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Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Management Response to the Management Accountability Framework (MAF) Five-Year Evaluation

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Table of Contents

1.0 Overview

The Management Accountability Framework (MAF) is aligned with, and supports, efforts to make government more effective by enabling and supporting a principles-based, risk-sensitive, and results-focussed management regime. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) recognizes that a traditional command-and-control regime, characterized by risk aversion, one-size-fits-all rules, an emphasis on process, and a heavy reporting burden, can lead to inefficiency and constrain creativity and the potential for innovation.

Improving results for Canadians requires increased scope and flexibility for departments and agencies to demonstrate performance in ways that are more responsive to emerging challenges and opportunities. The efforts to make government more effective also strengthen accountability and sound stewardship by clarifying the expectations and responsibilities of TBS and deputy heads for the management of risk and for compliance. MAF provides a comprehensive understanding of government-wide and departmental management performance, capacity, and risks.

The role of TBS is to help ensure departments are well managed and accountable and that resources are allocated to achieve results. MAF was developed to clarify expectations regarding the management responsibilities of deputy heads and to help TBS understand the overall management capacity and performance of organizations.

Specifically, the purpose of MAF is the following:

  • To clarify management expectations for deputy heads to support them in managing their organizations;
  • To develop a comprehensive and integrated TBS perspective on management issues and challenges to guide its engagement with organizations; and
  • To identify enterprise-wide trends and systemic issues in management, which serves to set priorities and focus efforts to address them.

As noted in the MAF Five-year Evaluation (the Evaluation), MAF is increasingly being used to inform decision making on the part of deputy heads and to inform performance discussions between the Clerk of the Privy Council and departmental senior management.

MAF is also used by TBS to manage its relations and transactions with departments. For example, MAF informs TBS's review of Treasury Board submissions seeking approval for new initiatives and spending authorities and TBS's monitoring of compliance with Treasury Board policies (e.g., contracting, real property). TBS will examine the ways in which a more systemic use of MAF results can support TBS oversight activities (e.g., Treasury Board submissions, strategic reviews). In keeping with efforts to make government more effective, it is also anticipated that MAF could be used to determine whether or how to increase deputy head flexibilities and authorities. The development of guiding principles for MAF assessment and methodologies, in particular for ensuring transparency and clarity of how MAF is used by central agencies, will support this work.

TBS is pleased with the Evaluation's conclusion that MAF is achieving its objectives and continues to be successful and relevant. Furthermore, the Evaluation found that MAF has a solid foundation and provides a comprehensive view of the state of management performance and capacity government-wide and within departments and agencies. MAF has gained an international profile and is considered to be one of the most sophisticated management practices systems according the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Evaluation recognizes that MAF has evolved over the past six rounds from a tool to facilitate dialogue between deputy heads and TBS to a more structured and rigorous assessment mechanism that informs both deputy heads and TBS's understanding of departmental management practices and decision making.

Since MAF's inception in 2003, TBS has made a number of improvements to ensure its continued relevance and efficiency, which include:

  • Significantly reducing the reporting burden on departments and agencies—specifically, reducing the number of Areas of Management (AoM) assessed from 41 to 21, which resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in the number of documents submitted as evidence;
  • Further streamlining MAF processes, which involved a shift from two draft releases of assessments to a single draft release and the introduction of a unique assessment approach for micro-agencies;
  • Introducing the MAF Portal, which has become an essential tool for both TBS and departments and agencies to execute the MAF process and has facilitated the departmental submission of documents to TBS for use as evidence to support MAF assessments and ratings;
  • Increasing outreach and engagement with departments and agencies (e.g., Leading Practices events to share best practices) to strengthen management practices across government and facilitate TBS's understanding of departmental management performance; and
  • Improving MAF on an ongoing basis through internal and external post-mortem exercises.

TBS accepts the Evaluation Report's recommendations to support the continued evolution of MAF as a performance enabler and TBS assessment tool. The recommendations will help advance the government's management agenda and the move to a risk-based approach. The overall objective is to develop MAF as a more strategic tool to better inform TBS oversight and deputy head decision making, to reduce the reporting burden and inefficiencies, and to identify systemic or government-wide management trends and risks. In moving forward, it will be important to maintain a balance between progress and the need for stability.

Consultations with TBS stakeholders, functional communities across government, and the Deputy Minister Steering Committee will be held in June and July to implement the Evaluation Report's recommendations in MAF Round VII, which begins in September 2009.

2.0 Evaluation's Recommendations and TBS' Management Response

Recommendation 1: Risk-Based Approach

Implement a risk-based and priority-based approach to the MAF assessment process.

To ensure that MAF is addressing the most relevant indicators for a particular organization and provides senior executives with sufficient incentive, TBS should consider implementing a risk-based and priority-based approach for MAF assessments. Options include the following:

  • Assessment based on risk and priorities unique to each organization;
  • Clustering of MAF indicators into such categories as mandatory, optional, and cyclical and conducting the assessment accordingly;
  • Assessment based on the results of previous rounds; and
  • Assessment based on the size of the department or agency.

TBS Management Response: Agree

TBS will implement a risk-based approach for MAF assessment with a view to preserving the benefits of MAF while reducing the reporting burden.

Risk-Based Approach for Large Departments and Agencies

A key objective of the government's management agenda is moving to a risk-based approach. TBS will implement a risk-based approach to the MAF process that takes into account the AoMs that should be considered mandatory, alignment with federal priorities, the size of the department or agency, and its risks and previous assessments. Consideration will also be given to the need to balance implementation with the need to ensure stable indicators for assessing year-over-year progress. Accordingly, an incremental approach will be taken.

The risk-based approach outlined below, which incorporates feedback from departments and agencies, will focus efforts on key management areas that are relevant to each organization's mandate and business and will help reduce the reporting burden. In applying the risk-based MAF approach for assessing organizations, TBS will also consider other organizational contexts—for example, the appointment of a new deputy head, whereby a full assessment (i.e., all AoMs) might be considered in the following MAF round.

Beginning in MAF Round VII, Large Departments and Agencies will be assessed using four AoM categories: Core, Department-Specific, Remedial, and Rotational. How these four AoM categories figure in the risk-based approach is as follows.

Core AoMs (Annual Assessment)

These AoMs are critical to the government's management regime and have implications across all areas of business. The Core AoMs capture the mandatory management functions on which each organization must be assessed annually.

Area of Management Rationale
Values-Based Leadership
AoM 1)
Values and ethics are at the core of the Government of Canada's management regime. All areas of management are infused with a fundamental set of values and ethics that defines the culture of the public service.
Corporate Risk Management
(AoM 9)
Risk management is included as a Core AoM because it is fundamental to the management regime. Departments and agencies need to be able to demonstrate that they have robust integrated risk management frameworks in place to inform decision making in their organization. Proven risk management performance enables TBS oversight to focus on areas of higher risk and complexity.
People Management
(AoMs 10, 11, 21)
The Government of Canada is a knowledge business and the public service is key to improving its ability to deliver better results for Canadians. How the public service manages its people is a key element of the Public Service Renewal initiative as well as a key responsibility of deputy heads.
Financial Management and Control
(AoM 17)
Financial Management, Evaluation, and Internal Audit enable members of senior management to exercise oversight within their department or agency. Without proper systems of internal control, information on the effectiveness of these systems, and information on the effectiveness of programs, senior management would not be in a position to detect and correct issues within the organization, thus creating a need for more central oversight.
Quality and Use of Evaluation
(AoM 6)
Internal Audit
(AoM 18)

Department-Specific AoMs

The selection of these AoMs will be informed by discussion between TBS Program Assistant Secretaries and senior departmental officials and will be determined based on their relevance to the organization's mandate and activities. When determining which Department-Specific AoMs will be assessed, some factors to consider are the following:

  • Significant changes in legislation and policies that affect the organization's governance structure;
  • Significant adjustments to reference levels or funding in specific program areas;
  • The level of maturity of the AoM in the specific organization and government-wide;
  • Modifications to the program activity architecture that are linked to the performance of the AoM;
  • Underlying information management and information technology infrastructure;
  • Changes in senior management personnel or appointment of a new deputy minister; and
  • Shifts in stakeholder priorities and key issues.

Remedial AoMs

This category of AoMs will capture areas deemed risky or weak (Attention Required and Opportunity for Improvement ratings) and priorities identified by TBS in the previous MAF round.

Rotational AoMs

A three-year cycle for assessing the remaining AoMs, those not captured in the Core, Department-Specific, or Remedial categories, will be established to ensure that all departments and agencies are assessed on all AoMs.

Treatment of Small Agencies

The current three-year cycle for assessing small agencies will be maintained. In keeping with the risk-based approach, areas of management that are not materially relevant to the organization's mandate and business will not be assessed. Should an agency have poor MAF assessment results, it may be assessed more frequently. This determination will be informed by discussion between TBS Program Assistant Secretaries and senior departmental officials.

Treatment of Micro-Agencies

No changes to the current process for micro-agencies are proposed. To further reduce the reporting burden on small agencies, the definition of micro-agencies has been modified from organizations with 50 or less full-time employees and an annual budget of less than $10 million to organizations with fewer than 150 full-time employees and an annual budget of less than $40 million.

Recommendation 2: Guiding Principles

Develop guiding principles for assessing management performance and incorporate them into the existing MAF assessment methodologies.

  • Guiding principles could include the following:
  • Maintain an appropriate balance of quantitative and qualitative indicators;
  • Develop outcome-based indicators to measure management performance;
  • Maintain stability of indicators;
  • Ensure clarity and transparency of indicators and provide straightforward guidance;
  • Leverage information available through existing oversight activities;
  • Engage functional communities on AoM methodology and measures;
  • Include assessments of both policy compliance and results-based management performance; and
  • Seek ways to recognize innovative practices and provide incentives for innovation across departments and agencies.

TBS Management Response: Agree

To ensure transparency and consistency, TBS will develop guiding principles and apply them to MAF methodologies for Round VII (2009–10) and Round VIII (2010–11). TBS will also explore opportunities to recognize and integrate innovative management practices within MAF and continue efforts to reduce the reporting burden.

Response 2.1: Guiding principles

Given the importance of maintaining the stability of the MAF assessment process over time to ensure predictability and continuity as well as for analysis of year-over-year progress, TBS will undertake a phased approach to the development and implementation of the guiding principles.

  • For MAF Round VII (September 2009), TBS AoM Leads will incorporate the principles proposed in the Evaluation Report into the assessment methodology (as appropriate), while keeping sight of the need to maintain overall stability of the indicators.
  • Over the coming year, the TBS MAF Directorate and AoM Leads will undertake a review of AoM methodologies before fully implementing the guiding principles in MAF Round VIII (September 2010).
  • In addition to developing clear criteria and guidance for applying each of the guiding principles, this review will include an analysis of methodologies and rating criteria to identify gaps, overlap, and inconsistencies.
  • TBS will review AoM rating criteria with a view to including innovation as a key criteria for receiving a "Strong" rating.
  • Consultation with functional communities will be important to ensure that any changes to AoM methodologies and measures are clear and transparent.

Response 2.2: Recognize and reward innovative management practices

Recognizing the need to stimulate innovation in the public service, TBS will encourage and reward innovation both within specific AoMs and in organizations generally, as follows:

  • Launch an award for management excellence that will build on existing public service awards and for which organizations would be invited to highlight their innovative management practices on a voluntary basis. Through such recognition, MAF could evolve into a tool that fosters a culture of innovation across the federal public service.
  • Encourage more systemic and regular sharing of best practices and post them on the MAF website.

Response 2.3: Continue efforts to reduce the reporting burden

TBS will continue efforts to reduce the reporting burden by streamlining the human resources AoMs, numbers 10, 11, and 21, into a single People Management AoM (zero reporting burden). In consultation with functional communities, TBS will seek opportunities to further reduce the number and size of documents submitted for other AoMs, with an estimated 20 per cent reduction for MAF Round VII (over and above the 50 per cent reduction achieved in Round VI).

Recommendation 3: Governance

Introduce or leverage an existing governance body with senior representatives to assist MAF.

TBS Management Response: Agree

TBS will increase dialogue and build shared MAF accountability through senior official engagement and collective discussion on government and horizontal issues.

Specifically, TBS will:

  • Engage the Public Service Management Advisory Committee twice annually for direction on the system-wide results from past MAF rounds, including government-wide management priorities and areas of weakness (Spring), and for direction on plans and methodologies for upcoming MAF rounds (Fall); and
  • Ensure outreach and engagement of all organizations through presentations to departmental senior officials.

Recommendation 4: Communications and Engagement

Develop a stakeholder engagement and communications strategy and plan, including early engagement when changes are made to the MAF assessment process.

TBS Management Response: Agree

TBS will formalize and expand existing stakeholder engagement strategies and internal and external communications plans to increase awareness and understanding of the MAF process (Round VII).

Specifically, TBS will:

  • Ensure ongoing, meaningful discussion between TBS Program Assistant Secretaries and senior departmental officials, including setting priorities and developing plans to address areas of weakness within departments and agencies;
  • Build upon existing outreach activities, including MAF post-mortems, Launch sessions, and Leading Management Practices sessions;
  • Engage functional communities in the application of the guiding principles to MAF methodologies, and ensure early communication on any changes to the assessment process;
  • Improve the MAF Portal's capacity as a key communication tool between TBS and departments and agencies, including the posting of additional resources and improvements to its functionality and security;
  • Explore opportunities to inform parliamentarians and Canadians more widely of existing management practices across government; and
  • Work with partners to showcase and explore best practices in management excellence.

Recommendation 5: Horizontal Management

Assign formal responsibilities within TBS to oversee the MAF assessment process and methodology and the management of horizontal issues and action plans.

TBS Management Response: Agree

TBS will strengthen horizontal issues management capacity while respecting and fostering the relationship between TBS policy sectors and functional communities.

Specifically, TBS will increase capacity within the MAF Directorate to meet the following goals:

  • Working with AoM Leads to apply the guiding principles to MAF methodologies and rating criteria in a consistent manner;
  • Identifying and assessing system-wide issues (through trends analysis, for example) over the course of the MAF rounds and examining the impact of the changes to the MAF process in response to the Evaluation's recommendations; and
  • Encouraging more systemic and transparent use of MAF results to support TBS oversight activities (e.g., departmental authorities, Treasury Board submissions, strategic reviews).
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