[IPAC-List] Interesting government report

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Fri Feb 6 10:54:27 EST 2009

Bear with me, because this starts out boring, but picks up.

Canada's Office of the Auditor General (OAG, what I gather is equivalent to the GAO) tabled its most recent report in Parliament yesterday. The reports are issued several times a year and cover a wide range of topics. Included in the recent report is an examination of HR and staffing in the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA, our functional equivalent of IRS). In 1999, this agency became what is called here a "separate employer". That is, they decided to move out from under the legal umbrella that defines the core federal public administration. One of the principal reasons was a growing frustration with the existing burdens and red-tape when it came to staffing. Since they are big, and respond to both seasonal and regional demands, they do a lot of staffing and need to be able to do it fast. My own agency - the Public Service Commission of Canada - was overseeing much of federal staffing at the time and, while not exactly the villain, was for many the symbol and embodiment of a slow process, rife with too many rules, policies, approval stages and "paperasse". Eventually, with legislation that came into full effect at the end of 2005, much of that was changed and a different approach to staffing was adopted, and applied to all those 79 departments, agencies, commissions, tribunals, etc that currently form the core federal public administration. CRA, however, had seized the opportunity at an earlier historical point, and was first out the gate to explore the new flexibilities afforded them in its own unique way.

Now, some 10 years down the line, the OAG looked at what CRA has been able to do with those flexibilities. The report summarizes them. I'll be the first to admit that doesn't sound particularly tantalizing. Certainly not the sort of thing you'd hurriedly print out for yourself in order to snuggle up in a reading chair with a glass of your favourite brandy this weekend. What IS interesting about the report, however, is the analysis of how competency-based HR management was introduced/implemented into what is a fairly large (at least 40,000 employees, large by Canadian government standards) agency, and some of the surprises that cropped up because of how it was implemented, and what was not planned for. So, for those of you whose interests include big-picture thinking about staffing *systems*, as opposed to individual staffing *actions*, this is a really nice deconstruction of how all the pieces of one approach to the goal of efficiency in staffing fit together...and sometimes didn't. I offer it up not as any attempt to embarrass anyone, or to roll my eyes and proclaim "what a bunch of...". It's just a really nice post-game analysis from an outside observer (the OAG) of how some core choices in how staffing would be done had ripple effects. An organizational monograph, if you will, with special emphasis on use of competency profiles. A nice piece of writing, and a nice read. Recommended, whether you are Canadian or not.

Find it here: http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_oag_200812_06_e_31830.html

Whether you check it out or not, have a good weekend just the same.

Mark Hammer

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