Report on the Audit of Timekeeping Compliance – February 2014

2. Findings, Recommendations and Management Responses

2.1 Governance and Strategic Direction

Audit Criterion:
An effective governance framework is established and has identified individuals responsible for monitoring the effective discharge of timekeeping responsibilities. (Audit criterion 1.1)
Key Finding:
Functional authority for the overall timekeeping process and the integrity of timekeeping information had not been clearly assigned.

24. Governance is understood as the combination of management processes and controls to set strategic direction, objectives and priorities. An effective governance framework requires the identification of key supporting roles and responsibilities as well as a single process owner with the functional authority and ability to make changes.

25. Operational roles and responsibilities regarding timekeeping management were described in the NTP and in other documents available on the Department’s intranet site.

26. BPD was functionally responsible for the Department’s legal case management system and related tools to support consistent business practices and reporting. BPD was also responsible for timekeeping, including : developing and maintaining tools that support timekeepers and managers in recording and monitoring level of effort; providing information on level of effort to support reporting to central agencies and the public; providing training and self-guided learning tools to iCase users and departmental managers; and developing and documenting business practice standards. BPD also reported to senior management on timekeeping compliance, including departmental compliance levels for timekeeping information recorded in iCase.

27. According to the NTP: “timekeepers were responsible for recording their time in compliance with the NTP”; and managers were responsible for “monitoring the validity and integrity of information recorded by timekeepers in their unit” and ensuring “that timekeepers in their unit complied with the requirements of the NTP.” It is not within the BPD’s mandate to actively oversee the integrity of timekeeping data.

28. The Management Sector, Strategic Planning and Performance Management was responsible for external reporting. The Management Sector, Finance and Procurement Branch had functional authority for IFMS, the departmental cost recovery processes and financial input to the external reporting process. Those reports and activities constituted some of the principle corporate uses of timekeeping information.

29. BPD, departmental managers and timekeepers were responsible for critical components of the timekeeping processes; however, there was no single stakeholder accountable for the overall process. There was also a gap regarding accountability for Department-wide integrity of iCase timekeeping information, that is data accuracy and reliability. While individual managers could ensure the accuracy of data for their units, they could not be expected to examine comparability across portfolios or regions. As a result, there was a gap in the Department-wide oversight of timekeeping data integrity.

30. Without appropriate corporate governance for timekeeping, the ability to provide strategic direction for timekeeping, such as the departmental long-term and short-term vision, priority setting and corporate planning, was limited. This included ensuring Department-wide integrity of timekeeping information that was used for a variety of key corporate reports and decision-making.

Recommendation and Management Response

1. It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector establish a process owner (corporate group) with functional authority for the oversight of the timekeeping process and integrity of timekeeping data. (High Risk) Footnote 1

Agreed. Accountability for iCase information is a shared responsibility among timekeepers, managers, senior management and the Business Practices Division. The Assistant Deputy Minister Management Sector and Chief Financial Officer will ensure that the Director, Business Practices Division, in collaboration with key stakeholders, develop an accountability framework for the overall timekeeping process and the integrity of timekeeping data. The development of the accountability framework will include reviewing and clarifying business standards, roles and responsibilities, as well as monitoring and reporting requirements taking into consideration changes resulting from future decisions on new case management tools and/or related law practices. The accountability framework will be presented to the Management Committee for approval. The Management Committee is the Department’s senior decision-making forum responsible for legal services delivery, horizontal management, operational and accountability issues affecting the Department. Target completion date: March 30, 2015.

2.2 Monitoring Compliance

Audit Criterion:
Compliance with the National Timekeeping Protocol and related requirements are monitored regularly resulting in effective departmental wide monitoring practices/oversight over timekeeping. (Audit criterion 1.2)
Audit Criterion:
Timekeepers are entering their time in adherence to the National Training Protocol. (Audit criterion 2.3)
Key Finding:
The National Timekeeping Protocol did not include all measurable elements of compliance that departmental managers and timekeepers are expected to adhere to.

The level of compliance of timekeeping practices improved from November 2011 to May 2012 in a judgmental sample of 30 employees.

Defining compliance

31. The NTP included guiding principles related to, among other elements, timeliness and completeness of timekeeping information: “prescribed time spent in the course of a work period must be recorded” and “time should be recorded on a daily basis or as soon as practically possible thereafter.” In 2011, the Deputy Minister and the Associate Deputy Minister communicated to departmental employees the importance of 100% compliance with the NTP to support business operations.

32. There were departmental authorities that provided measurable criteria in support of the NTP principles. The Timekeeping Compliance Tools Training Manual defined timekeeping compliance as “hours worked and entered in iCase that are equal to or greater than the number of normal (or expected) hours in a 4-week cycle.” The default number of hours for timekeepers was one hundred and fifty hours for four weeks, unless a specific work arrangement had been established for part-time or compressed schedules. For the purpose of this audit, this definition was understood as completeness of information.

33. The Cost Recovery Process Improvement Project (CRPI) also implemented a business rule with measurable timelines by which timekeepers must enter their timekeeping information. Between April 2012 and May 2013, timekeepers were expected to review time entered for the previous month between one and seven calendar days after the month end. This definition was understood as timeliness of information.

34. The NTP defined roles and responsibilities for compliance: timekeepers were responsible for recording their time in compliance with the NTP and managers, to ensure that timekeepers comply with the requirements of the NTP. The NTP could be further strengthened by including an explicit definition of compliance as well as all measurable criteria of compliance by which managers and timekeepers are expected to comply.

Recommendation and Management Response

2. It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector include measurable criteria for compliance in the National Timekeeping Protocol. (Medium Risk)

Agreed. Measurable criteria for compliance will form part of the business standards and monitoring and reporting requirements set out in the overall governance framework and will be reflected in an updated National Timekeeping Protocol. Both the governance framework and the revised National Timekeeping Protocol will be presented to the Management Committee for approval. Target completion date: March 30, 2015.

Compliance assessment

35. This audit included an assessment of the timeliness and completeness of timekeeping practices, as defined above, for a judgmental sample of 30 timekeepers for the months of November 2011 and May 2012. Timekeepers at the LA1, LA2 and paralegals were selected from the following organizations:

  • Atlantic Regional Office
  • Quebec Regional Office
  • Citizenship and Immigration Legal Services Unit
  • Health Canada Legal Services Unit
  • Industry Canada Legal Services Unit

36. For both completeness and timeliness of information, results show an improvement in the compliance rates from November 2011 to May 2012.

37. There was an overall 64 percent compliance rate for completeness for November 2011 and a 74 percent compliance rate for completeness for May 2012. All organizational units tested showed a month over month improvement in the number of timekeepers who recorded all of their time.

38. For timeliness, 57 percent of timekeepers had entered all of their time for the month of November 2011 by the 7th calendar day of December 2011, and 67 percent for May 2012 by the 7th calendar day of June 2012. This improvement coincides with the implementation of the CRPI business rule for timeliness. Late timekeeping entries declined significantly from thirteen percent in November 2011 to one percent in May 2012. The percentage of late hours, which had the most notable potential impact on cost recovery, also significantly decreased from thirteen percent in November 2011 to four percent in May 2012.

39. To measure both completeness and timeliness, there were challenges with the information available in iCase. The assessment of completeness was based on timekeeper work arrangements as well as long-term leave. When compared to information from PeopleSoft, the human resources system that determines pay, there were inconsistencies with the work arrangement information in iCase. Also, none of the long-term leave in PeopleSoft was entered in iCase and there is unclear guidance to timekeepers on whether or not they should include certain types of long-term leave in iCase such as leave without pay for care and nurturing, and family-related illness. Out of the thirty timekeepers examined, there was one inconsistency for a part-time work arrangement; six for long term leave; and four for compressed work arrangements. In total, this represents 37 percent of the timekeepers reviewed.

40. In addition, iCase did not capture the date that timekeepers enter their data, nor the date of the manager’s validation for quality control purposes. For the audit test of timeliness, the date that the timekeeping entry was last modified was used. Although there may have been modifications brought to the data after a timekeeper submitted their timeslip (e.g. to the coding or the file structure), it was the only way to measure timeliness.

Monitoring compliance

41. An assessment of timekeeping practices was tabled by BPD to the Executive Committee in October 2012. Monitoring was carried out on both completeness and timeliness and the BPD assessment concluded that there had been an improvement in timekeeping practices. This is consistent with the general findings of this audit.

42. To support the monitoring responsibility of managers for timekeeping information, BPD also implemented a Timekeeping Compliance Tool in 2011 that applied to employees in LA positions, and excluded other timekeepers such as paralegals. This online tool allowed timekeepers to view their own timekeeping progress for completeness. Managers can also consult unit timekeeper compliance information on an individual and aggregate basis. Interviewees reported that non-compliance is addressed by individual timekeepers’ managers, and that close monitoring is done with non-compliant timekeepers, for example email reminders and one-on-one meetings.

43. The Timekeeping Compliance Tool is based on the information in iCase, which may not always have up to date information on timekeepers’ leave or work arrangements. In addition, the Timekeeping Compliance Tool for timekeepers and managers does not measure timeliness. As such, the Department would benefit from a stronger approach to measuring compliance of timekeeping practices.

44. Compliance of the timekeepers reviewed in this audit has improved from November 2011 to May 2012; however, timekeeper compliance for both completeness and timeliness varied between 57 and 74 percent. This indicates a need for an improved corporate approach to monitoring and reporting on timekeeper compliance, in order to optimize business and workload information as it relates to the provision of legal services and cost recovery.

Recommendation and Management Response

3. It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector ensure that the established process owner strengthens the departmental approach to timekeeping compliance assessment and monitors and reports on timekeeping compliance for each Portfolio, Departmental Legal Services Unit and Region. (Medium Risk)

Agreed. The Assistant Deputy Minister Management Sector and Chief Financial Officer will ensure that requirements for monitoring and reporting on compliance by each Portfolio, Sector, Branch, Region and DLSU and at the departmental level form part of a strengthened accountability framework for the overall timekeeping process and the integrity of timekeeping data. Proper consideration will be given to changes resulting from future decisions on new case management tools and/or related law practices. Target completion date: March 30, 2015.

2.3 Results and Performance

Audit Criterion:
Timekeeping information is treated as a corporate resource and is readily accessible departmentally to meet the needs of performance measurement and mandated initiatives such as those related to cost recovery. (Audit criterion 2.4)
Key Finding:
iCase timekeeping data was not being managed as a corporate resource.

45. Reporting of iCase compliance information to Executive Committee and the use of iCase timekeeping data to support cost recovery and budgeting has increased the awareness of the importance of effective timekeeping overall within the Department. Timekeeping data was also used to support key external departmental reporting requirements in compliance with the Treasury Board Policy on Management, Resources and Results Structures.

46. Key elements of the Departmental Performance Measurement Framework relied on timekeeping data from iCase. In 2011-12, nine out of ninety-nine departmental performance indicators were based on timekeeping data. These performance indictors included identifying trends in levels of effort dedicated to various types of files as well as percentage of effort by Portfolio.  In 2012-13, there were no departmental performance indicators based on timekeeping data.

47. The Reports on Plan and Priorities and the Departmental Performance Reports also used timekeeping data. In line with the departmental performance measurement framework discussed above, the Report on Plans and Priorities of 2011-12 included performance indicators on levels of effort with iCase timekeeping data, while the 2012-13 version did not. Both versions of the Departmental Performance Reports reported on trends in legal services provided based on the number of hours.

48. Customized iCase reports were used by management to track progress and costs, and to assess trends across classes of files. For example, the Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, which manages over 10,000 active litigation files, used a customized report with timekeeping data to address client departments and agencies concerns regarding increasing demand for legal services.

49. While timekeeping data is used to support a variety of key departmental reporting as outlined above, ownership of the data did not rest at the corporate level but with each unit inputting the data. Since each unit inputted and monitored the information independently, there was no way of ensuring consistency in the data to support the information needs of the Department.

50. In the current government context of improving services and achieving efficiencies, Justice Canada will need to continue to improve the provision of legal services. This includes meeting client department and agency expectations for more detailed information in forecasting and supporting the billing of legal services. Timekeeping information provides valuable information to support both of these objectives.

51. There is an increasing focus across government to rely on departmental financial and non-financial information to support decision making. By not managing timekeeping data as a corporate resource, the Department may risk using inaccurate or incomplete data for strategic decision making and public reporting.

Recommendation and Management Response

4. It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector ensure that the identified process owner establish, monitor and report on management performance indicators and targets with respect to timekeeping information in line with the Department’s priorities. (Medium Risk)

Agreed. The Department has recognized the importance of enhancing the availability of meaningful workload information to inform senior management decision making. Several initiatives are underway in this regard, such as increasing utilisation of dashboards, provision of information on level of effort, monitoring and reporting on process optimization measures. The Assistant Deputy Minister Management Sector and Chief Financial Officer, in collaboration with key stakeholders, will ensure that performance indicators and targets and a performance monitoring strategy form part of a strengthened accountability framework for the overall timekeeping process and the integrity of timekeeping data. Target completion date: March 30, 2015.

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