I welcome our witnesses and our guests.
Today, colleagues, we will be discussing supplementary estimates (B) and the departmental performance reports. We have a number of witnesses who will be giving testimony on both.
I think all of our guests know how committees operate. Certainly, this committee is no different. We'll hear your testimony. I understand we will have three presentations of approximately 10 minutes each. We'll then go into questions from all of our committee members.
I want to welcome as well a new committee member, Madame Sansoucy.
Mr. Chair, and honourable members, I want to thank you for inviting the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to appear today. I bring with me two colleagues who offer a wealth of experience. Mr. Jean Laporte is our chief operating officer. He has been with us since our inception in 1990. He possesses a deep understanding of our mandate and the processes we follow.
Luc Casault is our director general of corporate services. He is well placed to provide greater context and information about the financial and corporate details of our work.
For those members of the committee who may be unfamiliar with the Transportation Safety Board, I'd like to start with a very brief overview of who we are and what we do.
Our agency was created in 1990 by the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act. Our mandate and our sole purpose is to advance transportation safety in the air, marine, rail, and pipeline modes of transportation. We do that by conducting independent investigations, identifying safety deficiencies, causes, and contributing factors, making recommendations, and reporting publicly on our investigations and their findings.
We do not attribute blame or civil or criminal liability.
Put simply, when something goes wrong, we investigate not only what happened but why it happened. Then we make public what we've learned so that those best placed to take action—meaning the regulators in the industry—can do so.
The main reason for our presence before this committee today is straightforward. We're asking for additional funds to cover a shortfall in our salary budget for the current fiscal year. Following the implementation of recent collective agreements for public servants, the TSB has had to absorb much of the costs for both current salary increases and retroactive salary payments. While we were diligent in setting aside funds over the last two years to cover those costs, the final agreed-upon salary increases were nonetheless higher than anticipated. The amount we are requesting is $1.8 million. Broken down, that's approximately $1.5 million for salaries and $300,000 for statutory contributions to employee benefit plans.
Second, our departmental results report was recently tabled, and we'd be pleased to take this opportunity to discuss our results with the committee. Last year was a particularly busy one for the Transportation Safety Board. For instance, we published 44 investigation reports and issued a total of 20 recommendations in the marine, rail, and aviation sectors.
We hosted an inaugural transportation safety summit that brought together senior Canadian transportation executives from government and the transportation industry, along with some of their labour organizations.
We completed an in-depth safety study on expanding the use of locomotive voice and video recorders in Canada.
On top of that, we launched a new edition of our safety watchlist, which identifies the key safety issues that need to be addressed to make Canada's transportation system even safer.
Senior management, meanwhile, has undertaken a number of efforts to improve the way we go about our business. For example, we implemented a more structured and robust project management process aimed at improving investigation timeliness, along with enhanced measures for tracking the progress of investigations. We're also placing a greater emphasis on teamwork, and the scoping and assignment of investigation tasks is now done in a manner that better leverages all personnel across the country.
We also continued to increase the amount of information that we proactively publish on our website.
While the TSB is a small organization, which can somewhat limit our flexibility, we have a strong track record when it comes to adapting to change and getting things done, so we thank you for asking us to be here today and we'll be pleased to take your questions in due course.
Good morning, Chair, and members of the committee. Thank you for inviting the Privy Council Office to review our 2017-18 supplementary estimates (B).
As you know, the mandate of the Privy Council Office is to provide professional, non-partisan advice and support to the and ministers within his portfolio, and to support the effective operation of cabinet.
As a central agency, PCO exerts a leadership role across government departments and agencies to ensure the coherence and coordination of policy development and delivery.
We sought $144.9 million via the main estimates 2017-18, which represents an increase of $24.2 million from the amount sought in our 2016-17 main estimates, which was $120.7 million. This increase was mainly due to additional funding to enhance our capacity to support the and the government in the delivery of their agenda as announced in budget 2016. Much of this increased funding was used as follows:
We have provided advice to the , as Minister of Youth, on engaging young Canadians in consultations on government initiatives, on establishing the Prime Minister's Youth Council, and we have supported two meetings between the Prime Minister and council members in 2016-17.
We have managed the open, transparent, and merit-based selection process for Government of Canada appointments which resulted in the processing of almost 12,000 applications and 123 appointments in 2016-17.
A website was developed and implemented to allow Canadians to apply directly for vacant Senate positions. More than 2,700 applications were received, which resulted in 20 appointments.
We have successfully played a policy challenge function to departments and provided high quality logistical support to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the cabinet committees' system; we supported the work of 166 cabinet and cabinet committee meetings, and almost 597 cabinet documents were issued.
The clerk was supported in his efforts to advance key renewal issues like mental health, diversity and inclusion, and discussion groups were created to seek feedback.
A number of information management and information technology projects, such as the modernization of PCO's internal email, upgrading to new mobile device services, and improvements to security and IT infrastructure were implemented.
We have enhanced engagement with provinces and territories, as well as municipalities and indigenous groups, serving the as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
We have increased our policy capacity to support the democratic institutions reform agenda and we have led the national dialogue on the future of Canada's democracy.
In addition to the $144.9 million received via estimates 2017-18, PCO also sought $34.4 million in supplementary estimates (A) for the operations of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and PCO was given access to the 2016-17 carry-forward of $5.3 million to bring our overall total authorities to $184.6 million.
Today we are seeking an additional $34.3 million in 2017-18 supplementary estimates (B), bringing PCO's total 2017-18 authorities to $218.9 million. These additional resources will be used to pursue the information management and information technology project we started in 2016-17, which consists of replacement and upgrade of current IT infrastructure, the modernization of PCO systems, the introduction of new information sharing, business intelligence and reporting solutions, and transitioning to a top-secret network.
It will also lead the establishment of the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians, NSICOP, and its secretariat. PCO will receive funds to cover costs for NSI accommodation, security, information technology and salary costs until NSICOP receives its own appropriation in December 2017.
We will fund a study to assess the current state of innovation in the public sector and propose areas for action to reinforce capacity to innovate and thereby deliver better outcomes for citizens and the government.
This comprises the major needs and initiatives to be funded through PCO's proposed supplementary estimates (B).
Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide you with this context. I'd be pleased to answer any of your questions.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. I am pleased to be here today along with Philip Morton, our vice-president of corporate affairs, to discuss the Public Service Commission of Canada's supplementary estimates (B) and our 2016-17 Departmental Results Report.
The Public Service Commission promotes and safeguards merit-based appointments, and in collaboration with other stakeholders protects the non-partisan nature of the public service. The PSC reports directly to Parliament on its mandate. The , as designated minister, tables our annual report and other reports in Parliament on our behalf.
Our supplementary estimates (B) are fairly straightforward. They provide for the transfer of $252,000 from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The CFIA is a separate agency named in Schedule V of the Financial Administration Act, which uses the Public Service Resourcing System—the system behind the government's primary job portal.
As such, the agency is not subject to permanent transfers like other organizations. Its financial contributions to support the PSRS have traditionally been provided via the supplementary estimates process. We are working to have this amount included in annual reference levels for future years.
With regards to the Departmental Results Report, it is an exciting time to be leading the Public Service Commission. Our 2016-17 report outlines many of the PSC's accomplishments. I will not go into them in great detail, but I want to confirm that we recognize that no two departments are alike and have provided organizations with the room to staff positions in response to their unique needs.
We are placing a greater emphasis on designing our programs and services based on the needs of end-users—hiring managers and job candidates. We are working with our partners to explore new and truly innovative ways to attract, recruit, and assess qualified candidates from coast to coast to coast.
One case I will bring to your attention is the redesign of our student application process carried out last year. It saw the length of time to complete an application for employment reduced from an average of 60 minutes to six minutes and from 10 pages of content to four pages. It is the type of innovation that I want to see incorporated into all other aspects of our recruitment and assessment work at the Public Service Commission.
I have been encouraging PSC staff to be bold, take intelligent risks, and not be afraid of failure. I firmly believe that these elements are key to innovation and allow us to try new things and challenge the status quo.
As we approach the 110th anniversary of the creation of the PSC, I want to assure Parliament and Canadians that the changes we make will not compromise our role in safeguarding Canada's merit-based and non-partisan public service, which is so well regarded across the world.
We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, all, for coming today. We greatly appreciate the work the independent civil service does, and we look forward to this opportunity today to grill you guys a little bit. It's with the utmost respect. We just want to make sure that public funds are spent well. As Mr. McCauley likes to point out, this is probably our most important duty here on the Hill.
I'm going to focus primarily on you, Ms. Ramcharan, with respect to the work that's being done with the youth council. I have a youth council at my office. We spend a modest amount of money to get children and young adults together to help inform our views on policies. We find it very productive.
Are there any particular deliverables that are meant to come out of these meetings from the PMO and your support of the PMO? Are there any public reports that are prepared as a result of it? Are the results of the advice made public to people? How do Canadians know that this money is being spent wisely?
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the question.
In terms of how we've been supporting the , the Prime Minister, as you know, signalled his commitment to Canada's young people by assuming the role of Minister of Youth. We have within PCO a youth secretariat that supports the Prime Minister in his capacity by providing the strategic leadership, the policy advice, and the coordination on youth commitments. As well as supporting him in terms of his role on the youth council, we connect youth with engagement opportunities in other key policy areas, and we provide strategic advice on a youth service initiative.
They've had a number of meetings over the past year in Calgary, Montreal, and St. John's, and various conference calls with leaders and government officials to discuss their perspectives on issues that matter most to young people, such as youth employment, mental health, poverty reduction, reconciliation, the environment, climate change, clean growth, and youth service. They've also had an opportunity to create opportunities for youth across Canada who have expressed an interest in engaging with the Government of Canada, to do different kinds of engagement opportunities on a wide range of issues.
I'm sure there are going to be more questions about this the week following this news report.
My final question is really in respect of your proposed study on the current state of innovation. Some new appropriation money is going there. It seems that adoption, creation, and implementation of technology across government is something that all parts of government are studying, and so I really have two questions.
Is this study that's being proposed under PCO being coordinated with other departments that are also engaged in similar studies? We've heard from TSB that they're looking at agile approaches to change management. Also, there's a whole life-cycle understanding of innovation. There's the creation. First, there's the primary research that comes up with new ideas. There's development of products from that new research. There's prototyping of those new products to make sure they work. Then there's the adoption of those technologies within a particular enterprise. Are you focusing on only step four, or are you looking at innovation in all those four areas of the innovation life cycle?
I would like to thank all the witnesses.
I won't have any questions for the TBS representatives because I think it goes without saying that the existing collective agreements must be applied.
My initial questions will be for the Privy Council Office.
I will make a comment first, and it will lead to my questions. I'm a new MP. For two years, my great surprise has been seeing how much the Canadians we represent listen to and follow the public broadcast of committees. I always keep in mind the importance of understanding the information I'm given, since I have to represent the average citizen.
If I've understood your presentation, transparency and openness have cost $24.2 million. What I don't understand is that you justify the $34.3 million by saying that this money is used to update the existing information technology infrastructure and to assess the current state of innovation. Those are fine words, but they don't mean much to me. I can't put an image to words like that. It's all fine, but it doesn't reflect anything.
My first question is about the fact that the PCO provides financial and administrative support to commissions of inquiry. You supported the introduction of a computer system that was designed to analyze hundreds of thousands—that's no small amount—of videos, transcripts, electronic documents, paper documents and briefs. The findings are that this is a complex system and that the employees who will have to work on it will have to be properly trained. What support did the PCO give commissions of inquiry to ensure that employees were properly trained?
We are in the communication age, and there is a lot of information to deal with. How do you make sure this system is set up properly?
You told us that you were processing a lot of information. I would like to better understand how you are upgrading. It isn't clear to me. How do you get everyone to understand? Do you use employee training or support for commissions of inquiry, for instance?
That's a lot of jargon, and many people must have difficulty in understanding it. How do you ensure employees are properly trained to implement this system?
You said you asked for $34.4 million for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, but we know that this commission faces major challenges.
The interim report indicates that the deadline for recruiting staff is four months. As you just said, you have to go through the Privy Council Office process for the security screening.
As a result, once the decision to hire someone is made, it takes an average of five weeks for the security process to be completed and for the person to begin work. I think these delays are unreasonable, and that affects the work.
Will steps be taken to ensure a more efficient process, and to more quickly recruit and hire staff?
Mr. Chair, in terms of human resources, it doesn't take five weeks. The commission has a lot of latitude with regard to determining how to best bring people in. It has the opportunity to do a process internally. It can go out and seek people who can come and help. It's up to it to determine what the right processes are. It doesn't follow the same processes that we do within the public service to go out and hire. It doesn't have to think about merit and all of the rules that we have to follow in seeking staff. It's up to it to determine how it best goes about finding its employees.
Once it has determined its employees, that's when some of the rules we use kick in. We have to make sure the position that it's hiring them for is in line because we use our rates of remuneration. If someone is admin support in federal government and someone is admin support within the commission, we want to make sure there are comparabilities. What we seek is job descriptions, work descriptions that we can look at to ensure that, if individuals are coming in to do certain jobs, they're going to get paid at a level consistent with the public service. We do have a little bit of process. The ability to do a classification of a position is usually about 24 to 48 hours. It's not very long because the positions in the commission are not very complex, as you can find in the federal public service.
Once the commission has chosen the person, once we have a classified job, we have to do our due diligence on security clearances. We've put in place an expedited process to help support the commission. The commission can decide whether it's a reliability clearance, a secret clearance, what type of clearance is needed, and depending on the type of clearance—
I would like to welcome my colleague Ms. Sansoucy to the committee.
I am on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. We have just received the tabling of the Auditor General's reports. Here we have the chance to talk about the issues.
I want to make a small reference to the report we saw this week. The Auditor General has commented that we still tend not to think of the citizen, and my colleague made reference to this. Not only are people interested in what's going on here, but ultimately they are receiving the services. They are why we are here.
One of the tools I find very interesting in providing better programs and services to Canadians is the gender-based analysis plus.
I would like to start with questions for the Privy Council Office.
Could you please talk to us about the challenge function and how that works with producing better policies, programs, and services for citizens?
In terms of how we do it, we really focus on what's coming forward on the mandate commitments that the government has identified. What PCO really does is support the Prime Minister and the functioning of the cabinet. It's looking at how we structure our agenda to make sure that the priorities of governments move through the system the way they're intended to, working with our various departments.
In terms of the client-centred focus, again, I mentioned the innovation hub. One of the things that their function is is to think about how we sort of change our behaviours to look more at how clients want to get served, what they want to do, and how we can help facilitate that. That's what we're seeing.
The other thing in terms of our challenge function and what budget 2016 provided us with resources for was our results in delivery unit. That really starts to focus again on the results we are trying to achieve, if we are in the process of achieving them, and really keeping track of that. I think those are some of the big fundamental switches that we've had within the PCO in terms of moving forward, in terms of making sure that we actually achieve the priorities that we set out to do.
Obviously, recruitment is our daily bread. We think and dream and sleep recruitment. We're always constantly looking at ways that we can do a better job in terms of reaching Canadians, reaching the talent where it is, wherever it may be in the country, and ensuring that, within the public service itself, managers are as open as possible to finding talent across the country, including in some cases sometimes, not very far, just looking at people like veterans who are available on the priority list. We've made some progress over the last little while. Now we've placed about 477 veterans with the new entitlement, but again, sometimes the answers to the recruitment needs are very close by and very evident and are people who have already served this country.
Other answers involve tapping into pools that we've not necessarily tapped into before and, of course, students and graduates and young people who have a lot to contribute have to be a priority. Our systems are too focused on internal replacement. Managers are constantly chasing after.... When Sally is retiring, we're looking for the best person within the unit to replace Sally instead of maybe thinking about whether to restructure the unit and look to the post-secondary recruitment pool that we've established and bring some people in. Then invest in nurturing, mentoring, supporting, learning and development basically to build the public service of the future.
If we don't change our approach, we're going to find ourselves in a crisis in a few years because we know that retirements are happening. They're happening now. They're going to be coming. We haven't sufficiently recruited from outside to be able deal with that replacement. We have a fantastic public service that's supported by men and women from across the country. As they leave, we need to make sure that we have the replacements. That's why student programs, revamping our post-secondary recruitment, making it a lot more attractive, sometimes jazzing up our advertisements so that we don't look as bureaucratic as we may be; those are things that we want to do.
On diversity, again, the more we open to the outside, we find that automatically we get more diverse applicants. The people are out there. The pools are out there. We just have to open the doors.
I could go on.
With respect to improved tank-car standards, they have introduced some new standards, but there is a phased-in process over a period of years. There are still, what we call CPC-1232 tank cars that are carrying crude oil, as an example. It is going to take time before the new tank-car standards are fully phased in.
Second, with respect to Transport Canada oversight, we have a recommendation on that. Transport Canada has taken steps, and they are progressing, but we want to see that they are effective. We also have other recommendations with respect to prevention of runaways, as an example.
Mr. Borbey, welcome back to our committee. I hope you've been settling well into your new role. The last time, I think, the questions I went into were about how the Public Service Commission can drive hiring of young people and get youth involved. According to the last statistics I've seen, the average age was 37 years old, which is alarming. It will create a big corporate memory gap in the bureaucracy, which is something that nobody wants.
You were speaking with Ms. Shanahan about some of the ideas, but I'm curious to find out more. You mentioned opening up to the broader base to ensure that we can hire people.
Yes, we already develop pools. We develop specific pools, working with individual departments or collective departments. For example, if they're looking at bringing in scientific staff, maybe a number of science-based departments could work together. We do that already.
We also have our pool from the post-secondary recruitment program that's established on an annual basis. Some 50,000 people applied last year to this program. We end up with about 6,000 or 7,000 who are deemed to be partially assessed or partially qualified. The managers can draw from that pool depending on the specific needs.
We're trying to be more strategic and have specific career streams identified within that pool so that it's much more precise. We're also looking at being more targeted when we're doing outreach in universities and colleges. For example, right now there's a lot of hiring going on in science-based jobs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and at Environment and Climate Change Canada. They have some very specific needs. We work with them, and we go to universities like the University of Victoria with their particular needs in mind.
The other thing is that we've done a lot of outreach to universities that have strong indigenous populations because, again, one of our targets is to try to increase the representation of indigenous people in the government. A more targeted approach can also yield better results.
There are a lot more flexibilities already available to managers than they sometimes acknowledge. Our job is to make sure they know what's available to them, what the options are, and that they can choose to have approaches that are much more targeted and that can lead to results much more quickly.
However, our systems are antiquated. We know that. When you're talking about how you sift through thousands of applications and come down to the right people for the right job, that's where we're looking at prototyping right now. We're consulting with both candidates and hiring managers to prototype a new system that would be much more intuitive. We're thinking of something like Amazon: one click, buy. Well, it would be one click, apply. Perhaps the people wouldn't have to apply every time a new job comes up, but their application would be held in the system and they could actually get referrals automatically from our system, saying something like this: “You applied for this job. You're not quite qualified. However, these three jobs have been posted by the following departments. Are you interested? With one click, you can apply.”
That's the vision we're developing. It's going to take us a bit of time. We're going to have some system development issues related to that, but this technology does exist for us to be much more effective. We could take those thousands and we could sift them down to the top candidates who we need, wherever they may be in the country.
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair, and thanks, Ms. Ramcharan, for responding to my earlier question through Mr. McCauley, when he was here.
I'm trying to drill down a bit into the estimates on this, because it says here to “Fund a study”. Okay, I get that. When I look at the appropriations we're voting on, it says that it's to support the Privy Council Office’s information technology modernization, just under $32 million, and to establish the secretariat for national security intelligence, $2.2 million. Then there's actually a negative, so it's a transfer to GAC in order for them to help the OECD do their innovation study.
Is this study you're talking about different? Does it fall under part of the $32 million I mentioned at the beginning? Who are the different deputy ministers, and which departments are involved in this pan-governmental approach to innovation development and implementation you're talking about?
It's a very good question. The $32 million is not for one project. There's a multitude of projects that we will undertake underneath that. I'll talk to two big projects.
One is the e-cabinet project, and that is where you look at the flexible kind of project management. We have certain deliverables that we want to meet on a regular basis, but we also don't want to lose opportunities as we're going through it. It's looking at the opportunity of what you get to deliver in terms of your overall project charter, making sure you deliver what was expected, and we were very successful in being able to do that in the first year.
Our second year, we're doing the same thing, but we're also making sure we're leveraging the right technologies. We're not trying to expand the scope, because that's where you find your projects can go off the rails. When you try to do too much, you lose sight of what your original objective is. We definitely take a rigorous project management approach to all our IT projects. The big one, e-cabinet, is on track.
Another very large one we're doing is the distribution of tablets. In PCO, we were a department that was very much governed by desktop. You couldn't move, and you didn't have any flexibility with moving to different organizations, taking your material with you, sticking with paper. We started that project last year, and we're continuing it and we're going to finish it this year. We are taking what is, again, very much a project management approach to doing that, making sure we build in pilots. We assess the pilots. We look at what's working well and what's not working well, and we adjust. We don't try to do it all at the same time. We try to roll it out on a systematic basis to make sure we have success at the end of it.
Our plan right now is that we've bought the equipment and we are rolling it out on a pilot basis. We'll come back to the people who are using it to find out what's working well, what's not working well, and where we have to adjust. Starting early in the winter, we'll start rolling it out to the rest of the employees within PCO.
I appreciate the explanation. It maybe raises some concern in terms of the negotiation when you have that much time to prepare—and it's not your fault or concern—when you're projecting 0.5% and you get 1.25%. Anyway, I'll leave it at that right now.
My next question is for you, Ms. Fox. I just want to follow up on what happens through the Transportation Safety Board when an event happens. We could talk about the flights that Mr. McCauley talked about or Lac-Mégantic.
You raised the report. You raised some recommendations based on the events that have happened. Can you talk to me about how that gets acted upon when it goes to Transport Canada? Do you put in recommended timelines for when that action should take place?
When an occurrence happens, we make a preliminary assessment as to whether we're going to conduct a full investigation or not. We want to make sure that we're going to spend those resources wisely in conducting a full investigation. We collect data, we analyze the data, we write a report, and we publish it. That's a long process.
The report has findings, which are lessons learned from the accident, and there might be recommendations. We don't make recommendations on every report. We make recommendations when we've identified high-risk, systemic deficiencies that need to be addressed that aren't currently being addressed. If we make a recommendation to, in this case, Transport Canada, the minister has 90 days to respond as to how and if the department is going to address the recommendation. We assess that. We're not prescriptive in our recommendations. We don't put in timelines. We recognize that some of these are going to take a while because they might be changes to regulations or standards, they might be new technology, or they might require extensive consultation and might require harmonization with other countries. However, that is the general process.
If we look at all our recommendations issued since 1990, not all of them have been addressed at Transport Canada, but roughly three-quarters of them have been fully addressed and have been assessed our highest rating of fully satisfactory.
Okay. However, PCO is certainly one of the ones that have been adding salaries and adding employees all the time, so it might be a thought if we don't have some idea of what that cost is with what outcomes are.
Really, everything we do here is about outcomes. If we can't measure that because we don't have any costs and we're just saying, “Well, the existing people do it”, but while the existing people are doing it we're hiring more people and we've had an increase in salaries, there should be something for the committee to give us a bit of an idea of the effectiveness of that, because it is an internal issue.
Are there some thoughts that you would talk about? It really is about having someone on the outside rather than internally do those assessments. Through PCO, have there been discussions to the effect that this sounds like maybe not a bad idea? Should we actually have an outside agency look at that and do the measurement, and then have some cost assessment to it?
I'll continue with the questions I started asking the Privy Council Office representative, particularly on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Ultimately, the role of the Privy Council Office was to provide financial and administrative support for the implementation of the
legal case management system.
Earlier, my questions related to the training that was offered to ensure that this system would be implemented successfully. However, this system is complex by its very nature. I'm coming back to this to allow you to respond.
I would like to know how much it cost to implement the system and what steps were taken to implement it properly.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the question.
There are two parts to the question. Was training provided for the system? The system that we used for the legal case management system is called Ringtail. It's a system that we use within government. It was procured for the commission of inquiry. We started the procurement in February, and it was put in place and available to them on May 1. As part of thinking about that system, we wanted to make sure that they had adequate training, so part of the contract that we put in place was to make sure that the company that has the software could provide training to the commission.
As soon as the commission is interested in taking on that training and getting more involved, they have a venue through which they can get that training, but they haven't started to fundamentally use that system just yet. As you know, they've been very busy, with the number of hearings, so they are going to have to think about how to do that, but there is a system and a process in place by which they can access training to use that software.
The commission of inquiry is different from the regular operations of the Privy Council. The commission of inquiry is set up as an independent commission. The role that PCO plays in that commission is really that of financial administrative support. We very much work in an arm's-length fashion in terms of what their work plan is, what they are doing, how they engage with Canadians, and their communications. What we endeavour to do is provide support from an administrative perspective when they say they want to do something, or they want to hire a person, or they want certain software or certain support. We try to make sure we get the mechanisms in for them, on a very quick basis, so that they can do that.
With any of the work the commission is involved with, they decide how to do it and how to structure it. The role of PCO in any commission of inquiry is really to let the commission have its independence and determine how to achieve its mandate in its terms of reference.
There's not just PCO involved. The Minister of CIRNA, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, the new department that was created, has a role for non-administrative support to the commission. As you're aware, the department itself did a pre-inquiry process. It went out around the country to meet with families and individuals to understand better what's happening in the area of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. They have a role to play.
Since June, that department, PCO, and others have been coming together regularly to be available to the commission should it ask for some support, assistance, or guidance in terms of helping it achieve its mandate. I reiterate again that the commission is set up to be very independent. We only offer our support when asked. We rely on the commission to figure out its work plan, how it's going to do it, how it's going to achieve it, the people it's going to meet with, and how it's going to communicate its actions. It has terms of reference that are posted—I'm sorry, I don't have them with me—that give it exactly what it's expected to do as part of its mandate, the roles that we play in PCO, as well as the roles that the Minister of CIRNA plays in terms of its overall support.
We really try to not provide any policy-type expertise to the commission unless it specifically asks for it.
I'd like to start by saying two things.
We had a preliminary audit that was conducted a few years ago. It identified a number of different opportunities for PCO to undertake in order to stabilize its information management and information technology system. That's a little bit of the reason that we've had so much funding come in: to help us actually do that. As of a few months ago, we have been able to address all of the previous audit recommendations associated with information management and information technology, so we're very pleased with that.
In terms of 2017-18 and the review that is proposed, again, that hasn't been undertaken as of yet. When you think about your areas of risk, IM and IT is always one of those areas of risk for departments, especially within the Privy Council Office where we want to ensure the safeguarding of information, of technologies, and of the materials that we have at our disposal. That will be started this fiscal year. It probably won't be completed until next fiscal year. Typically what we do with all of our audits, as well as the recommendations, is post them so that they're publicly available.
—the Public Service Commission, I'm sorry.
We have been making steady progress in terms of women representation among the executive ranks. I have data dating back to 2015-16. We're still working on our most recent data, but steadily the increase has been happening.
The most recent data was 47.3% of our executives were female, compared to a workforce availability for executives in the workforce at large of 47.8%. This would indicate a 0.5% gap. I'm hopeful that over the last two years, once we get the data, we'll see that gap pretty well disappear. For aboriginal people it's not so good. We're at about 3.7% compared to a workforce availability of 5.2%, so clearly there are some issues there. For persons with disabilities, it's 5.1%, compared to an availability of 2.3%. Mind you, these are workforce availabilities that date back to the census of 2011. I suspect that once we have the new census data, there will be gaps that will be identified. For visible minorities, again we're closing the gap there. We're at 9.4% of executives compared to 9.5% workforce availability.
We're also looking at what I call the pipeline, people applying to jobs in the federal government or people from the outside being hired to entry-level jobs. Again, in those cases we see visible minorities or people who identify as visible minorities clearly outperforming workforce availability. The most surprising data I saw recently for our student applications in the last summer, 32% self-identified as a visible minority. To me, that indicates that the pipeline is quite healthy.
I think we have more problems when it comes to persons with disabilities and aboriginal people, where we don't get as many applications as I think we should.
Time is precious, Madam Ratansi, fleeting.
To our witnesses, thank you very much for being here today, and thank you for all the information. It has been most informative, most helpful. Should you have any additional information you think would be of benefit to our committee, we invite you to please make those submissions directly to our clerk.
With that, thank you once again for your appearance. We hope to see you, at least some of you, again soon.
We are suspended for a few moments, colleagues, while we wait to go in camera.
[Proceedings continue in camera]