Government of Canada
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Audit of the Management of Human Resources

Background

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA or the "Agency") mission is "dedicated to safeguarding food, animals and plants, which enhances the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy." The successful achievement of the Agency's mission and strategic objectives depends heavily upon its complement of human resources and the management regime that supports them. Staff with appropriate skills, knowledge and abilities must always be available to manage and carry out regulatory duties in the face of new risks and technologies.

The Agency faces many human resources challenges such as intense national and global competition to attract talented and knowledgeable workers, retirements of experienced staff, the need to be representative of an increasingly diverse Canadian society, and ongoing competitive challenges of recruitment in the scientific and technical fields. This reality has made human resources renewal a top priority.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Act established the Agency as a separate employer with the authority to develop its own human resources management function. Separate employers have the ability to establish human resources policies and programs that meet their specific needs. Under the CFIA Act, the President has full authority for human resources management policy and practice within the Agency. Since its inception, a key expectation for the Agency was to leverage its separate employer status by putting in place an efficient and effective human resources management regime.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has approximately 6,900 employees (including students) with salaries and related benefits that account for approximately 75 percent of the Agency's annual expenditures. Given the Agency's personnel requirements, the execution of effective operations must rely on a solid human resources foundation. In this regard, the management of human resources is a shared responsibility among managers and the staff of the Human Resources Branch. Together they must ensure the Agency has the necessary workforce to meet its commitment to safeguard Canada's food supply and the plants and animals upon which safe and high quality food depends.

Objective

The objective of this audit was to determine if an effective control framework is in place to support the management of human resources at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, notably in the areas of governance, planning, classification and staffing.

Scope

The audit focused on key areas related to management of human resources such as staffing and classification as well as the Agency's capacity and capability to integrate human resources planning with corporate business planning. Official Languages and Occupational Health and Safety were not included in the scope of the audit. The subject of Official Languages is regularly reviewed by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and, in the case of Occupational Health and Safety; the scope of the subject area is sufficiently large to warrant a separate audit.

The preliminary survey was conducted between January and March 2007 and field work was carried out between April and June 2007.

Approach and Methodology

The audit was conducted in accordance with the professional standards of practice as outlined in the Treasury Board Policy on Internal Audit.

Human resources management is a shared responsibility between CFIA management and the Human Resources Branch and, as such, an Agency-wide audit approach was taken. Interviews were conducted and internal documentation analyzed related to human resources planning, classification, and staffing. Work was carried out in Headquarters, the West, Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic, and National Capital Areas. The audit team conducted its work on-site in all of these locations except for the Atlantic Area, where the field work consisted primarily of telephone interviews and a review of classification files sent to headquarters.

For human resources governance, sufficient audit work was completed during the preliminary survey and no further testing and analysis was required during the detailed examination. The Observations related to Human Resources governance were reported to the Vice-President, Human Resources and corrective action was promptly initiated.

In 2006, and again in 2007, the Human Resources Branch engaged consultants to review the staffing activity at the CFIA. In light of this recent work, the audit has relied on the evidence contained in the corresponding working paper files. Additional testing and interviews were primarily carried out at the National Capital Region to validate prior findings.

The classification and staffing file reviews relied on data analysis software to identify statistically valid samples from the available population for 2006-2007.

During the planning phase of the audit, the developed audit criteria was discussed with and agreed upon by the management of the Human Resources Branch.

Key Findings

Under the CFIA Act, the President has full authority for the management of human resources policy and practice within the Agency. A key expectation for the Agency was to leverage its separate employer status by putting in place an efficient and effective human resources management regime.

Senior managers have repeatedly indicated that they did not feel the CFIA has taken full advantage of its separate employer status. The current human resources management structure is mostly aligned with the core Public Service. As such, opportunities for innovation in the management of human resources have been overlooked and the function may not be as efficient and effective as anticipated.

Human resources planning has not received sufficient management attention across the Agency. In addition, the current corporate and business planning processes make integrated human resources planning difficult. While human resources information and tools exist, managers need more proactive support from human resources professionals to carry out their responsibilities. While examples of integration within the Agency were identified during the audit, much remains to be done to bridge the existing disconnect between Corporate Planning, the Human Resources Branch and the remaining Branches.

Although the CFIA has the authority to develop its own classification, it has opted to align its practices with the core Public Service. Many new classification initiatives have taken place within the core Public Service, making it necessary for the CFIA to review its own classification policy framework. The Agency has experienced significant challenges in attracting and retaining classification specialists, and the Agency risks not being able to comply with its legislated authority to make classification decisions. Moreover, many managers indicated that job relativity may be inconsistent. The position files reviewed were of mixed quality and inconsistent practices were identified and, as a result, no assurance can be provided that senior management responsibilities for classification are being met.

Manager's indicated frustration with the staffing process and, once again, noted that the Agency may not be fully leveraging its separate employer status as policy and procedures continue to be aligned with the core Public Service's staffing practices. While performance data on staffing has only recently been tracked, analysis of this data for the National Capital Region showed that the use of Without Solicitation staffing process was significant. Finally, the length of time committed to the staffing process continues to be a source of management concern.

The CFIA's governance framework includes two key decision-making bodies that have overall responsibility for management, monitoring and coordination across the Agency. One of the decision-making bodies, the Executive Policy Committee, receives and approves recommendations from sub-committees including the Sub-committee on Human Resources (SCHR). During the survey phase, it was noted that the SCHR had acted mainly in isolation, as many policy decisions were not forwarded to the Executive Policy Committee for review and approval. This issue was brought to the attention of the Vice-President of Human Resources and we understand that relevant sub-committee recommendations are being tabled at the Executive Policy Committee.

Audit Opinion

Sufficient appropriate audit procedures have been conducted and evidence gathered to support the following opinions on the management of human resources:

Integrated Human Resources Planning

In our opinion, the Agency has sufficient capacity and capability to support the integration of human resources planning with business planning, but senior management leadership is required to ensure integration is fully realized.

Classification

In our opinion the management control framework supporting the classification function, while aligned with the core Public Service, is adequate. However, its full implementation requires significant management attention. Specifically, the inconsistencies found in the position files and uncertainty surrounding the quality of classification decisions can be mitigated through cyclical reviews, monitoring and classification audits.

Staffing

In our opinion, the staffing management control framework, while aligned with the core Public Service, is adequate and is being closely followed. Management attention is required to seek flexibilities in the suite of staffing policies to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.

Governance

In our opinion, the governance framework supporting the management of human resources at the CFIA is adequate. However, the Sub-committee on Human Resources needs to forward pertinent recommendations to the Executive Policy Committee for further debate and approval.

Key Recommendations

Integrated Human Resources Planning

An integrated business planning strategy should be implemented, taking into account the Agency's separate employer status. The strategy should meet both corporate and branch planning requirements and reflect branch interdependencies.

Performance measurement systems should be created and implemented to track the achievement of Agency-wide human resources strategies. Furthermore, achievement could be recognized and assessed as part of Executive Performance Management pay.

Classification

Classification policies should be reviewed and updated, taking into consideration the flexibility afforded to the Agency under the CFIA Act.

Standardized requirements should be developed for the creation and maintenance of position files.

Cyclical reviews, monitoring and triennial audits should be undertaken as per the Agency's Classification and Organization Policy. Reports on results should be provided to the Sub-Committee on Human Resources.

Staffing

The "Requirements for a National Area of Selection" guidelines should be reviewed to permit greater flexibility in the choice of area of selection for open external recruitment.

Additional recommendations are included throughout the audit report.