Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Patronage King Rides Again Taking Cronyism to a New level

For a party that came into power, claiming to want to clean things up, they have certainly muddied the waters. In fact, they have officially made more patronage and cronyism appointments than any government before them. They should be so proud.

Mind you, having John Baird in charge of accountability, and little PP getting tips from one of the worst Republican scoundrels in the U.S., Jim Sensenbrenner should have been a sign that this was all bluster.

They just wanted to use our money to see if they could dig up more dirt. It backfired because the only dirt uncovered was behind their own ears.

PS watchdog slams hiring practices at refugee board
Audit finds ex-political appointees received 'preferential treatment'
By Kathryn May,
The Ottawa Citizen
October 11, 2009

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, an audit by the federal staffing watchdog says.

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

"They are appointed by ministers and there is no commitment to being non-partisan," said Barrados. "(Job) appointments through the Public Service Commission are merit-based and non-partisan and set up so they are away from the direction and influence of ministers, which is a key part of maintaining a non-partisan public service."

The audit has been turned over to the commission's investigation branch to determine whether it warrants a 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. All told, 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.

Barrados said experience gained as a politically-appointed tribunal member gives former appointees an edge no other candidates could match. Three of the political appointees landed jobs in a public competition, which called for specific tribunal experience. That requirement screened out 171 of the 174 people who applied.

When hired at a minister's discretion, these political appointees don't have to comply with any of the hiring rules or requirements expected of those recruited for jobs in the public service under the Public Service Employment Act. The decision to appoint rests totally with the minister or government of the day.

For public service jobs, however, candidates must not only meet the qualifications for the job, but the competition or process to fill the job must be open, fair and transparent.

In other cases, the former governor-in-council appointees either didn't meet the requirements of the job, the positions weren't advertised or records of their appointment were lacking. In one case, the bilingual requirements for the position were changed when the candidate failed language testing. Another was given a two-year appointment, which was extended even though the candidate was going on leave.

One of nine former governor-in-council appointees did qualify and meet requirements for the job.

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 period of the audit, the IRB was swamped with cases, 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 IRB said the soaring number of claims coupled with not enough experienced decision-makers created a backlog of 42,300 refugee protection claims cases in 2007 -- more than double the backlog of 2006.

The audit also noted that former experienced appointees could have been hired for short-term stints to help fill gaps or retrain new appointees without breaching the act.

The Harper government made an election promise to create a Public Appointments Commission to ensure these political or GIC appointments went to qualified candidates rather than party faithful or cronies.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper put the appointments commission on hold after opposition MPs rejected his choice of Alberta oilman Gwyn Morgan as the blue-ribbon panel's first chairman.

Liberals slam Tories for patronage plums
By David Akin,
Canwest News Service
October 8, 2009

The federal Liberals slammed the governing Conservatives on Thursday for handing out government jobs -- some of which pay more than $100,000 a year -- to failed former candidates, party workers and financial supporters.

The Liberals went on the attack in the House of Commons in the wake of a report that Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed five judges with Conservative ties. Harper did so less than a week after slamming the Liberals for appointing "left-wing ideologues" to the courts and to the civil service when they were in power.

Liberals say they've identified 37 appointments Harper and his cabinet approved in the last six weeks, where the appointee had a demonstrated link to the Conservatives.

"It is an orgy of appointments," said Liberal MP David McGuinty. "How many more rewards does the prime minister intend to hand out to his Conservative flock?"

Five of the 37 appointments flagged by the Liberals were the judges referred to in Thursday's reports. Those judges were appointed Sept. 9. The Liberals are also counting seven senators Harper appointed on Aug. 27. The new senators included Harper's second-longest-serving aide, the Conservative party's past president, and the husband of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, who was also Harper's director of political operations.

In the days between appointing some of his closest political friends to the Senate and making the judicial appointments, Harper gave a speech in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in which he said the Liberals, had they won the government last fall, would be putting "left-wing ideologues . . . in the courts, federal institutions, agencies, and the Senate."

The Liberals say Harper is saying one thing and doing the opposite.

One of Harper's key campaign promises from 2006 was to create an independent public-appointments commission. But the Tories wanted one of their own biggest financial contributors, former oil and gas executive Gwyn Morgan, to head that commission. Opposition MPs who agreed with the idea of a commission objected to Morgan's appointment to run it.

"Only the government would expect a crony to stamp out cronyism. How ridiculous," McGuinty said in the House of Commons.

Political appointments are handled by senior political staff working within the Prime Minister's Office. More than 3,000 appointments have been made since the Harper government took office.

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