DEPARTMENTAL LEGAL SERVICES UNIT
Treasury Board Portfolio
4. OBSERVATIONS – INFORMATION SYSTEMS
The TBP LSU’s management uses relevant information from information systems to support decision making and accountability.
Management requires reliable and timely information on which to base decisions. A significant amount of that information comes from a range of computerized information systems.
As noted earlier, the TBP LSU uses both the TBS financial system and internally maintained spreadsheets to monitor its financial performance.
The TBP LSU also receives timekeeping reports from the Department of Justice’s iCase system. The Senior General Counsel and the General Counsel use the reports to determine who is eligible for management leave based on the amount of overtime worked. If the reported hours are considerably higher than what was expected, the specifics are reviewed with the lawyer involved to determine the reasons for the variance. The iCase Coordinator sends out monthly reminders to lawyers and paralegals to enter their time. Following review of the information with a General Counsel, she follows up if hours have not been reported or if the reported hours seem to be too high. Particular attention is also paid to the reported time of those providing litigation and advisory services to departments other than the TBS or the CSPS since accurate and timely information is required to support cost recovery. Footnote 1
LOPORS is used as a key repository for legal opinions. Access to some opinions (e.g. on labour and employment law) is restricted to only those individuals in excluded positions (i.e. excluded from collective bargaining). These opinions are stored separately. Logical and physical controls to the computer where the information is stored limit who has access to the information.
In our view, the TBP LSU makes appropriate use of relevant information from information systems to support decision making and accountability.
Files are opened and tracked using the Recorded Information Management System (RIMS) and are closed on a regular basis.
The efficient management of legal files and records is critical for any legal practice so that relevant information and precedents can be quickly retrieved.
The LSU’s records staff are responsible for recording the existence of a new file in RIMS. They do this based on information provided by the LSU’s lawyers, after checking to ensure that the file does not already exist in the system. When records staff are advised that the file is closed, they ensure that all associated documents are in the file. In between file opening and closing, the file’s location is to be recorded in RIMS. We selected a judgmental sample of 13 files from RIMS and verified their physical location. RIMS was also queried to confirm that a further 12 files selected from the records room were recorded as being there.
Files that can be closed are identified on an ongoing basis. We observed that the LSU had 113 boxes of closed files for which a disposition calendar has been established. We were advised that these boxes will be transferred to archival storage in accordance with the calendar.
It is our opinion that the TBP LSU appropriately opens, tracks, and closes files.
Document management requires improvement.
With respect to litigation files, we were told that litigators in the TBP LSU are satisfied with the quality of filing. Because it is imperative that litigators have all the necessary information in advance of a court or tribunal hearing, they take direct responsibility for ensuring their files include all relevant documents. Both litigators and paralegals involved with litigation files noted that they do not use Ringtail, the Department of Justice document management system for litigation cases. A number of factors have contributed to this decision. First, since the litigation in the TBP LSU relates to employment and labour law, all staff who may have access to the information stored in Ringtail need to be in a position that is excluded from collective bargaining. The Department of Justice staff who are responsible for supporting the system and could have access to the information are not in excluded positions. Furthermore, since the TBP LSU deals typically with relatively small cases (requiring only one or two days before a tribunal and few exhibits), the use of a document management system is less critical.
With respect to advisory cases, the LSU’s advisory lawyers we interviewed told the audit team that files were frequently not up-to-date or complete. Advice provided by e-mail, in particular, was not consistently filed in the appropriate location on a timely basis. The lawyers indicated that eventually they find the information when they need it, but that this requires more time and effort.
In our view, several factors have contributed to information not being filed in a timely manner and/or in the appropriate file. These factors include: extensive use of paper records, heavy workload (answering the client’s latest query will always take precedence over filing), lawyers’ lack of knowledge of the appropriate process to follow, lack of up-to-date procedures on filing physical and electronic information, and insufficient number of legal assistants (one position was being staffed at the time of the audit and an additional two positions were vacant).
For some years, government departments, including the Department of Justice, have been implementing the shared solution Records, Document and Information Management System (RDIMS). The TBP LSU is not using RDIMS. As noted in the management response to the Department’s April 2009 internal audit of RDIMS, this system has now reached the end of its product development lifecycle and does not support home use or use with a BlackBerry, both important requirements to support the Department of Justice client base. Information Management Branch (IMB) undertook a proof of concept of the Open Text Footnote 2 document management offering, known as Livelink, during 2009-10.
The audit team is of the opinion that it could be some time before the Department of Justice has a new document and records management system ready for implementation in the TBP LSU. The LSU needs a product that will handle the full range of documents the LSU must store, including those that only excluded employees may access and those with a security classification. As noted earlier, we were told that the Manager, Business Planning Coordinator has begun a process to update the LSU’s administrative policies and procedures. This process is expected to include document management procedures. In the short term, updating these policies and procedures and ensuring they are communicated to staff should improve document management within the LSU.
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