Policy Commentary

Letter to the Secretary of the Treasury Board

April 10, 2002

Frank Claydon
Secretary of the Treasury Board
Treasury Board of Canada L’Esplanade Laurier
300 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Mr. Claydon:

I look forward to meeting with you on April 19, 2002, to discuss a number of human resource issues, which seriously undermine the employer’s ability to maintain current standards and the level of professionalism of the financial community of the Public Service.

Continued failure to address these issues will only serve to erode public confidence in the government’s ability to truly deliver on the promise of FIS, modern comptrollership and the changing role of financial professionals as envisaged in The Report of the Independent Review Panel on Modernization of Comptrollership in the Government of Canada. This report clearly states, “financial specialists will need different skills – and even higher professionalism and integrity – to balance their support for managers with their concern for the integrity of the system in an environment with significantly more room for judgement.”

While the Association and its 2800 members fully support the objectives of modern comptrollership and the need for increased professionalism, we remain frustrated at what we perceive to be a lack of national community leadership from the Office of the Comptroller General in providing guidance and strategic direction to finding solutions on a community-wide basis.

Our Association prides itself on its innovative and creative solutions to issues affecting our membership, such as our recent proposal to introduce a new public service accounting accreditation through the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) which I hope to discuss with you at our upcoming meeting. It is obviously our desire to see a greater priority given to this initiative than has been given to date. That being said, there remains a number of significant irritants which must be discussed and addressed such as our group definition, which is void of any reference to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), knowledge of which is fundamental to financial professionals. I would also like to discuss initiatives being undertaken by the office of Community Development, which, in our view, is under-resourced, under-funded and highly unrepresentative of the financial community in terms of FI composition and involvement.

Another issue that remains outstanding is the ongoing mis-classification of financial management (FI) positions across the public service. While a letter was distributed to all departments in September 2000 from the Office of the Deputy Comptroller General (OCG) asking them to ensure proper classification of finance positions, it is clear that many departments have either acted quite slowly or completely ignored this direction. This has left the Association no option but to review positions and work descriptions on an individual basis and to resort to applications before the Public Service Staff Relations Board (PSSRB). Considering that the letter to departments from the OCG stated that this problem of mis-classification is systemic and must be corrected in a thorough and prompt manner, we are at a loss to understand why, to our best knowledge, little or no follow-up has been done by either the OCG or the Public Service Commission (PSC) to ensure compliance.

In situations where departments have conducted a review and determined that an AS position has been mis-classified, there is still no clear direction from your office or the PSC as how to deal with the incumbent. In these situations, the Association’s position is clear, i.e. financial positions that have been mis-classified must be converted to the FI group immediately. With respect to the incumbents of said positions, who do not meet the minimum selection standard for the FI group and level, the Association fully supports grandfathering protection of the incumbents for the length of time they remain in the converted F1 position in our bargaining unit.

Many of the mis-classifications which have occurred are intentional and designed to circumvent the strict selection standard established for the FI group, i.e. job descriptions have been written to describe the qualifications of the person, not the requirements of the position. After having demonstrated that a mis-classification has occurred, there is no solution or remedy provided in telling the Association that the incumbent does not meet the standard for appointment to the FI group. Therefore, financial duties will continue to be performed by individuals who are, by your own definition, unqualified.

This is unacceptable and clearly contradicts the direction provided to HRDC in the Report of the Standing Committee of Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities when it dealt with the recent grants and contributions issue which attracted wide public interest. In its report, the Committee recommended that HRDC should “allocate more resources to hiring and training financial administrators with appropriate educational and professional qualifications.” The Office of the Comptroller General must demonstrate leadership to ensure that financial positions are properly classified and that selection standards are enforced forthwith.

These issues, as well as others, such as the ever increasing use by hiring managers of the PSC 310 test as an equivalency to a university degree, serve to dilute the professionalism of the group and, over time, will negatively impact on the professional capacity of our group to bolster confidence in the proper management of public funds.

While I recognize that, as the process is ongoing, collective bargaining will not be a subject for discussion at our meeting, I would be remiss if, on behalf of the members that I represent, I did not express my frustration to date with the employer’s inability to recognize and compensate our members for their professional contributions. Our members are fully cognizant of gains achieved by other groups, whether through pay equity, harmonization or allowances, which have adversely affected their relativity with these professional peers, such as AU, ES, CS, et al. This inequity in relativity would be worse still if the members of the Association had not accepted a 3.45% increase in salary for adopting a 37.5 hour work week, which effectively reduced the employer’s overtime liability by 15 minutes per member, per day.

The reality of the work place is that financial professionals at the entry level can currently expect to make less than a clerk (CR), and, throughout all levels, less than an auditor (AU), whose qualifications for appointment are identical to the FI group. It is becoming apparent that given the current salary structure of the FI group, managers are increasingly re-classifying financial positions to the AS, PM, AU or other groups in an effort to attract and retain financial expertise. Unless the wage gap between other professional groups and ourselves is closed, and traditional relativities are restored, this abuse of the classification system will continue. The inability to properly compensate financial professionals will only serve to increase the interdepartmental raiding of finance specialists, and hasten their flight to the private sector and separate employers.

As your own submission to the Quail Task Force clearly indicated, “There is an insufficient pool of experienced individuals within the public service to qualify for competitions; departments are competing for the same people and individuals are at times being promoted without the necessary experience.”

In closing, given the serious challenges facing this community, I would hope that, despite your role as the Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, you would increase your vocal and visible support for these financial professionals in the public service who view you as the ultimate champion of our community.

Your recognition of, support for and commitment to addressing these fundamental human resource issues affecting recruitment and retention is essential to ensuring the professionalism of the FI group which ultimately will be pivotal to the success of modern comptrollership.

Once again, I look forward to our meeting of April 19th.

Merdon Hosking

President

c.c.
James Lahey, TBS
Gray Gillespie, TBS

2002-04-23T00:00:00

 

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