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Accountability is the duty to account for the fulfillment of one's responsibility. As such, key enablers of accountability are the means by which authority and accountability are established, communicated and periodically reviewed and updated. Authority is the right to direct and exact performance. Responsibility is the obligation to perform. Collectively, the clear delineation of responsibilities, delegated authorities and lines of communication support the effective coordination between all parts of the organization, including governance bodies and management, and ensure that all parties within the organization are aware of, and comply with, their responsibilities.
In line with these expectations, the following criteria were used for this portion of the review.
Accountability and responsibility are defined, although greater clarity is required on the scope and decision-making authority of the SAB and the SC.
Accountability and responsibility for both the SAB and the Services Committee are outlined in their respective Terms of Reference (ToR). Terms of reference for the SAB is posted on the LAC website, indicating they have been communicated to members and are available to other parties. The ToR outlines the roles of the two bodies as follows:
In the past year, the SAB formed two sub-committees—one Operational and one Strategic Sub-Committee, the goals of which were to permit greater focus on operational and strategic issues, respectively. Terms of reference exist for the sub-committees. While documented, the mandates presented are broad in nature and the scope is not necessarily focused on services. For instance, the Strategic Sub-Committee has as its mandate: "the provision of strategic advice to the LAC SAB," with suggested topics for discussion including "the overall mandate of LAC, core functions and 'mandate creep'; partnerships and the use of intermediaries; and, acquisition policies."
While overall the mandates are defined, the breadth with which the scope and range of authority is defined may increase the risk to LAC that the organization and its advisory committees may be out of alignment with one another. Compounding this, the LAC governance structure, dated November 21, 2007, identifies Directors General Committees (Services Committee is one) and Sectors Branch Committees, as feeding the broader governance structures and specifically, as committees tasked with providing operational advice to sector ADMs and to Management Board. However, neither the ToR nor other documents reviewed outline the manner or channels through which the two bodies under review link into the decision making of LAC management.
Key guidelines and directives are not in place for the SAB, including directives on information management.
One of the chief means by which accountability and responsibility is established and communicated is through the provision of formal directives, guidelines and other forms of communication to members of the governing bodies. Two key elements were reviewed in this vein, specifically for the SAB2: first, the degree to which composition guidelines exist to ensure appropriate representation and; second, the degree to which members are provided appropriate direction on their roles and expectations.
The review identified that, for the SAB, the guidelines for describing the desired composition and representativeness of the SAB could be amplified. In modifying the ToR in June 2008, additional membership criteria were identified which include: "experience consulting LAC holdings and services; or, representative of LAC user group or affiliated with LAC partner; and, peer recognition of leadership qualities; and, availability and willingness to serve." Geographic, ethnic diversity, gendered and official languages considerations are also provided as criteria3. We understand that at present, as the terms of many committee members are expiring, management is examining composition of the SAB, to ensure diversity of the advisory board, while maintaining a reasonable size of membership. Early discussion has included aligning SAB composition with three groups: clients / users, stakeholders and experts. While it has not yet been confirmed, it is thought that client groups may form the majority of the SAB. Such efforts are encouraged.
Direction on the composition for the Services Committee is more straightforward. While the committee has no formal guidelines on its composition, its ToR clearly stipulate that the committee aims to ensure an integrated LAC-wide approach to the provision of services and requires participation from all LAC Directors General. This requirement provides sufficient clarity on representation.
In addition to composition guidelines, the review also examined the manner and means by which directives and other guidelines were provided to SAB and Services Committee members. The review indicated that there are no directives to members outlining expectations in relation to their roles. There is no formal orientation provided to members through which expectations for conduct are outlined. In discussions with members of the SAB Secretariat, it was noted that the ToR and the discussion points at the inaugural meeting formed the basis of orientation. It was further noted that at the first meeting, there was much discussion on the scope and authority of the SAB.
The tracking and follow-up of action items identified in SAB and SC meetings require more discipline to ensure commitments made are executed.
One of the important day-to-day means by which accountability is maintained is through the tracking and monitoring of items requiring action, as identified in meetings. Simply stated, the management of action items provides assurance that what gets committed to is eventually executed. As such, this line of inquiry formed an aspect of this review.
The results of the review indicated that minutes of meetings are generally high-level and, in the case of the SAB, while records of decision are noted and posted, due dates and specific assignment of ownership for the completion of the actions could be made more explicit. While the Services Committee does not have a formal Record of Decision, decisions taken at meetings are embedded in the Services Committee's reports.
Discussions with management have indicated that other informal mechanisms exist to help manage action items. For instance, in the course of meetings, items that are identified for follow-up or further study are carried forward and placed on the subsequent agenda. However there is no running list of action items required, taken or closed. As a result, there is some risk that actions identified as being important, will not be addressed, or may not be addressed in a timely fashion.
1. Terms of reference for the Services Advisory Board and the Services Committee should be reviewed and refined, in keeping with the broader attention and associated priorities related to the implementation of the Services Strategy.
2. As part of the renewal of the terms of reference, management should specify, in greater detail, composition guidelines for the Services Advisory Board, to ensure that appropriate representation is achieved, in line with broader LAC objectives.
3. A more detailed governance structure for the both bodies should be defined and clearly communicated. This structure should specify the role of the Services Committee and the Services Advisory Board in supporting Management Board and the means and channels by which bi-directional communication of information is effected.
4. Expectations in terms of conduct and key directives with respect to information management should be explicitly communicated to the members of the Services Advisory Board and signed off, as part of their initiation / orientation and on a periodic basis thereafter.
5. Tracking and management of action items for both the Services Advisory Board and the Services Committee should be improved. The action items should be included in the minutes of the meetings.
1. LAC management agrees to develop clear Terms of Reference (ToR) for governance committees that will be both aligned with the modernization initiative and will reflect LAC-wide governance structures.
2. LAC management will present Management Board with compositional guidelines for the selection of members for any consultative bodies established under the modernization initiative, to ensure appropriate representation.
3. LAC management will clearly define, map and communicate the governance structures and their linkages to Management Board, for all consultative committees established, to ensure client-focused service oversight at the institutional level.
4. LAC management will provide orientation materials to members of consultative committees established under the modernization initiative and will explicitly communicate the conduct expectations.
5. LAC management will ensure that formal Records of Decision with well-defined action items, person(s) responsible, due date(s) and follow-up mechanisms will be implemented for any governance body established under the modernization initiative.
2 Because the Services Committee is an internal committee, the provision of directives and guidelines was assumed to have been provided through the broader governance structure of LAC. Since this broader focus was not that of the Review, this line of inquiry was focused solely on the SAB.
3 SAB Record of Decisions - June 20, 2008.