Promoting Ethical Practices

Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO)

The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) came into being on March 2, 2009, as a consolidation of the Canada Public Service Agency and those parts of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat that dealt with compensation and human resources issues. Further to the 2008–09 Public Service Renewal Action Plan, the OCHRO’s mandate recognizes, supports, and creates the conditions for deputy heads to take full responsibility for people management in their organizations. The OCHRO is therefore the centre of leadership for the Act and continues to support the President of the Treasury Board in promoting ethical practices and a positive environment for disclosing wrongdoings, as required under section 4 of the Act.

The OCHRO provides advice and guidance on the PSDPA to chief executives and the appointed Senior Officers as they exercise their responsibilities under the Act. The OCHRO also continues work to establish a public sector-wide code of conduct, as required under section 5 of the Act. All public sector organizations have been consulted on this code, and more than 5,000 individual public servants have provided feedback on the possible content of the code. In addition, bargaining agents have been consulted. In 2009–10, the OCHRO will analyze the feedback received and produce a final draft of the code of conduct for consideration by Treasury Board. The code will be accompanied by an implementation strategy, which will be developed in collaboration with key stakeholders in the public sector. The code and its implementation strategy together will aim to strengthen the culture of integrity in the public sector.

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

As an Agent of Parliament, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner has an independent function under the Act and reports directly to Parliament on her Office’s activities, including disclosures and reprisal complaints received. For more details, please see the Commissioner’s 2008–09 report, Inform. Protect. Prevent. Building trust together: A shared responsibility, which was released on April 29, 2009. More information may be found on the Public Sector Integrity Canada website at http://www.psic-ispc.gc.ca.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal

The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal has not yet heard any cases of alleged reprisal, which must be referred to the Tribunal by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. It stands to reason that there may be a lack of awareness concerning the legal protection against reprisals. In particular, many public servants who are fearful of the consequences of making a disclosure may not be aware of the full range of protection available to them, including that the Tribunal, composed of Federal Court judges, was established for the express purpose of protecting public servants who disclose wrongdoing against reprisals. The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal has the power to grant remedies to public servants who experience reprisals and to order disciplinary action against managers who take reprisals against employees who disclose wrongdoing. Although several jurisdictions in Canada and abroad have disclosure regimes in place, none offers as much protection to public servants as Canada’s federal government.

More information about the Tribunal can be found on its website at http://www.psdpt-tpfd.gc.ca.

Organizations subject to the Act

There are 153 active organizations in the federal public sector that are currently subject to the Act.[4] These organizations inform the OCHRO of Senior Officer appointments under the Act. Pursuant to section 10(4) of the Act, 31 organizations have declared that they would not establish internal disclosure procedures or appoint a Senior Officer as the size of the organization made it impractical to do so.

This year as last year, which was the first year under the Act, many organizations have reported that information about the PSDPA is included in employee training materials and on internal websites and is delivered through presentations to managers and employees across the country. In addition to providing PSDPA communications to staff, a growing number of organizations reported that articles about disclosure are included in organizational newsletters and pocket- or wallet-sized cards with PSDPA information and contacts for making disclosures are distributed to employees. Many organizations also reported that some or all of their employees were consulted on the development of the code of conduct for the public sector, through employee focus groups for example, which resulted in the significant feedback to the OCHRO described above.

Progress was made in 2008–09 by the few organizations that have specific legal obligations under the PSDPA. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), as part of its work in response to recommendations made by the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP, has officially recognized a Member’s disclosure to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, without prior internal disclosure, as fulfilling the Member’s obligations under the RCMP Regulations. This change allows RCMP members to choose among the same options for making a disclosure as other public servants. In the context of its renewal and change process, the RCMP is also continuing its extensive work to support PSDPA implementation, which includes national consultation on a PSDPA business process designed to support effective internal disclosure procedures and a trend analysis on recent concerns raised to the Office of the Ethics Advisor.

The Canadian Forces, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and Communications Security Establishment Canada, organizations otherwise excluded from the requirements of the Act because of their unique mandates, have continued their work to establish internal disclosure procedures similar to those contained in the Act. These organizations have been consulting with the OCHRO and expect to present their procedures to Treasury Board in 2009–10.

Adding to the selection of best practices described in last year’s PSDPA report, the following are best practices drawn from the annual reports submitted by public sector organizations to the OCHRO for 2008–09:

  • The Bank of Canada has introduced an annual Disclosures of Wrongdoing Certification for designated senior managers, given in recognition of their awareness of the Bank’s legislated reporting requirements and to certify whether or not they have received any enquiries or disclosures under the PSDPA for the reporting period.
  • The senior officer and the Director, Professional Practices and Corporate Services at the Canada Revenue Agency gave 37 presentations on the PSDPA and the Agency’s internal disclosure procedures to over 2,200 managers and staff across the Agency. In addition, all executives of the CRA had a commitment included in their accountability contracts for 2008‑09 to ensure that employees are aware of the PSDPA.
  • Canadian Heritage increased employee awareness of the PSDPA by providing information and delivering presentations to specific groups in its regional offices, such as new employees, administrative assistants, and managers.
  • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has implemented an outreach strategy for delivering information and awareness sessions on the PSDPA in person and online, available to all employees and managers. In 2008–09, 40 sessions were held. Other PSDPA information sessions were also delivered to employees in regional offices, and more are planned for 2009-10.
  • Passport Canada has created a new section on its intranet site called “Employees’ Corner,” which describes the various recourse mechanisms available for different workplace issues, including disclosures of wrongdoing.
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