Speech Article from  Public Service Commission

Opening Remarks by Christine Donoghue, Acting President, Public Service Commission concerning 2016-2017 Main Estimates and Report on Plans and Priorities at the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates

Ottawa, May 12, 2016

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Good afternoon,

Mr. Chair, Honourable Members, thank you.

I would like to introduce Raman Srivastava, Acting Vice-President of our Audit and Data Services Branch.

We are pleased to be here with you today to discuss the Public Service Commission’s Plans and Priorities for 2016-2017 as well as our Main Estimates.

On March 8th, we had an opportunity to speak to you about the mandate of the PSC. For over 100 years, the Public Service Commission (PSC) has been safeguarding merit-based hiring and the non-partisan nature of the public service. Each year, we report to Parliament on the health of the staffing system.

Our 2014-2015 Annual Report, tabled in Parliament on February 24th, showed that the staffing system is functioning well and continues to improve. We have now had 10 years of experience with a fully delegated staffing system. 

Modernizing the staffing system

Our oversight results show that our staffing system is mature and ready for change. In particular, organizations asked us for a system that could better respond to their operational needs. In other words, a more nimble approach – the one-size-fits-all approach did not meet the evolving needs of the public service.

It was time to modernize our approach to staffing and after consultations with stakeholders, we have done so. On April 1, we introduced the New Direction in Staffing.

The changes we are implementing will realize the intent of the 2005 Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) that provides the foundation for a responsive, merit‑based staffing system. The changes offer hiring managers the flexibility necessary to staff, manage and lead their personnel in order to achieve results for Canadians.

This modernization is critical to our vision of building tomorrow’s public service today.

We streamlined our staffing framework, from 12 Appointment Policies to one.

Deputy heads and their sub-delegated hiring managers will be able to use their judgment and discretion in making staffing decisions, while respecting the principles of the Act – representative of Canada’s diversity, linguistic duality, fairness and transparency.  

Deputy heads are responsible for monitoring their staffing actions and are able to detect and correct issues as they arise. A simplified Delegation Agreement will hold them accountable for how they exercise this discretion and best serve Canadians.

We are committed to working with all stakeholders to support them in implementing these changes. They also play a very significant role in the four priorities that the PSC will implement this year.

Safeguarding non-partisanship

Under our first priority, we will work, in collaboration with deputy heads, to promote and safeguard the non-partisan nature of the federal public service. For instance, we will continue to promote awareness of public servants, not only on their responsibilities, but also on their rights with respect to political activities.

Clear policy direction and ongoing oversight

Our second priority is to ensure the integrity of the staffing system through clear policy direction and support as well as ongoing oversight.

We have created a team of staffing support advisors who will work closely with organizations. We believe that it will be more effective for the PSC to provide organizations with a single voice, to make sure that the support they receive is both responsive and consistent, while having a better appreciation of the operational requirements of the organization.

We are also adapting our oversight with the objective of supporting continuous improvement and “in-time” corrections across the public service.

Audit is one example. Over the past 10 years, we have conducted entity audits of nearly 90% of organizations that fall under the PSEA. These audits have shown that the organizations have the necessary policies, systems, and governance in place.

As a result of this maturity, we are shifting to examine system-wide issues that require specific attention and are placing a greater focus on “system integrity.”

High quality staffing and assessment products and services

Now, under our third priority, we will support organizations in hiring quality candidates by providing high quality staffing and assessment products and services to ensure merit is met.

We will continue to collaborate with departments and agencies in promoting our central recruitment campaigns and work with our partners to innovate in order to attract the needed talent to the public service.

This past year, we participated in more than 200 career fairs and information sessions across Canada. We saw more graduates applying under our Post-Secondary Recruitment campaign.

We will continue to use social media to extend our reach as well as better target applicants who have the skills and competencies for the public service.

We are using tools such as Unsupervised Internet Testing in national processes to better identify, early in the hiring process, candidates who are more likely to succeed in subsequent supervised testing.

This testing also creates substantial efficiencies and cost savings. By eliminating paper‑and-pencil exams, we estimate that testing costs for departments and agencies were reduced by approximately $500,000.

In addition, this testing improves access to public service jobs especially for persons with disabilities who are able to use their own adaptive technologies to complete the test at home.

A high-performing workforce

Because of these changes, we have added a fourth priority – to develop and support a high-performing workforce in a respectful, modern workplace because we recognize that it is essential in the current and future context. It is through the engagement of our employees and their commitment to excellence that we will be able to implement any plan or priority.

We also have to develop and improve our capacity to manage change, be as inclusive as possible and to continue to attract and retain the skills needed for the future. 

Main Estimates

We are confident that we can achieve our priorities because our financial situation is sound.

In our Main Estimates for 2016-2017, we are authorized to spend $83.6 million. We also have the authority to recover up to $14 million of the costs of the counselling and assessment products and services we provide to federal organizations. 

We have sufficient resources to deliver on our mandate and we will only spend what is needed.

Mr. Chair, we look forward to working with departments and agencies to implement our plans and priorities.

We will also continue to foster strong relationships with Parliamentarians, bargaining agents and all other stakeholders so that Canadians will continue to benefit from a professional and non-partisan public service.

Thank you. I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

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