Human Resource auditors say accuracy compromised

Staff at the Legal Department did not participate in
interviews conducted as part of a Human Resources audit, which was undertaken
across all government departments in 2010. All other departments participated
in the interviews.

The decision led to what auditors have described as
“compromised accuracy in the report,” said Human Resources Audit Manager Andy
Bonner.

According to the report, “…… the chief officer
(Solicitor General Cheryll Richards) expressed concern that there was no
legislative basis for a number of the questions which are normally used to help
guide interviews with staff members. She stated the view that the interview
aspect of the audit should not proceed unless these questions were revised. A
decision was taken not to revise the standard set of questions and the audit
continued without any staff interviews taking place.”

In an interview with the Caymanian Compass on 1 February,
Mrs. Richards explained that had the questions been revised, she would have had
no problem allowing the staff to participate.

“We did not refuse to allow the staff to participate. We
sought rather to engage the Portfolio of the Civil Service as to not only the
content but also the statutory basis and underpinning of some of the
questions.” She added that the Legal Department’s concerns surrounded the
anonymous nature of the responses, the terminology used in some of the
questions, which were perceived as “not forensic and did not appear to be
quantifiable.”

“There were questions such as: What is the atmosphere in
your office? That is very vague, as opposed to what are the working conditions
in your office? Do you have adequate supplies? Are you able to find the
garbage? We found the questions to be too open to subjectivity,” said Mrs.
Richards, who added that staff would also be asked about any grievances they
might have.

“In Law all acts of public officials must be lawful,
rational, proportionate and procedurally fair. Fairness requires that persons
with issues and grievances identify themselves and take responsibility for
their complaint…..That is the only way in which this exercise can be said to
be productive and useful,” said Mrs. Richards.

The audit remit of the Portfolio of Civil Service under
section 24 of the Public Service Management Law is to establish the extent of
compliance with the provisions of the Law and personnel regulations.

“We
certainly want to participate fully in the HR Audit and we believe that if the
questionnaire is a diagnostic rather than prescriptive tool, then the rationale
and terminology would need to be sound,” read a statement released by the Legal
Department.

The
statement said a formal letter was sent to the Portfolio of the Civil Service,
inviting them to revise the list of questions but no response was ever received
and the audit went ahead without the use of the questionnaire. “We were not
aware that any decision had been taken in that regard until after the audit had
been completed. Therefore, the decision not to proceed with the questionnaire
was not a decision we took.”

“I
would like to know what practical gains were made for government departments as
a result of such an exercise in the end,” said Mrs. Richards. The Portfolio of
the Civil Service audit of the Legal Department was carried out by Human
Resources Auditor Karen Christian, who declined to discuss the matter and
directed all queries to Mr. Bonner, who said the broader audit exercise was
quite worthwhile and led to several departments across government instituting
adjustments to line up with the Public Service Management Law.  “We are almost universally happy with the
results,” said Mr. Bonner.

Results
of the HR Audit of the Legal Department, excluding staff interviews, show that
areas of strong compliance included personnel delegations, selection and
appointment, employment arrangements, staff remuneration and performance
management, work place conditions and safety, as well as personnel records.

There
were no areas found to be in minor compliance. Major noncompliance was observed
in vacancy advertising, job descriptions, leave and absent management and
training development and succession planning.

The
Human Resources Audit of the Legal Department is available upon request.

 

 

 

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