Audit of the Public Law Sector
33 pages
English

Audit of the Public Law Sector

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TABLE OF CONTENTS STATEMENT OF ASSURANCE ................................................................................................ i EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ...........................................................................................................1 1. INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................................5 1.1 Background ..................................................................................................................... 5 1.2 Audit Objectives and Scope ............................................................................................ 6 2. OBSERVATIONS – MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK ....................................................7 2.1 Objectives and Risks ....................................................................................................... 7 2.2 Policies and Procedures .................................................................................................. 9 2.3 Planning ........................................................................................................................ 10 2.4 Performance Monitoring ............................................................................................... 10 2.5 Communicating ............................................................................................................. 13 2.6 Management of Financial and Human Resources .................... ...

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
    STATEMENT OF ASSURANCE ................................................................................................ i EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ...........................................................................................................1 1. INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................................5 1.1 Background ..................................................................................................................... 5 1.2 Audit Objectives and Scope............................................................................................ 6 2. OBSERVATIONS – MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK....................................................7 2.1 Objectives and Risks....................................................................................................... 7 2.2 Policies and Procedures .................................................................................................. 9 2.3 Planning ........................................................................................................................ 10 2.4 Performance Monitoring ............................................................................................... 10 2.5 Communicating............................................................................................................. 13 2.6 Management of Financial and Human Resources ........................................................ 14 3. 9......................1......................................... ...IONSERAT– OP................BSEROONS VATI 3.1 Information Systems ..................................................................................................... 19 3.2 Coordination of Service Delivery ................................................................................. 20 3.3 Knowledge Management .............................................................................................. 21 3.4 Interfaces with the Department of Justice..................................................................... 23 3.5 Client Satisfaction ......................................................................................................... 24 4. OBSERVATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND MANAGEMENT RESPONSES ..27 
APPENDIX ACONTEXTUAL INFORMATION................................................................31 APPENDIX B – METHODOLOGY ..........................................................................................35     
STATEMENT OF ASSURANCE
  We have completed the internal audit of the Public Law Sector (PLS). The overall objective of the audit was to review and assess the framework within which PLS delivers services to its clients and to recommend improvements.  The internal audit was conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS)Policy on Internal Audit the Institute of Internal Auditors’ Standards for and the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.  The audit team assessed the management control framework against criteria derived from the Guidance on Controlissued by the Criteria of Control Board (CoCo) of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, the TBS Management Accountability Framework (MAF), as well as TBS audit guides.  In our professional judgment, sufficient and appropriate audit procedures have been conducted and evidence gathered to support the accuracy of the conclusions reached and contained in this report. The conclusions were based on a comparison of the situations, as they existed at the time of the audit and against the audit criteria. It should be noted that the conclusions are only applicable for the areas examined.   
 
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  The Public Law Sector (PLS) comprises nine specialized legal advisory and policy sections and one secretariat. Counsel in these sections are a core resource of the Department, offering highly specialized expertise to counsel in other sectors of the Department and in departmental legal services units (DLSU) on an as-needed basis. This audit focused on the management framework within which the PLS delivers services to its clients.  Objectives and Risks  The PLS has appropriately documented its objectives and communicated them to its employees and clients. When setting its objectives, the PLS considers the priorities and risks facing the Department. It has also identified and assessed the significant internal and external risks it faces in achieving its objectives. It is the audit team’s opinion that the PLS’s processes for setting its objectives and for risk management are satisfactory.  Policies and Procedures  Improvements are required to the documenting of the PLS’s key procedures and practices. Two sections (the Human Rights Law Section and the Trade Law Bureau) have documented their Section-specific procedures and practices. However, this is not the case for the other sections of the PLS. Although less formal practices can be effective in the smaller sections, documented policies and procedures in the larger sections of the PLS would provide both current and new counsel and support staff with important information on a timely basis and would improve both individual staff and overall Section productivity. A recommendation to develop a manual of key procedures and best practices in the larger sections has been made.  Planning  The PLS follows an appropriate planning process and schedule developed by the Department of Justice’s Management Sector and has an integrated business plan.  
 
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Internal Audit Branch   Performance Monitoring  Although the Public Law Sector uses qualitative assessment tools to manage its performance, there is a need in the PLS to formally solicit client feedback to better monitor overall performance. The Office of Strategic Planning and Performance Measurement (SPPM), in conjunction with Statistics Canada, has developed a standardized questionnaire and methodology for soliciting feedback on the extent to which each DLSU’s performance meets client needs and expectations. The audit team is of the opinion that a similar survey for PLS clients, administered periodically, would provide PLS management with a better balance of quantitative and qualitative information to monitor overall performance.  We were told that all sections in the PLS have informal practices in place to monitor workload. One PLS section uses an in-house information system to monitor quantity and distribution of work. The audit team is of the opinion that the balance of the Sector would benefit from implementing such a practice, as it would help ensure that work is equitably distributed and provide management with quantitative information on productivity. A recommendation in that regard was made.  Communicating  The PLS’s communications practices are effective in ensuring that all staff have the information needed for their jobs. A variety of mechanisms are used to achieve this including regular meetings at the Sector, Section, and practice level; the departmental Intranet; retreats; and person-to-person discussions.  Financial Resources  The measures taken to administer the PLS’s financial resources are appropriate and adequate. Expenditures are monitored closely through regular reporting. Furthermore, all discretionary expenditures are controlled, as all justifications prior to granting expenditure approvals are reviewed by the ADM’s Office.  Human Resources  The PLS provides ample opportunities for the professional development of its employees. Our review of the data showed that 350 internal training sessions were taken by 125 employees during 2007-08. To better monitor training, the PLS compiles information for a detailed report of each employee’s training.   
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Public Law Sector Executive Summary  Orientation of new employees can be improved. While some sections have a formal orientation binder, others do not. Some interviewees were of the view that a consolidated orientation manual, where one does not exist, would be helpful. The audit team concurs with this perspective and has recommended that all sections have an orientation manual that can serve as a reference for new employees.  Although some staff indicated a need for additional resources, overall the audit team is of the view that the PLS’s human resource mix is generally balanced in relation to its current workload. It should be noted that clients commented that they were generally very satisfied with the services they received.  Information Systems  The PLS’s information systems provide an acceptable level of support for management decision making and accountability, and for the provision of legal services to its clients.  Coordination of Service Delivery  The delivery of PLS services is appropriately coordinated. The PLS takes various steps to facilitate coordination and also conducts a number of outreach activities to ensure that clients are aware of its services and when to draw on them.  Knowledge Management  Knowledge management is evolving in the Department and efforts are needed on a Department-wide basis to address weaknesses in the management of knowledge assets (i.e. reports, records, documents, files, employee experience, lessons learned). According to the Department’s Chief Knowledge Officer, the Department does not have clear or consistently applied procedures for knowledge management. Accordingly, the PLS has few written policies or procedures for the management of electronic information.  A number of knowledge management initiatives are being undertaken in individual sections of the PLS. However, while commendable, these initiatives are not part of a coordinated plan. The PLS is aware that, as a result, relevant information could be overlooked and that there could be inconsistencies in the legal advice and opinions it renders.  The Department has developed a national Legal Knowledge Management (LKM) Strategy that identifies a requirement for new systems and approaches, including the creation of a Department-wide culture of knowledge sharing. This strategy is evolving, and as a result, it may be premature  3
Internal Audit Branch   to expect integration of the PLS’s initiatives with the Department’s strategy. Nonetheless, the audit team is of the opinion that it is important to ensure that PLS initiatives are consistent with the departmental strategy going forward.  Interfaces with the Department of Justice  The PLS’s interfaces within the Department of Justice are satisfactory, although there is a need to clarify the role of the Public Law Policy Section (PLPS). PLPS lawyers are of the view that their colleagues in the Department do not fully understand the services their Section provides or when to draw on them. Feedback collected by the ADM on client satisfaction in 2007 also identified a need to clarify the mandate of the PLPS. The Section head has undertaken a number of outreach activities to clarify the mandate to clients as well as inform them of the types of situations in which they should be calling on the PLPS. The audit team is of the opinion that clients’ understanding of the PLPS’s role needs to be monitored and outreach activities adjusted as appropriate on an ongoing basis.  Client Satisfaction  Overall the PLS’s clients are satisfied with the services they receive. The results of an informal survey conducted by the ADM in March 2007 and audit interviews with a sample of PLS clients revealed that PLS clients are very satisfied with the services they receive. We found widespread satisfaction with the quality and quantity of the Sector’s legal services.  The management responses to the recommendations contained in this report were provided by the Assistant Deputy Minister, Public Law.  
 
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1. INTRODUCTION
  1.1 Background  The Public Law Sector (PLS) in the Department of Justice comprises the Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) and nine specialized legal advisory and policy sections and one secretariat. These include Human Rights Law Section; Constitutional and Administrative Law Section; Information Law and Privacy Section; Judicial Affairs, Courts and Tribunal Policy Section; Trade Law Bureau; Public International Law Section; International Private Law Section; Public Law Policy Section; Official Languages Law Group1; and International Aviation Law Secretariat. Counsel in these sections are a core resource of the Department, offering highly specialized expertise to counsel in other sectors of the Department and in departmental legal services units (DLSU) on an as-needed basis. The PLS assists the Department in coordinating legal advice across government, as well as in supporting the Department’s Litigation Services Branch and Legislative Branch. PLS clients come from both within the Department (e.g. Minister, Deputy Minister, Policy Sector, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, regional offices) and outside (e.g. through a DLSU or directly (i.e. Privy Council Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, provincial/territorial government, Public Prosecution Service of Canada)). For that reason the term “client” in this report refers toany entity that seeks advice from the PLS. Additional contextual information on the PLS is provided in Appendix A.  In 2007-08, the PLS had a staff of 125 employees, of whom 75% were lawyers. The total salary expenditure was $12,191,180, with $1,482,131 for operations and maintenance (O&M).  Some of the key risks that were identified in selecting the PLS for audit included: consistency of Department of Justice interpretations of various acts and policies including theAccess to Information Act the andPrivacy Act;of a coordinated and coherent approach for extent  the dealing with specialized matters; the ability to respond to client demands for specialized legal services; inefficiencies in the organization and in workload management; reporting of performance information; management of electronic information; and appropriateness of linkages with clients, knowledge management, and fiscal certainty.                                                   1the PLS effective April 1, 2008 and did not directly participate in the audit.The Official Languages Law Group joined  5
Internal Audit Branch   1.2 Audit Objectives and Scope  The overall objective of this audit was to review and assess the framework within which the PLS delivers services to its clients and to recommend improvements to this framework.  The audit team examined and assessed:   the management control framework (policies, practices, and procedures relating to planning, organizing, controlling, leading and communicating, and the management of financial and human resources);  the reliability of information systems for decision-making and accountability purposes;  the appropriateness of interfaces with other sections in the Department of Justice (regional offices, DLSUs, Headquarters), central agencies, and international organizations requiring the specialized services of experts in human rights law, constitutional and administrative law, information law and privacy, judicial affairs, international trade law, public international law, private international law, aviation law, and public law policy;  the level of client satisfaction with the services provided.  The audit also addressed:   the roles and responsibilities of each Section including whether the approach to the provision of services is appropriately coordinated and whether clients understand the services of the PLS and when to draw on them;  the extent to which knowledge management issues have been identified and a plan developed to address them;  the appropriateness of the resource allocation process.  The planning and on-site examination for this audit were carried out between late February and late August 2008.  Details on the audit methodology employed are in Appendix B.   
 
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2. OBSERVATIONS – MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK
  2.1 Objectives and Risks  The Public Law Sector has appropriately documented its objectives and communicated them to its employees and clients.  Setting and documenting organizational objectives are important steps in ensuring that professional and support staff as well as clients receive a clear indication of expectations. Objectives should be both long-term and short-term in nature, and address the effectiveness and efficiency of operations, the reliability of internal and external reporting, and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies.  The audit team found that the 2008-2009 Business Plan – Public Law Sector describes four specific business objectives for the policy aspects of its work and two objectives for the advisory aspects. The Business Plan also contains short-term management priorities and incorporates statements related to the effectiveness and efficiency of operations, meeting of internal and external reporting requirements, and compliance with government policy and regulations. There is also a series of pages on JUSnet (departmental Intranet) that describe the PLS’s areas of responsibility and the services offered by each of its sections. From interviews we confirmed that both PLS lawyers and support staff understand the objectives and responsibilities of the PLS as documented in the Business Plan and presented on JUSnet.  It is the audit team’s opinion that the PLS’s objectives, as documented, are appropriate.  When setting its objectives, the Public Law Sector considers the priorities and risks facing the Department.  The Business Management Centre in the Public Law Sector is responsible for writing the PLS Business Plan in response to the call letter and guides issued each fall by the Management Sector. The Business Management Centre collects intelligence/information from PLS sections on the files/cases that may affect the Sector’s activities (e.g. deadlines related to various acts and policies, the prospect of increased trade litigation, upcoming commission activities). This  7
Internal Audit Branch   information is incorporated into first drafts of individual Section plans, which are circulated to Section heads for review and comment. The heads make suggestions for additions, deletions, and modifications to the draft, based on their understanding of the priorities and risks related to each Section’s specific areas of expertise. The Business Management Centre uses this feedback to compile the PLS Business Plan, which is then reviewed by the ADM, who incorporates her understanding of departmental priorities before the document is finalized and submitted to the Management Sector.  Most PLS clients advised the audit team that the PLS does not consult them on the Sector’s planned activities nor on their own planned activities that might require PLS services. Such consultations would assist the PLS in forecasting demand for legal services. However, several DLSU clients volunteered that since DLSU legal work is often ad hoc, the PLS is required to be reactive to DLSU activities. Regional staff also indicated that service demand is difficult to predict, since most is related to litigation. As a result, while consultations on activities could provide additional information on client priorities and influence the Sector’s objectives, the audit team is of the opinion that the requirement for the PLS to be reactive to its clients’ activities makes it difficult to obtain additional information through client consultations.  It is the audit team’s opinion that the PLS’s process for setting its objectives is satisfactory.  The significant internal and external risks faced by the Public Law Sector in the achievement of its objectives have been identified and assessed.  The significant internal and external risks faced by an organization in the achievement of its objectives should be identified and assessed in order to develop strategies for managing them.  The PLS Business Plan contains a discussion of the two key risks facing the Sector: lack of resources to implement cost recovery and reluctance of clients to consult the Sector under cost recovery. Mitigation measures are identified in the Business Plan. For example, to deal with the risks associated with the implementation of the cost-recovery model, the PLS plans to prepare a presentation to FIN.COM, in collaboration with other sectors and portfolios, to obtain a portion of the corporate overhead charges to support the additional tasks required for the full implementation of the cost-recovery model, and to hire additional administrative staff to ensure compliance with the cost-recovery model. In addition, as one of a number of planned mitigation measures to deal with counsel who are more reluctant to consult because of the new costs, the PLS plans to promote the added-value of PLS services to ensure DLSU counsel understand the importance of seeking PLS legal advice. The Sector also has an up-to-date business continuity plan that was part of a table exercise over the past two years to assure its effectiveness.   
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Public Law Sector 2. Observations - Management Framework
 It is the audit team’s opinion that the PLS’s risk management processes are satisfactory.  2.2 Policies and Procedures  Improvements are required to the documenting of Public Law Sector’s key procedures and practices.  Written policies and procedures should be in place in any organizational unit because they help promote the conduct of activities in a consistently effective, efficient, and economical manner. They are also very helpful in guiding new employees.  Most counsel join the PLS after having gained experience working elsewhere in the Department (e.g. as counsel in a DLSU). They are therefore accustomed to the requirement of complying with both Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) and departmental policies and procedures. Individual sections, however, in the PLS also have their own procedures and practices. For example:   Trade Law Bureau, which provides support to three ministers, has three different formatsthe for briefing notes to these ministers;  several sections (e.g. Public Law Policy; Constitutional and Administrative Law; Judicial Affairs, Courts and Tribunal Policy) require management review and approval of legal opinions before these are released;  Information Law and Privacy Section has established a standard of a maximum of a 10-day turnaround on advice regarding responding to privacy requests.  While the Human Rights Law Section and the Trade Law Bureau have documented their Section-specific procedures and practices, we were told that the other sections of the PLS have not done so. Most PLS employees become acquainted with procedures through a variety of means: assistance of mentors, responses to questions from colleagues, review of their work by colleagues and managers, and personal observation. Although these practices can be effective in smaller sections where less formal procedures are required, in the larger sections of the PLS some staff interviewed advised the audit team that a consolidated manual describing key procedures would assist employees. Documented policies and procedures would provide new and current counsel and support staff with important information on a timely basis and would improve both individual staff and overall Section productivity.  It is the audit team’s opinion that the larger sections in the PLS should develop a manual of key procedures and practices (e.g. support staff tasks and duties; assignment of support staff to counsel; list of Section committees, practice groups, and regularly scheduled meetings; file  9