Report on the Audit of Timekeeping Practices

1. Executive Summary

Introduction

The Department of Justice Canada (the Department) provides legal services to federal government departments and agencies across Canada. Up to 2014, there had been steady growth in the demand, and corresponding cost, for these legal services across the Government of Canada (the Government). This led the Department to undertake a Legal Services Review (LSR) in 2014. The goal of the LSR was for the Department to spearhead government-wide efforts to manage the demand and supply for legal services, thereby containing legal services costs and ensuring that legal services are fiscally sustainable in the long term.

Through the LSR, the Department launched a series of measures designed to improve productivity, cost effectiveness and business excellence of its operations. One of these measures to support the Department’s ongoing commitment to managing business performance was an initiative to identify opportunities to meet increased demand for legal services, without expanding the Department’s workforce. One action undertaken was to amend the number of hours that legal counsel and paralegals devote to client files each year. The new standard was set at 1400 hours of time worked on legal files, an increase of 90 hours from the previous level of 1310 hours.

With the implementation of the new 1400 hour standard, the Department’s management recognized that improvements to timekeeping practices would be required. To address this need, the National Timekeeping Protocol (NTP) was updated to include more precise definitions in the Timekeeping Information Architecture with respect to time spent on client files and on internal activities of the Department.

Managers are responsible for monitoring the timekeeping of their employees to ensure that it conforms to the requirements of the NTP. Business Practice Division (BPD) of Management Sector is the designated process owner for timekeeping and holds responsibility for department-level monitoring and reporting on timekeeping practices, including conformance to the NTP.

This audit is intended to provide an early progress report on the implementation of the amended NTP.

Strengths

With the development of an NTP Information Architecture, the Department has an effective timekeeping framework in place supported by tools, resources, guidance and training. The Department’s expectations for timekeeping, including the 1400 hour standard, are understood by employees. Monitoring of departmental timekeeping practices is being performed by Management Sector and periodic reporting is being provided to the Department’s management, including through the Justice Canada Management Dashboard.

Areas for Improvement

The audit identified some opportunities to enhance timekeeping practices. Managers and employees would benefit from greater precision being added to the Timekeeping Information Architecture to improve time captured in timesheets. Managers require guidance and reminders on their responsibility for reviewing the accuracy and completeness of the time entries of their employees and ensuring timesheets are completed in a timely manner. Finally, refinements to the Department-level monitoring framework to expand upon and improve performance metrics would provide more relevant information to Management.

The new Legal Case Management Solution Project, targeted for implementation in Quarter 2, 2017-18, provides the Department with an opportunity to further automate the timekeeping process by embedding system controls to improve the timeliness of recording time, and the monitoring and approval of timesheets by managers.

Audit Opinion and Conclusion

In my opinion, the Department’s governance framework, objectives, direction, tools, training, monitoring and reporting are generally adequate and effective to support its timekeeping needs, with some opportunities for improvement. Management has demonstrated a strong commitment and proactive approach to making improvements as issues arise.

Management Response

Management has responded to the recommendations per the Management Action Plan which is integrated into this report.

Implementation of the Management Action Plan is a shared responsibility across the Department. Managers are responsible for monitoring the timekeeping of their employees to ensure that it conforms to the requirements of the NTP as well as ensuring attendance on timekeeping training for their employees.

2. Statement of Conformance

In my professional judgment as Chief Audit Executive, the audit conforms to the Internal Auditing Standards for the Government of Canada, as supported by the results of the Quality Assurance and Improvement Program.

Submitted by:

Original signed by Inanc Yazar
December 17, 2015

Inanc Yazar, CPA CGA, CIA, CRMA
Chief Audit Executive
Department of Justice Canada

3. Acknowledgement

The Chief Audit Executive would like to thank the audit team and those individuals who contributed to this engagement and particularly, employees of the Business Practices Division (BPD) who provided insights and comments as part of this audit.

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