IRB Breached Gov’t Hiring Principles: Audit

IRB breached government hiring principles: audit

By Kathryn May
Canwest News Service
October 11, 2009

OTTAWA – The Immigration and Refugee Board tailored job competitions to favour former political appointees who sat on its tribunals, a breach of the hiring principles for a non-partisan public service, according to an audit by the federal staffing watchdog.

The Public Service Commission audit found eight of nine former political appointees received “preferential treatment'' to help them land permanent public service jobs at the board. All had held patronage appointments on tribunals that had expired within a year of being hired.

Public Service Commission president Maria Barrados, whose job is to protect the impartiality of the public service, said a political appointment should not be “an entry route'' into a non-partisan public service.

She said they should apply, compete and demonstrate merit like any other Canadian trying to land a job in the public service.

The audit has been turned over to the commission's investigation branch to determine whether it warrants further probe. The commission has the power to overturn appointments or call new competitions.

The IRB is Canada's largest independent administrative tribunal, making 40, 000 decisions a year on immigration and refugee cases. With a $113-million budget, it employs 925 public servants and 118 political or governor-in-council appointees to run its three divisions. The immigration division is run by public servants, but all decisions at the refugee protection and immigration appeals divisions are made by political appointees.

The commission discovered concerns about “preferential treatment'' during a routine audit. It reviewed a sample of 54 appointments and found 33 didn't meet the requirements of the job or records didn't have a paper trail showing they did. In other cases, the competition for the jobs didn't meet the tests of being open, fair and transparent.

The audit, for example, found the IRB decided to recruit applicants who were former political appointees because they had the in-depth knowledge and experience with the tribunal's operations.

In her April report, Auditor General Sheila Fraser highlighted the problems at the Immigration and Refugee Board, where high vacancy rates and high turnover of board members led to a growing backlog of cases and long delays in decisions on claims.

During the audit period, the IRB was swamped with a workload it couldn't keep up with because the terms of so many political appointees had expired and replacements hadn't been appointed because of a series of changes in government. The audit was conducted on appointments between January 2006 and June 2009.

The government has about 3,000 political or patronage posts to fill on 200 boards, tribunals and commissions. The appointments are completely in the hands of ministers and governor-in-council to decide.

Ottawa Citizen