Response from DM on Action Plan for A Path Forward Report

8 Dec 2017

Mr. Gary Walbourne
Ombudsman
Office of the National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman
100 Metcalfe Street, 12th floor
Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1

 

Dear Mr. Walbourne:

Thank you for your letter dated 17 November 2017 regarding the Minister’s response to your recent report, A Path Forward – Action Plan for the Office of the Ombudsman.

I was pleased to see the Minister’s acknowledgement of your work in his letter to you of 16 November 2017 wherein he commended the work of your Office on the “seamless transition initiative” as well as the Canadian Rangers organization.  I echo these comments and thank you for the important and relevant work your Office has done over the past year on behalf of the women and men of the Defence Community.  I believe both examples, highlighted by the Minister, serve to remind us of the “putting people first” priority, the hallmark of our new defence policy – Strong, Secure, Engaged.  It is in this vein that I considered your most recent letter.

Since the initial appointment of the Ombudsman in 1998, the Office has had a direct, and integral relationship with the deputy head of the department.  Nowhere is this relationship more evident than in the provision of day to day administrative services to your organization.  The effective provision of these services, including the delegated authorities associated to them, is important.  As the Accounting Officer for this department, I must ensure that all areas exercising delegated authority, including the Ombudsman’s Office, do so in compliance with legislation and government policy.  At the same time, my responsibilities extend to ensuring that the stewardship of public monies remain at the fore.

I believe the past year has marked considerable progress on, and improvements to, administrative services in support of the Office of the Ombudsman, these include:

  • Maximum authorities (thresholds) permissible for event and hospitality in line with the new TB Directive on Travel, Hospitality, Conference and Event Expenditures (Apr 2017);
  • Introduction of blanket travel and hospitality authorities to reduce timelines for approval;
  • Accommodation of any travel or hospitality request from your Office that might exceed your organizational ceiling;
  • Increased travel and hospitality authorities for your Director General equivalents, full HR delegations authorities in areas of staffing, labour relations, classification, learning, compensation, equal to, or exceeding those provided to Assistant Deputy Ministers in the Department;
  • Your reinstatement as the delegated officer for final level grievances in your organization;
  • Allowance for your General Counsel to respond to Canadian Human Rights Commission complaints, negotiate settlements, and represent your Office before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal;
  • Engagement of an independent, third party investigator from outside the DND and CAF should a disclosure of wrongdoing be received concerning your Office.

The addition of client-centred HR and finance teams, to ensure your operational requirements for your Office are dealt with on a priority basis, represents another key component in the delivery for these services.

You will recall that in his letter of 28 March 2017, and in response to your report, The Case for a Permanent and Independent Ombudsman Office, the Minister was clear in stating that “both the provision of administrative services and the delegated authorities that accompany them, support the requirements of your Office”. In my view, the improvements I’ve highlighted are demonstrable evidence of the good work that has taken place over the past year in ensuring that the Department’s administrative support remains singularly responsive to the operational requirements of the Office of the Ombudsman.

My intention is to continue on this positive path while ensuring my institutional responsibilities under legislation, including the Financial Administration Act, are met. Again, in his most recent letter to you, of 16 November 2017, the Minister called upon our collective efforts in support of these responsibilities.

With this in mind, and recognizing the unique mandate of the office of the Ombudsman, I look forward to our continued collaboration in this area.

Sincerely,

Jody Thomas

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