiring temporary workers. You say 80 per cent of 86,000 were hired through that route.
The reason why it is done that way is very simple, as you know. It is because a manager can hire a person without competition for a term employment, up to six months. That can be renewed and renewed, and when that candidate is ready to be hired, then the competition is opened.
You admit this is not the way to hire permanent staff, and the irregularity covers more than 80 per cent of 86,000 employees. Surely that route to hire term employees, which everyone knows about — after six months if they are not ready for a competition, another six months, and when they are really ready, you call a competition and hey, surprise, they won — is not right.
Senator Murray: Everyone knows about it. It is fair; it is an apprenticeship.
Sen. De Bané: When I arrived in Ottawa, I was told that this was common for everybody on the payroll of the Government of Canada.
Senator Stratton: They do that in the private sector as well.
Senator De Bané: The difference, of course, is that Mr. Stratton has the right to do whatever he wants with his savings. However, as a public trustee of other people's money, there are constraints that do not exist in the private sector.
This is very shocking. Your job, as you say at the beginning of your document, is to ensure that the system is transparent, fair, honest, et cetera. This is why I am so happy that your commission is independent of the government and politicians. It took many years to have that — about 50 years after the foundation of Canada. You have been very candid with us by telling us that more than 80 per cent are using that system. In your opinion, as an expert in human resources, you say this is not the way to hire permanent staff. There are better ways than that. I ask you respectfully, Ms. Barrados, if you can look into that and find a way to limit that shortcut to competition.
Ms. Barrados: I agree with the senator, and we will try harder to make the reports more clear. We do work at it, and obviously we have a way to go.
On the 80 per cent hiring, I have a big problem with it as well. Some good things are in play. The Clerk of the Privy Council is heading a renewal initiative inside government. The Prime Minister has an advisory group working on renewal and that group shares our concern. The current leadership is also preoccupied with this issue. Specific directions are going to deputies and deputy heads to improve their permanent hiring. Because of these commitments, I do not think this is the time to impose more rules and more conditions. We have to try to make the system work the way it was envisioned. We do the delegations. The leadership in the public service is committed to the renewal and hiring of persons directly into the permanent workforce. We have a commitment on the planning from the leadership in the public service. We are saying at this point that this is not very satisfactory. You will always have some of it. If you are hiring term to become permanent, as many in the private sector do, because we consulted with the private sector before we put this out, then you just say so. You say, this is how we will go about it, and then everyone knows that that is the way you are going, but you do not do it the way do you it now where it is not seen.
Our commitment is to continue to monitor this quite closely. We will be reporting on it again. I am encouraged by the work that is going on in the government. You have a more measured tone on my part because I am pleased about what they are doing.
The Chair: So it is clear to me, who sets these rules or guidelines that might control this type of activity?
Ms. Barrados: Because the appointment authority is with the Public Service Commission, it is the Public Service Commission that can set rules and guidelines for all the staffing except for the casuals.
The Chair: That is you.
Ms. Barrados: Yes, it is. A specific decision was made that casuals were completely exempted from the requirements of the Public Service Employment Act. We cannot do very much about casuals.
I still do not think that we start by making rules and I have this view because of my many years with the Auditor General. We already have many rules, and we have to work at making sure that we have the key rules that are important, and that people comply with, but we do not want to set up more rules. While we have these commitments in place, we should let people try to do it the way it was envisioned. If that does not work, then we will have to think of other ways.
The Chair: Would not a quick solution be to have the hiring of casuals under the same set of rules that you have for permanent employees? Then you do not get the bringing in on a casual basis of someone who does not meet the level of merit or the level of competence of a number of other people who might want to apply for that position.
Ms. Barrados: Bringing merit to casuals is statutory, so that would require a statutory change. The commission cannot do that. There are good reasons to have casual employees. I want to hold on to these values and not make the system too heavy. The managers must be able to perform their jobs and there are good reasons to employ casuals. There are points at which you need casuals and you need people in quickly. What you do not want is that route to become the way you hire, because then Senator Ringuette will say that she wants national area of selection, but the people in her area do not stand a chance because we have hired local casuals to do the job. The casual employee is familiar with the job and when there is a competition that requires experience, guess who wins.
The Chair: The experience is specifically tailored to the person.
Senator Eggleton: I will venture into the area that is of considerable interest to Senator Ringuette, and that is national area of selection. You are heading towards what looks to be an ideal situation of having people apply from anywhere in the country to any job anywhere in the country.
Ms. Barrados: No.
Senator Eggleton: No? I need to understand where you are heading on this. Would this mean that ultimately, when you implement this, you can apply for external positions from anywhere in the country to anywhere else in the country, for any position?
Ms. Barrados: We are talking about the external positions, new entries into the public service. The vision is that for all those full-time positions, anyone anywhere in the country can apply.
Casuals are excluded because they are excluded from the provisions of the act, and that is probably appropriate because again you have to have people be able to do things in the short term. We have excluded part-timers and some short-term work, because it does not seem realistic to have a large process around those. However, for the rest we want to see national area of selection. We have started, and we have been doing this incrementally. It is the commission's discretion to set the rules on this one. We started by saying all executives and two levels under executives must be national area of selection. Then in 2006, we said all the non-officer positions in the national capital area must be national area of selection. In 2007, we said all of the officer positions across the country must be national area of selection. We were committed to going to those non-officer jobs for December 2007, and that is what we have slowed down. Because we do not have the systems and the capacity in place to do it by 2007, we are going for 2008.
Senator Eggleton: I can understand officer positions and senior positions, but in some other positions such as a clerk or a truck driver or something like that, what would happen? If someone from Winnipeg decides to apply for a clerical job or a truck driver job in the National Capital Region, that person could do so; is that what you are saying?
Ms. Barrados: They cannot now.
Senator Eggleton: Under the system you are talking about implementing, they would be able to do that?
Ms. Barrados: That is correct.
Senator Eggleton: During the hiring process a person must be interviewed, which means coming to the National Capital Region for the interview. If the person happens to be successful then he or she will have to relocate. If the person is successful that is because he or she is the best applicant, but when you get down to some of these other positions it can be a tough call as to whom the best applicant might be. There may be several who might be fairly equal.
I wonder about the practical realities of implementing that kind of system and the costs involved in bringing people for interviews or having them relocate. I do not want to belittle these positions; they are all important. However, for positions that are under the executive ranks, something that might be a clerical position or a labouring position, I am trying to understand how that would actually work, and does that really make sense?
Ms. Barrados: The idea behind it is that a number of Canadians value these of jobs, and they do not have those kinds of jobs in their particular area. They want these jobs and are prepared to relocate. The proposal is that we broaden access to those jobs and the only way we can deal with potential increases in volumes — and we have seen a significant increase in volumes for those officer-level jobs already, about a third of an increase in volume — is to have this fully automated. You would apply electronically, there would be a screen-through electronically, and there would be an electronic test on skills. If you still have too many candidates you would select possibly randomly. There would be some kind of selection mechanism to get you down to a small number. You would not bring people into interviews. It is up to your discretion, but you can certainly use the offices of the commission, and we have video conferencing which can be used for interviews. You can do reference checks.
The relocation costs are entirely discretionary. We got some clarification from the board from the time you were there. In the past they have said it had to be paid, but that is not the way the policies are read now. It is entirely discretionary, so if people want these jobs they pretty well have to pay for their own moves.
What you end up seeing is the numbers who actually want to do this are not that high. The surprising thing we have also seen is I had thought that the desire was to move to Ottawa and get the Ottawa jobs. That is not what we are seeing. We are seeing a bigger flow going to the regions.
Senator Ringuette: At least 60 per cent of the public service jobs go to Edmonton.
Senator Eggleton: You also touched on people who are occupying very similar positions as temporary employees. In reality are there really very many of these that would actually go out for external possibilities?
Ms. Barrados: As the numbers go up you will see more of them, obviously. I think it is a serious problem. If you are looking for talent — and there is more competition for talent — will you get talent by saying the way to get into the public service is to take this term job, and if the people you knew then are still there they might run a competition and you will get a permanent job? Is that the way to do your recruitment for talent, which a lot of projections are saying will get shorter? We are lucky in the public service; we get lots of applications.
It is also a preoccupation for me because it explains the conversations I have with many young students and some of their parents who say all these bright kids want to work in the public service. These kids send in their applications and the applications disappear; the kids do not hear anything. They are good kids, they want to do public service, how come they cannot get a job and so-and-so can get a job? We have to be a lot better at that.
Senator Eggleton: In sum you think that opening it up right across the board, all positions, is not likely to produce a very heavy cost in terms of relocation. You have said in the interview case you do a lot of it electronically?
Ms. Barrados: The costs are in managing the higher volumes of applicants, which is clearly what we are having. The more we can automate that — and we are going through growing pains on that automation — the more it will reduce those kinds of costs.
As for the other costs, the burden is being taken by the individual.
Senator Murray: With regard to casuals and indeterminate employees who magically morph into permanent officers after a while, I confess that I am not as scandalized as some are by this phenomenon. I agree that it is probably open to abuse and therefore has to be controlled, but it also strikes me that it may be a better way to weed out unsuitable people than any other way we have found, and to identify highly suitable people for permanent jobs in the public service.
I heard you say there is an important place for casual employees. I do not know whether the rest of you share my curiosity, but it might be interesting to have people from the Treasury Board Secretariat here to discuss the economics of all this. I presume they and/or their colleagues in the Department of Finance have a view about that.
Ms. Barrados: Are you referring to national area of selection economics?
Senator Murray: Yes, that, too, if you like, but I am talking about the government having recourse to casual and indeterminate employment, period, regardless of where they end up. There is an economic argument that people in charge of the fisc would make about that, and I would be interested in hearing about it if and when we have the Treasury Board Secretariat before us.
Ms. Barrados: I think that it would be more appropriate to question the Public Service Agency, which is preoccupied for the board on planning, and we agree with them that this has to be done through the planning process. In a delegated system where we put the burden on the managers, the deputy heads, it is for them to say what proportions you want in your labour force. If you look at the proportions, we are about 88 per cent permanent, 12 per cent term casual, which is pretty standard; the private sector is like that, too. That is a pretty standard ratio. That is not a problem. The issue, though, becomes how you recruit that permanent portion.
Senator Murray: I understand that issue, and I set it aside and we will have another go at it. On a related matter, which is the economic criteria that are brought to bear in terms of casual, temporary and permanent employees, I would like to know the criteria. If it is the agency that you suggest that has the information, we will get it out of them, perhaps, one of these days.
I want to come back to the employment equity group. We find that women, Aboriginals, and visible minorities are applying more and succeeding less at getting into the public service. It appears, in the case of the visible minorities that we are at 25.7 per cent share of applications and a 10.5 per cent share of appointments. You go on to say that among all applicants visible minorities were the most educated, with over one half of them having completing bachelors or higher degrees. Then you wondered aloud why this is. You say they are not being screened out in the initial process. One wonders — in the case of the visible minorities — who they are, whether they are recent immigrants or graduating students who typically send dozens of applications out and apply for everything in the hope they will land something.
In a general way, with regard to women, visible minorities and Aboriginals, I would want to know something about the marketplace in which you are operating. Surely we, in the federal government, federal public service, are in competition for qualified people.
We are in competition with the private sector, provincial public services, municipal public services and so on. Is it possible that we are being outbid financially or that there are more attractive jobs being offered in those sectors or more attractive working conditions or opportunities for advancement or whatever? What do we know about that? What do we know about the competition? I am trying to put the best face on this. I would like to think if there are fewer women, Aboriginals and visible minorities being hired by us, there are more of them being hired in other parts of Canadian society. Is that possible?
Ms. Barrados: We probably do not have as much information as I think you would like. We use a number called the ``workforce availability'' as the benchmark number, and that gives an idea of how many there are in the labour force. The Conference Board of Canada has done work on visible minorities, and some sectors are doing better than the federal public service in that regard. We have not done much more analysis than that. My focus has been internal and what is stopping; I do not have a problem with supply; I have the numbers coming in. The problem is that we are not getting the appointments. Some would say, ``Are you sure you did not miss the best or the star candidate who will be your future clerk?'' If you are not hiring quickly on a permanent basis, you may well miss some of your top talent, but there is a commitment to try to fix that situation.
Regarding the question about why this was happening and ``try before you buy,'' that has been a concern as well. Linda Gobeil can tell you where we are on probation. The idea is there is a probationary period, and it is not much used.
Linda Gobeil, Senior Vice-President, Policy Branch, Public Service Commission of Canada: That is the issue. When someone joins the public service, the employee can be released. The employee is on probation for one year. Managers can use that provision to release the employee, so it is there. Do managers resort to that provision to release an employee who should not be there because of performance reasons and so on? Probably not. Maybe that is what they do, namely, resort to other means, which makes it easier because when you have to release someone, you have to come up with a business case to explain the rationale as to why and so on. Often, the employee challenges the manager's decision.
Senator Murray: It is a more compassionate thing to do for the employee, too. It could be a black mark on his or her CV to be let go after the probationary period, whereas this is not the case if a casual or term employee is simply not renewed.
Ms. Gobeil: The mechanism exists. Is it used as it should be or as often? Probably not.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Ms. Barrados, given that the manager is doing the hiring must know what you are thinking or what your report says, what sort of ongoing training on their own racism is happening? I do not know what question to ask except that one. What other questions should I be asking? It sounds like it is the whiteys that are kind of blocking the process.
Ms. Barrados: I am not sure there is an out-and-out decision to be biased. I think it is just bad habits and not making the extra effort to change. Where you see the concerted effort, there is improvement. There is training. I like to use the line from my friend Sheila Fraser who says I specialize in nagging. I am not going away, and I will just keep at this.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Seriously, all of us probably have some degree of racism within us. Certainly, I do, and unless one is helped to deal with that, then you do not open yourself to other possibilities.
Ms. Barrados: I trained as a sociologist, and I spent years worrying about values, perceptions and how to make judgments. We all carry around value sets, we make judgments all the time and we make them quickly. Many of them are just bad habits, and you are not thinking a little differently than you should be. Training is part of that. Leadership is part of that. I would like to see more visible minorities in leadership positions in the public service because that sets a real example. There are many things that we have to do. A number of us are active on visible minority groups to raise awareness, and we have to keep pushing. If we look at where women were 40 years ago, it was not a good story, and we have made a lot of improvements. It is the same with French; we have made a lot of improvements. This is the next one that we have to keep working at.
Senator Stratton: It has been an interesting discussion, Ms. Barrados. As I sit listening to you, you always compare your experiences to the private sector where people would be hired on a temporary basis, on a three-month trial or so on. That has been discussed.
I have a fundamental question with respect to the specific hiring levels by specialty, for example, a technical speciality, which is what is I view as probably one of the most serious problems in the private sector. Senator Day and I were in Asia last August, where we met with a group of Canadian business people. One of the questions we asked was, ``What is your biggest problem in doing business in the region?'' The response was, ``We have all the work we can manage. There is no shortage of work. If we had more skilled people, we could get far more work.'' The fundamental problem appears to be the lack of skills, at least in that area of the world.
In Manitoba, as an example, it has been reported that there are 11,000 jobs going begging, and they are primarily in the technically skilled areas. Is that indeed the problem in the public sector in certain areas, or is it across the board in the technically skilled areas?
Ms. Barrados: Our experience is that we have some regions of the country where we do have a lot of difficulty getting enough qualified people for jobs. Alberta is a hot economy, and public service jobs do not look that attractive, so we have some difficulties in that region. As Mr. Lemaire said, there are particular types of jobs where we do not see enough applications, and some of those are in the skilled labour areas. That comes and goes. There was a time when we had a surfeit of accountants. Now there is a shortage of accountants. So far, the public service has been fortunate in being able to attract sufficient interest and numbers of people. I know that there are these spots, for example, medical doctors, where there is quite an effort to look at what our compensation is and how we hire medical specialists because we need those people, and we have to be competitive with the market.
Senator Stratton: The other interesting question we had with the business people in Southeast Asia is what they were doing to solve the problem of the skilled labour shortage. There was one company that would actually hire people, train them and then put them out into the field because that was the only way they could find to solve their skills problems in certain areas.
Do you hire people and train them for specific jobs, or do they have to come with the necessary qualifications?
Ms. Barrados: It depends. The public service has had a tradition of hiring people in at the bottom and training them up. It is a different circumstance in the company you are talking about, but it is very much a model to take people who have the potential for generalist skills and turn them into managers, rather than hiring managers in. In some instances special efforts have been made to get people who are not quite qualified and then to qualify them as part of the hiring strategy, but that tends to be done within the departments and in specific areas. There is nothing that prohibits managers from doing that except funding.
Senator Mitchell: You mentioned that post-traumatic stress syndrome of military personnel is outside your scope; however, have returning aid workers with CIDA been brought to your attention?
Ms. Barrados: It is not an issue in which I have been involved.
Senator Mitchell: Would it fall under your responsibility?
Ms. Barrados: Our area is staffing and appointments. Returning aid workers have jobs. We would not be involved because they have positions. I have other roles. I sit on a pension disability board, so sometimes we see those kinds of cases, but they are individual cases.
Senator Mitchell: I would like to address the casual employment statistics in the context of equity of women's representation. It says in one of your reports that women represent 56 per cent of the observations in the study, which implies to me that there is a disproportionate number of women in casual positions. Second, it says that the proportion of employment spells leading to employment under the PSEA is slightly higher for women, at 43 per cent, with men at 37 per cent. In some ways it is not a surprise to me that there would be more women in casual employment because there always seems to be. In Alberta, during the era of cutbacks, if you can imagine, it was predominantly nurses who were put on to part-time casual employment structures so that they did not get benefits. It is always women to whom this occurs.
In this case is it a coincidence or is there a gender bias?
Ms. Barrados: Part of that lies with the types of short-term positions; they are often clerical and support workers, which tend to be filled more by women than men.
Ms. Clennett, do you have anything to add to that?
Mary Clennett, Vice-President, Audit, Evaluation and Studies Branch, Public Service Commission of Canada: That would be the case. There is a higher proportion of short-term hires in the administrative categories, and women tend to be more predominant in those categories.
Senator Mitchell: That would not explain why the spells of this kind of employment leading to full-time employment are longer for woman, would it?
Ms. Clennett: We did not look at that in this study, so we would not know why the duration was longer. We simply observed it.
Senator Mitchell: It seems to be raised by these statistics.
Ms. Barrados: It would probably be a function of the job.
Senator Mitchell: You have expressed concern, as have others, with the problem of the under-representation of visible minorities. What is the proportion of women visible minorities as a percentage of visible minorities employed in total?
Ms. Barrados: I will have to get back to you with that number.
Senator Ringuette: My question is on national area of selection. In your news release dated yesterday, you say:
The PSC will now move forward with full implementation by December 2008, once it can ensure government- wide readiness to meet the increased volume of applications resulting from this expansion. Full implementation of NAOS will mean that all externally advertised jobs will be open to all Canadians regardless of their area of residence.
That is paragraph 4 of your news release. However in paragraph 2 you state:
The PSC will begin the final phase of NAOS implementation with pilot projects for non-officer level positions in the National Capital Region.
I take from this that you are looking at the National Capital Region to remove the geographic barriers to external application. However, that is only for the National Capital Region, not for the other regions — it is not for Toronto, Montreal, Halifax or B.C. Therefore, about 60 per cent of the jobs in the federal public service will not fall under national area of selection.
Ms. Barrados: You are right, senator, but we are saying here that we had hoped to have it all done by December 2007. We set out criteria: Is the HR capacity there? Are the services there? I have this limit on the services. Do we have a way to get our cost recovery in place so that we can support this? Have we got the online testing? Do we know enough about those groups?
The answer was that we are not there yet, so we are going to run a series of pilot projects to test all the things we need to have in place so we do not impede the system. We do not want to impose a policy that would make it slower or more difficult for people to do their jobs. We will start in December of this year by opening select jobs in the national capital area.
Senator Ringuette: That has nothing to do with the jobs in the other regions of Canada.
Ms. Barrados: That is next.
Senator Ringuette: What is your time frame for the full range?
Ms. Barrados: It is December 2008. We want to do the pilot in the national capital area to see if we are coping with the volumes, whether we know enough, whether we have the right tests and whether there are some unknowns. Hopefully I am on track for cost recovery so we will be able to provide support. We will then move on to do other regional pilots so that we will be finished by December 2008.
Senator Ringuette: You are saying that in 13 months there will not be any more geographic barriers for public service jobs across the country.
Ms. Barrados: That is what I am saying. We are maintaining some flexibility, which I am asking for in this legislation, in areas where it does not make a lot of sense for very short-term, part-time jobs. We want some flexibility to allow that.
It is our intention to have that in place by December 2008. If I do not make it, I will be here and I will tell why.
Senator Ringuette: That is fair; however, I would like to remind you and my colleagues that we are looking at a policy. A policy can be removed at any time; legislation is a little bit more tricky.
Ms. Barrados: I agree, and I do not have a problem with the principle of it. However, I will still continue to ask for more flexibility. Our experience with the new legislation is that some of the elements in that legislation are too prescriptive and are creating some difficulties for us. They were included with the best of intentions but we cannot work around them because they are in the statute.
Senator Ringuette: Eighty per cent of the permanent hiring has come from casual terms or indeterminate employees. How much of that was externally advertised and subject to the issues we have just discussed? Overall, we are looking at 50,000 jobs per year, of which 5,700 were advertised. From what I am reading here, 80 per cent were not advertised.
The Chair: If there are any questions that you would like to take under consideration and then provide us with the answers and the statistics, we would be pleased to have you do that.
Senator Ringuette: That percentage would be alarming.
Ms. Barrados: I would like to do that. I think you have combined numbers that you cannot combine. I will look at the transcript and get back to you.
Senator Ringuette: You indicated that 40 per cent of the executives change jobs in one year. We have to question the fact that there is a policy within Treasury Board and within the public service — and it is well-known throughout any ranks of the public service — the more you move people around, the more experience they get and the faster they are promoted to nice executive jobs. This is what we are getting from it. We are getting that 40 per cent of the people that switch jobs just for the fact that they are acquiring very little experience and trying to move on the echelon through that system. On the other end of this, we are removing people from the departments that should be acquiring years of knowledge within that department, learning the programs and the objectives and issues. We have promoted this type of promotion style for years. We now see 40 per cent and I am sure that if we do not look at this policy, we will see more and more.
Ms. Barrados: It is 40 per cent overall and it is over 50 per cent for the executive group. It is a function of a position- based system where we post all the positions and people can compete. In my own organization, I will not take people who have not been in their job for some length of time. They will be just be screened out as far as I am concerned because I do not think you will contribute to the whole function of developing individuals and letting them know the job. You just create problems in the other organization.
The Chair: There is not a standard guideline on that?
Ms. Barrados: No, there is not. My colleague at the Canada Public Service Agency and I are thinking about it.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Senator Day and I had a delightful lunch today with some cadets from RMC. I asked them what they would do when they got out of school. They said, ``We are going to work for DFAIT, they are all leaving.'' We know the baby boomers are leaving and there is no personnel plan. May question is twofold. How common is what is happening DFAIT across the public service sector? There are other departments just as bad in terms of having strategic human resource plans. The second part of that is what role would you have in helping these departments implement some kind of staffing management accountability framework?
Ms. Barrados: DFAIT now has their human resource management plan.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Now?
Ms. Barrados: Yes, they do. It is quite a nice piece of work. They are still struggling on the passport office, but I just met with the deputy minister and he gave me a copy of his plan. They are definitely making progress.
We do not want to interfere too much in the departments; it is part of the philosophy that they have to do their own planning. However, we are working very hard at looking at the accountability framework that we have in place because we actually formally delegate and that formal delegation includes a requirement to report back. I think we have been asking for a lot. We are trying to lighten that but make it much more results oriented. We are having those discussions and hope to have the whole plan in place within three or four weeks.
Ms. Clennett: The whole plan, yes.
Ms. Barrados: I am getting a commitment here, too. We will have it in three or four weeks.
Senator Nancy Ruth: For all the departments?
Ms. Barrados: Yes, the framework. We are providing a good deal of information for each of the departments. Up to this point, we have evaluated each department, its planning, its policies, governance set up and its communications and control systems. Planning is the place where we have seen the most progress but it is the first step. They now have the plans. The next step of plans is that you must start delivering against those plans. That is coming. I am encouraged by some of the work that is occurring.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Is there a place for the equity issues of disability, gender, race, and so on, in those plans?
Ms. Barrados: There should be. That is where we have the problem.
Senator Nancy Ruth: So there is not unless you push for it?
Ms. Barrados: That is right. They will all be posted on the websites. We will all be counting that and looking at it.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Do you have a hammer to hit them with if they do not do it?
Ms. Barrados: We do not use the hammer until it is absolutely necessary.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Well, whatever you do.
Senator Ringuette: It is called an annual report and audit.
Ms. Barrados: I do reports on each department. I feed it back to the departments, give it to the clerk and that is part of his appraisal of the deputy ministers.
Senator Nancy Ruth: You then come to us and we do public shaming, or something. Is that how it all works?
Ms. Barrados: These committee appearances are very important because people pay attention.
Senator Di Nino: Ms. Barrados, you reserved some of the strongest criticism on the review of the Office of the Correctional Investigator. I would like to put on the record again the comments that you made. You said that ``We found staffing patterns that compromised the values of fairness, transparency and excess.'' These are very strong statements. You also say that ``nine out of 10 appointments were not compliant with the delegation agreement.'' So you have put them under increased supervision. It does not seem like the kind of action that I would expect from you.
I would like to ask you a quick two-part question. First, is that really what you would normally do with that? Second, do you have any tools or hammers, to use a word that you used a moment ago, to deal with these serious situations?
Ms. Barrados: In the case of the Correctional Investigator, they have been subject to an audit by the Auditor General and they were working hard at trying to implement corrective measures. We followed in because we were worried about the delegation agreement. They have a plan in place. They have a new head who is trying to implement that plan. They have improved the service agreement that they had in place. That was not working very well and they have taken steps to improve that. Those particular transactions were not good transactions and reflected this pattern of getting people who knew nothing about the business, getting them in and giving them a training opportunity and requiring skills and only they could apply.
The view of the commission was that with the plans they had in place, the changed agreement that they had in place with the service provider and the commitment of new head, that it was sufficient to put it on the right path.
Then, just to be sure, we are asking for quarterly reporting. They are under close watch and supervision. Our objective is to get people to do it right, and not to go in and take over. We can take over, and there are cases where we have done so and removed all of the authorities. However, in this case it did not seem appropriate because of their commitment to get it right.
Senator Di Nino: So, in effect, no heads rolled?
Ms. Barrados: In the next step of all these audits, we take the individual appointments that we really have a problem with and we send them to our investigators. The investigators do a procedure of investigations that respects judicial fairness and they will make a determination of whether positions should be revoked.
Senator Murray: I, too, am a member of the Official Languages Committee, and I am interested in the section in your report entitled ``Official Languages: Monitoring of the Public Service.'' I see tables about the number of employees excluded and the various positions designated as bilingual imperative. I presume are you not duplicating work that is done by the Commissioner of Official Languages and I presume further that he is monitoring you as you monitor official languages in the public service.
Second, I would like to hear you say that you are completely satisfied that the designation of bilingual positions, whatever the level of bilingualism, is legitimate. A long time ago, and I emphasize it was a long time ago — this is the problem, I suppose, of people who have been around here a long time — some of us had more than adequate reason to suspect that some positions were being designated bilingual in order to ensure the success of a particular candidate in a competition. There was more than one example of that, we thought. That was a long time ago. Tell me that sort of thing is not happening and, further, that you are satisfied that the designation of bilingual positions really is a rigorous and closely supervised exercise.
Ms. Barrados: Unfortunately, senator, I cannot give you that assurance. The way the system works is that it is entirely up to the employer to provide that designation. It then becomes defined as an element in merit, so it is the employer that states what is required.
When we went through the exercise of looking to why we did not have the rates of compliance that we expected on the use of non-comparative staffing exclusions, there was a going back and changing the requirements for the jobs because it was not originally felt as necessary. Our figures improved a lot because there was a reality check. I have some worries, for example, why A-level has disappeared, so I cannot give you the assurance you are looking for.
Senator Murray: Should we follow this up with you another time or should we follow it up with the commissioner?
Ms. Barrados: I think you should follow it up with the Canada Public Service Agency, who speaks for the employer. The commissioner may have some views as well.
With respect to whether we are duplicating work of the commissioner, I hope not. The monitoring we are doing came about because of a complaint that was made by a member of Parliament to the Commissioner of Official Languages, who then got after us to do our job better, which we have done. We are reporting regularly and we have provided the information to the Commissioner of Official Languages. That was under the previous commissioner, and I have met with the current commissioner.
The Chair: One of the points that we should have on the record, if you have that information, is the total annual budget for the Public Service Commission and the total number of employees.
Senator Murray: Whatever it is, we are getting our money's worth.
Ms. Barrados: We could record that comment. Our actual expenditure for 2006-07 is a grand total of $98,876 million.
The Chair: Ninety-eight million dollars?
Ms. Barrados: Yes.
The Chair: That is Canadian dollars?
Ms. Barrados: That is Canadian dollars; they are good dollars. I am sorry. And we have about 1,000 employees.
The Chair: As have you gone through your transformation, have you gone through a major change in the employees? Did some go down to the departments to do the work that used to be done by the Public Service Commission?
Ms. Barrados: When the legislation came in, about one third of the organization was transferred out. The language training school and Training and Development Canada went to the Canada School of Public Service. The management development programs went to Treasury Board and subsequently to the Canada Public Service Agency. We lost one third of the organization, and we transferred the people, the resources and the overhead that went with it. We had a fair bit of right sizing to do and we have been aligning within our organization to meet the new requirements of the legislation.
The Chair: Earlier you said you thought that with the delegation, you would be doing less of the actual employment- type service. However, you are now being asked by the department heads to do some of that work, and that is why you are talking about charging back that service.
Ms. Barrados: That is correct. I had anticipated that with the new emphasis on oversight — that is, the delegations, monitoring, audits and investigations — and not that much discussion about the other staffing activities that we had been doing, and with the delegation, there would be less call for our services, but in actual fact we have had an increase. Part of it is national area of selection, the higher volumes, the rapid turnover in the human resource management community, and our expertise.
One of the solutions that everyone knows we have to work towards is more collective staffing activities, so that you define your needs and you pre-qualify groups of people. As you need them, you pull them from these pools. We are actually better situated to do that for several departments than for one individual department.
That is the kind of work we are doing and our demand is growing. We have invested quite a bit in training our people and ensuring that they provide a service that is fully compliant with the directions contained in the new legislation.
The Chair: This has been very helpful. I can see there are a number of other questions we would like to delve into in a number of other areas, but our time has run out.
On behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance and all the senators who have been here on this committee, Ms. Barrados and your team, thank you for being here. We appreciate the time.
Honourable senators, next Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. we will have Treasury Board Secretariat here to deal with Supplementary Estimates (A) and on Wednesday, at our regular time we will hear from the Department of Finance on equalization and the Nova Scotia accord.
Senator Stratton: We are fully aware that the responsibility of this committee is to look after government legislation. The budget implementation bill just passed the House of Commons. When will we deal with it? It has a deadline.
The Chair: I think all honourable senators are aware that we deal with legislation, and that when the Senate refers legislation to us, no matter what we are doing, we deal with that legislation expeditiously. We understand that.
Senator Stratton: Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you. The meeting is concluded.
The committee adjourned.