Office of the Legal Advisor to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces
August 2010

4. OBSERVATIONS – INFORMATION SYSTEMS

4.1 Information Systems

The DND/CF LA relies on DND and Department of Justice information systems for decision-making and accountability purposes.

Management requires reliable and timely information on which to base decisions and provide accountability. A significant amount of that information comes from various computerized information systems.

The DND/CF LA receives regular financial reports produced by the Department of Justice’s Salary Management System (SMS) and the DND Financial and Managerial Accounting System (FMAS). The DND/CF LA’s Comptroller reviews these reports to ensure that they are accurate. Correcting entries are submitted when errors are found. The Comptroller reviews the SMS report, in particular, with the senior management team to ensure that all have a clear understanding of the DND/CF LA’s incurred expenditures in relation to the planned budget.

The DND/CF LA receives regular iCase reports on the amount of time lawyers spend on different files. The audit team was advised that lawyers are much more diligent about recording their time on a monthly basis in iCase since 2009, when performance information started to be included in the annual business plan. We found in our review of iCase reports that the information was complete, with the single exception of a military lawyer who frequently travelled. Since these reports track time spent by lawyers on files on an after-the-fact basis, the DND/CF LA does not use them to manage workload over the short-term. However, it was noted that they could be used to support requests for additional resources.

Because the Legal Opinions and Precedents On-Line Retrieval System (LOPORS) is not suitable for national security files that require a high level of clearance, the DND/CF LA saves fewer opinions of precedential value than it might otherwise do. Instead, the DND/CF LA has developed a standalone Knowledge Management system premised on a secure database (two removable, TEMPEST Footnote 11 hard-disk drives on a TEMPEST computer) that can scan and store searchable national security opinions. According to the May 4, 2010 update from the Law Practice Management Committee (LPMC), the DND/CF LA became involved in the Department of Justice's pilot of Justipedia Footnote 12, the Legal Knowledge Portal, subsequent to the LPMC's December 2009 update.

The DND/CF LA is also developing a database of labour and employment law opinions for use by lawyers who occupy positions that are excluded from collective bargaining. In conjunction with consultation with colleagues and appropriate experts elsewhere in the Department (e.g. in the Public Law Sector) and appropriate review of legal advice by senior lawyers, information in these databases assists in ensuring consistency in the legal advice provided.

It is the audit team’s opinion that the DND/CF LA can rely on the information in its key systems for decision-making and accountability purposes.

4.2 Security of Electronic Information

The DND/CF LA has taken reasonable steps to ensure the security of its electronic information.

Electronic information is very transportable and can be easily compromised without an obvious indication. It is important that appropriate physical and logical security Footnote 13 controls be in place to ensure that electronic information is protected.

Networked computers within the DND/CF LA are subject to controls implemented by the DND/CF. The key risk occurs when information is transported on laptops or electronic storage devices, or transmitted electronically.

The DND/CF LA places considerable emphasis on the security of electronic information and provides periodic presentations on security. An April 2009 presentation examined such topics as laptop physical security, spam, encryption, protected vs. classified information, solicitor-client privilege, electronic transmission of protected or classified information, electronic file storage, removable media, and destruction of removable media.

The audit team is of the opinion that the DND/CF LA has taken reasonable measures to ensure the security of its electronic information.

4.3 Information Management

The DND/CF LA’s file management practices are generally appropriate but require some improvements.

The efficient management of legal files and records is critical for any legal practice so that relevant information and precedents can be quickly retrieved.

The DND/CF LA’s records office opens new files as requested Footnote 14, enters the required information in the Recorded Information Management System (RIMS), prints labels for file folders, and provides them to the lawyers Footnote 15. Lawyers advise the records office when a file is closed.

Even though file creation is centralized, multiple versions of the same files are sometimes created (e.g. one file for a claim and one for labour relations when they both relate to the same incident) when only one is required. The audit team was told that there are no formal DND/CF LA-specific written policies and procedures governing information and file management. Neither the current employee orientation nor administrative manuals contain sections on information and file management. The DND/CF LA’s records staff stated that they provide new employees with information on filing based on Department of Justice and DND guidelines.

The audit team is of the opinion that the lack of formal DND/CF LA-specific written procedures on information and file management also contributes to the lack of consistency in the way files are structured. We were told that it sometimes takes significant time to find all the relevant information in a file or claim, or even to determine its stage of progress (e.g. pleading or research).

The DND/CF LA’s records staff follow a regular cycle to ensure that only required files are kept on site and that closed files are moved off site. Archived material is kept on site for three years. Closed files are kept in a storage room in the building or an off-site secure facility. Each year, the records office transfers one year’s worth of files to the appropriate location, with older material going to Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The records office uses RIMS to track the location of files (i.e. the records room, storage, or LAC). We were told that during an annual records clean-up day, the entire LSU goes through its filing cabinets to identify material that can be archived or destroyed. We were also told that there is a yearly self-review to ensure that files are being stored where they are recorded as being located.

A sample of active files was selected as part of our audit to verify that the files were located where they were recorded as being in RIMS. We found that all files could be traced from the file room to RIMS or from RIMS to their location.

The audit team is of the opinion that many of the processes used by the DND/CF LA to open, store, and archive its legal files are appropriate. Improvements are required, however, to reduce the likelihood of duplicate files and to facilitate the expeditious retrieval of key information from files by different users.

Recommendation and Management Response

4. It is recommended that the Senior General Counsel and Legal Advisor ensure that the new policies and procedures manuals being developed by the DND/CF LA include formal procedures for the management of information assets.

Agreed. DND/CF LA is bound by and complies with legislative requirements as well as Justice protocols with respect to information and file management. Lawyers and paralegals are responsible for opening and closing files. As part of orientation, DND/CF LA will ensure that all lawyers, paralegals, and support staff are aware of procedures for opening and closing files, including cross-referencing files where appropriate. This information will also be made available on the DND/CF LA intranet site.

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