As a civil servant, I was incredibly disappointed with the recent Phoenix audit, although maybe I just expected too much of it. Things that should have been clearly there, I would have thought, were in fact absent. Wording that I expected to be extremely harsh was toned down. Recommendations that would seem to be obvious ways forward were missing in action.
A friend asked me earlier this week where my indignant anger was at the fiasco and I think part of my passivity was because I knew the audit was coming. And I expected it to be a bombshell…a true blockbuster for its impact. Based on the actual wording, it seems more like they were going for a children’s firecracker that fizzled.
I expect three things from an audit:
A clear articulation of the project’s goal and what they were trying to do;
A clear indication of assessment/analysis of performance based on evaluation against an objective standard; and,
Clear indications of recommendations for a way forward and response by the organization how they’re going to address the recommendations.
I wrote earlier on Phoenix and attempted to deconstruct the mess that it has become, although perhaps it is more apt to say the mess it was from the beginning and remains so even now. My focus was on the process, and some people asked me about an apparent lack of sensitivity or where my anger was for the disaster on the victims’ behalf. I’ll defer my anger to my next post, as it goes in a slightly different direction than most.
But let’s address a couple of those sympathy concerns.
First, am I cold, heartless, unsympathetic? Not really, but I am capable of writing about it in a dispassionate tone. Partly because it’s public administration and anything less dissolves into rhetoric. And partly as I view public issues like this almost like a battlefield of wounded. And you have to triage the victims somehow, see who you need to stabilize quickly while prioritizing the serious cases to the head of the line. » Read the rest
It would seem, almost without saying, that if you work for an organization, you should get paid promptly and properly. In international organizations, there is a refrain that is heard for paying of dues — in full, on time, and without reservation. The only time that people should be having problems getting paid is if there is a glitch in paperwork or computers, or maybe when they’re first starting (longer lead time), or perhaps if the company is having cash-flow problems. None of them are acceptable, but the reasons make sense.
On the surface, an organization like the federal government with more than 250K workers should expect at any one time, perhaps an issue rate of 1-3%. Particularly when the people have been working for the organization for a while, most are on salary rather than shifts and hourly totals that change (i.e. requiring the submission of detailed timesheets), and nothing has changed. » Read the rest
I like reading the Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) blog even though most of it is about education administration. Their recent post is about “Carleton’s Loyalty Oath” and basically outlines how Carleton University’s Board of Governors is struggling to address the behaviour of one professor on its board. To the blog’s eye, they’re behaving like “goons” and thugs. The issue surrounds Root Gorelick as the university faculty’s representative to the Board of Governors (BoG). He represents the faculty and feels he should blog to the community about the discussions, his positions, and even his objections to Board decisions.
Yet part of being part of ANY board (co-op, school council, parliament, NGO, business, etc.) is joint responsibility. You individually contribute to joint discussions, you exercise your personal voting powers, but you make collective decisions. And once a group makes a decision, the members of that group collectively made that decision. » Read the rest
I’d really like to call this post something else, but it’s time I stopped holding back on what some people think is their God-given right to complain about how they think the public servant’s job should be done, and that all public servants will “obviously” agree. What triggered my lack of inhibition? Johanna Read’s incredibly biased and non-factual article in today’s Ottawa Citizen (Read: Trudeau is ready but the public service isn’t).
Let’s break her argument down, because there are very few points I can agree with as a career civil servant.
Public service has been cut too far;
Public service is gagged and under-utilized i.e. “scientists”;
Public service is demoralized by previous government;
Accountability measures created by civil servants pushed decision-making upward;
Core business is fearless policy advice;
Challenges in loyally implementing decisions;
Public service values in treating each other are lower;
No market for advice under previous Prime Minister;
Public service policy is now about power games, cliques, and close-mindedness due to empire-building;
Therefore public service is not ready as capacity has been weakened and need management agenda for culture change, including new values, new attitudes, new behaviours.