DEPARTMENTAL LEGAL SERVICES UNIT
Treasury Board Portfolio
The Department of Justice has established dedicated departmental legal services units (DLSUs) for most government departments and agencies. These units provide client organizations with legal advice to facilitate their operations. This audit focused on the management practices of the LSU serving the Treasury Board Portfolio (TBP).
The Treasury Board is a Cabinet committee of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada. The Treasury Board is responsible for accountability and ethics; financial, personnel and administrative management; comptrollership; and approval of regulations and most Orders-in-Council. The President chairs the Treasury Board. He carries out his responsibility for the management of the Government by translating the policies and programs approved by Cabinet into operational reality, and by providing departments with the resources and the administrative environment they need to do their work. The Treasury Board has an administrative arm, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS). Footnote 1
The TBS has a dual mandate: to support the Treasury Board as a committee of ministers and to fulfil the statutory responsibilities of a central government agency. The TBS makes recommendations and provides advice to the Treasury Board on policies, directives, regulations, and program expenditure proposals with respect to the management of the Government’s resources. The TBS is also responsible for the comptrollership function of Government. Under the broad authority of sections 5 to 13 of the Financial Administration Act, the TBS supports the Treasury Board in its role as the general manager and employer of the public service.
The TBS is the primary client of the TBP LSU. Unless otherwise indicated, the TBS is the organization referred to when the term “client” is used in this report. The TBP LSU also provides legal services to the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) Footnote 2 as well as to separate agencies and deputy heads.
Areas of focus for the TBP LSU at the time of the audit included providing legal support in the management of pay equity complaints, the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act, policy suite renewal, and development of a legal risk management strategy for cases not managed by an Assistant Deputy Minister committee. The quality of the legal services the LSU provides to the TBS is of critical importance to the Secretariat’s achievement of its strategic outcome, namely that Government is well managed, accountable, and resources are allocated to achieve results.
The TBP LSU is part of the Central Agencies Portfolio of the Department of Justice. A Senior General Counsel is responsible for the LSU and reports to the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Portfolio. A Special Assistant, also a lawyer, assists the Senior General Counsel. The LSU comprises three teams, each headed by a General Counsel: the Labour and Employment Law (L&EL) Group with approximately 20 counsel; the Government Operations and Public Management (GOPM) Group with 18 counsel; and the Employment Equity Team with three counsel. The 23 DLSU support staff (which include a Manager, Branch Planning Coordinator who manages the office and a Financial Clerk) are TBS employees. Planned expenditures for 2009-10 were $12.2 million. Additional contextual information on the LSU is provided in Appendix A.
Some of the key risk factors that were identified in selecting the DLSU for audit included the impact of the legal work on the programs and activities of the Treasury Board, the appropriateness of linkages with Department of Justice organizations, the ability to respond to client demand for legal services, the increasing complexity of litigation, the level of efficiencies in the organization and in workload management, the adequacy of information for decision making, the accurate reporting of performance information, the provision of consistent legal advice and litigation services, the management of electronic information, and the appropriateness of linkages with the client department.
The overall objective of this audit was to assess the framework within which the LSU delivers services to TBS 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);
- the management of human, financial, and materiel resources;
- the reliability of information systems for decision-making and accountability purposes;
- the extent of compliance of systems, procedures, and practices with key legislation, regulations, and central agency/departmental policies relating to the Financial Administration Act, Official Languages Act, employment equity, and contracting;
- the appropriateness of interfaces with other sectors of the Department of Justice;
- the appropriateness of interfaces with the client department;
- the appropriateness of interfaces, including consultations, information sharing, planning, and forecasting, with the office of the Assistant Deputy Minister;
- the level of client satisfaction with the services provided.
The audit also addressed the following in relation to the TBP LSU’s:
- mix of resources (including use of paralegals);
- workflow processes;
- workload management;
- forecasting demand for legal services;
- risk management;
- staff recruitment and retention, and succession planning;
- adequacy of financial resources received from the Department of Justice and the client department;
- the extent to which the LSU is consulted by its clients on files that could have a legal issue.
The scope of the audit included the operations and activities of the Treasury Board Portfolio LSU, which is located in the National Capital Region. The planning and the on-site examination phases for this audit were carried out between June and November 2009.
Details concerning the audit methodology employed are outlined in Appendix B.
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