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ARCHIVED - The Financial Administration Act: Responding to Non-compliance - Meeting the Expectations of Canadians

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Executive Summary

Managers in the federal Public Service serve in an institution created and governed by a complex array of statutes, regulations, policies, and directives. They operate in an environment of increasingly intense scrutiny and accelerated changes driven by technology, program reviews, and public and political expectations for service improvements. These factors, combined with the growing institutional complexity and risks and concerns expressed by the Auditor General of Canada, led to this review of mechanisms that operate in response to compliance with the Financial Administration Act (FAA) and the recovery of lost public funds.

The review's terms of reference were framed by the purpose and intent of the FAA, which finds its origins in the earlier days of the confederation. The FAA sets out the core legal framework within which public sector managers must manage.

This review has provided the government with a thorough and comprehensive look at the complex issues surrounding compliance and sanctions under the FAA and related policies. While public attention has focussed on recent instances of mismanagement, it is clear that the vast majority of those charged with public sector management responsibilities carry out their duties with integrity and honesty. Comparative research also confirms that Canada is on par with other jurisdictions in the areas of criminal sanctions, debt recovery, investigations, and discipline.

Furthermore, the review has provided a better understanding of opportunities to improve the integrated policies, and statutes that comprise the compliance framework for the FAA and set the context for managing in the Public Service.

A number of broad and important conclusions and understandings need to be emphasized:

  • The principles behind the legislative and administrative frameworks are sound. The difficulty arises from the accumulation of rules and policies, etc. This complexity contributes to confusion and errors.
  • "Mismanagement" includes a wide variety of behaviours ranging from a mistake or error up to and including criminal activity such as theft or fraud. Regardless of where mismanagement falls on the spectrum, appropriate tools and responses are generally available.
  • Education and training at all levels of the Public Service are of paramount importance both to addressing mismanagement and to helping public service employees do their jobs properly.
  • Consistency is crucial in addressing mismanagement. Sanctions must always be applied with the primary goal of restoring compliance.

Managers must be held accountable for mismanagement that falls within their area of responsibility. Accountability must start from the top. Good examples must be set to encourage confidence and to reinforce the trust that underlies the relationship between the Government of Canada as employer and its employees.

Most importantly, any response, be it carrying out an investigation or taking remedial action, must be conducted rapidly and transparently. The results must be communicated effectively in order to enhance confidence in the government's compliance framework.

Recommendations from this review have been incorporated into the paper Management in the Government of Canada: A Commitment to Continuous Improvement.