The Portfolio Offices’ interfaces with the Public Law Sector are satisfactory, but there are concerns with the impact of the Department’s cost recovery practices on consultations with the Sector.
Counsel in the Public Law Sector are a core resource of the Department of Justice, offering highly specialized legal advisory and policy expertise Footnote 1 to counsel in other sectors of the Department on an as-needed basis.
All three Portfolio Offices described as useful their interactions with the Public Law Sector. These interactions take place primarily through the portfolios’ LSUs. All Portfolio Offices noted that the requirement for the specialized sections of the Public Law Sector to invoice the LSUs for legal services has an impact on the nature of the interactions.
Interviews with section heads in the Public Law Sector corroborated the Portfolio Offices’ view of the positive nature of the interactions. However, they also expressed concern over the impact of cost recovery on these interactions. The heads indicated that it has resulted in both a decline in requests for specialized advice from LSUs and changes in the types of requests for legal services. Furthermore, it is their view that since cost recovery was introduced, LSU lawyers are more likely to either generally perform more legal analysis themselves and then ask Public Law Sector counsel to review their analysis, or request brief telephone consultations for which they do not want to be billed.
It is not surprising that the move to cost recovery has resulted in a change in behaviour on the part of LSUs and their clients, and that this has had an impact on consultation with the Public Law Sector.
The Portfolio Offices’ interfaces with the Management Sector vary, depending on the size of the portfolio’s business offices.
The Management Sector provides support to the Portfolio Offices in a variety of areas (e.g. human resources, administration, planning and performance management).
The Portfolio Offices act as conduits between their LSUs and organizations in the Management Sector, passing on directives, advisories, and requests for information from these organizations. The Portfolio Offices also respond directly to requests for information from the Management Sector.
The PSDI Portfolio, which of the three Portfolio Offices audited has the largest and most proactive business office, stated that it had good relationships with the Management Sector. The BRL Portfolio also reported a satisfactory overall relationship with the Management Sector. The Central Agencies Portfolio expressed concerns with respect to the number of reporting requirements to which it must respond and its ability to do so. It should be noted that the Central Agencies Portfolio has experienced significant turnover in its business office staff including the Business Manager.
Most executives in the Management Sector described the interactions with the Portfolio Offices as productive and professional. One noted that portfolio business offices vary in size and expertise, so that the quality of the interactions also varies. The Management Sector’s Administration Directorate expressed concern that the administrative services functions (i.e. safety, security, and emergency management; accommodations and telecommunications; contracting and materiel management) are not accorded as high a priority by the Portfolio Offices as may be warranted. In addition, Client Services and Operations in the Human Resources and Professional Development Directorate noted that there was no common point of contact for portfolios having large numbers of LSUs, and that it would prefer to deal with a business manager at the portfolio level rather than with each individual LSU.
As noted earlier, the “Footprint” Project noted that these functions in the ADM/ADAG business office organizations are under-resourced in comparison to other government departments. In response to the findings of the “Footprint” Project, the Portfolio Offices have developed and implemented plans to increase the size of their business management organizations.
It is our view that as the Portfolio Offices increase the resources in their business offices, they will be better able to provide any required focal points for interactions with the Management Sector.
Portfolio Offices’ interactions with regional offices are satisfactory.
The three Portfolio Offices we examined interact with their counterparts in the regions on substantive legal files through email, teleconferences, periodic face-to-face meetings, and as-required ad hoc discussions. We were told that they do not provide administrative direction, advice, or services to regional offices. Either headquarters functional specialists or regional specialists provide these administrative functions. Each regional office also has its own regional corporate services staff.
Regional offices advised that they were generally satisfied with their overall interactions with the Portfolio Offices. These interactions were described as effective and changes were not requested.
The audit team is of the opinion that the Portfolio Offices’ interactions with the regional offices are satisfactory.
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