July 4, 2012 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION No. 35
The Management Commission met at 11:00 a.m. in the House of Assembly Chamber.
MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Good morning, everyone.
Welcome to the House of Assembly Management Commission meeting. Today, we have some new members joining us. First of all, I want to welcome Mr. Granter to the Commission, and welcome Ms Sandra Barnes who is joining us as the new Clerk.
What we will do, to facilitate the viewing audience understanding who is at the table and the roles we have, I will ask members to introduce themselves. I will start with you, Mr. Kennedy, if you would.
MR. KENNEDY: Jerome Kennedy, MHA for Carbonear Harbour Grace, Government House Leader.
MR. GRANTER: Vaughn Granter, MHA, Humber West.
MR. VERGE: Wade Verge, MHA, Lewisporte district, Deputy Speaker, and sitting in the Commission as an observer status.
MS JONES: Yvonne Jones, MHA, Cartwright L'Anse au Clair, and Opposition House Leader.
MR. MACKENZIE: Bill MacKenzie; I am here as an invited guest.
MS MICHAEL: Lorraine Michael, MHA, Signal Hill Quidi Vidi.
MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerk's Office.
MS LAMBE: Marlene Lambe, Chief Financial Officer.
CLERK: Sandra Barnes, Clerk of the House of Assembly.
MR. SPEAKER: Welcome, everybody, and thank you for arranging your time to be a part of this meeting today.
Before we came into this public session, members would remember we had an in camera discussion. In camera meetings are reserved for human resource related issues, and issues that require some sensitivity because of the confidential nature of the information. We always report the results of those in camera meetings at the Commission meeting that follows that in camera session. The decisions that we have just made in the in camera session, I will read them into the minutes and then we will entertain a motion for the Commission to adopt them.
As the in camera session just concluded, we made ten decisions and I will read them into the record. The Commission confirms the permanent status of the position of Election Warehouse Clerk. The Commission confirms the classification for the position of the Election Warehouse Clerk as Hay Level 4. The Commission confirms the permanent status of the position of Executive Secretary, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Commission confirms the classification for the position of the Executive Secretary, Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner as Hay Level 12. The Commission confirms the reclassification of the position of Human Resource Service Co-ordinator as HL 19 to be effective February 9, 2012.
The Commission confirms the reclassification of the position of Manager of the Broadcast Services as HL 21 to be effective February 15, 2012. The Commission confirms the reclassification of the position of Business Information Analyst as HL 20 to be effective August 8, 2011, and confirms the change in title from Business Information Analyst to Election Policy and Systems Analyst. The Commission confirms the reclassification of the position of Manager, Voter Registration as HL 20 to be effective August 8, 2011. The Commission confirms the reclassification of the position of Communication and Training Officer as HL 21 to be effective August 8, 2011. Finally, the Commission confirms the permanent status of Access and Privacy Analyst, Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
These are ten issues that we dealt with in the in camera session. We have come to a conclusion that the Commission would consider these, and I now entertain a motion to accept the recommendations brought forward from the in camera discussion.
MS MICHAEL: So moved.
MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Ms Michael; seconded by Mr. Kennedy.
All those in favour, aye'.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.
MR. SPEAKER: Contra-minded?
Thank you very much.
The next item on the agenda is found in Tab 2 of the agenda that was distributed earlier. It is the minutes of the last meeting of the Commission that was held on April 25, 2012. Copies of those minutes had been circulated earlier to the members.
I would ask if there are any errors or omissions of those minutes. If none, I would entertain a motion to adopt.
Moved by Ms Jones, seconded by Ms Michael.
All those in favour, aye'.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.
MR. SPEAKER: All those against, nay'.
On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.
MR. SPEAKER: The next item is as the Speaker, there are certain delegated authorities that I have under the Members' Resources and Allowances Rules. When members have accommodations in their district and when we go to tender for space, if the tender comes in and the lowest bidder is beyond or above the $7,000 allowance that is provided, then the Speaker has the authority to authorize the rental of that space and the signing of a lease, and report back to the Commission. We had one such incident occurring since our last meeting, and that is for the Member for The Isles of Notre Dame. The process of tendering space for that member's office space, the tender came in at $12,000 with HST excluded from that number. That was the lowest proposal submitted. I have authorized the renting and leasing of that space, and I am now bringing it back to the Commission and advising them accordingly.
MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I know earlier we had a discussion about these accommodations. My recollection of the Green report, it allows approximately $7,000 for accommodations but I have not seen anything since I have been here coming in at $7,000. If we are not being realistic, I think it is an issue that we have to look at because unfortunately, it could make it look like MHAs and I will not use any examples. If you look at the previous minutes you could say: Well, how could it cost that MHA if Chief Justice Green only allowed $7,000, how come it is costing so-and-so so much money down there? I think this may be better dealt with during the review or the management review Judge Brazil will be doing, but I think it is something we certainly have to look at. We cannot have an unrealistic figure there.
Chief Justice Green recognized in his report that the Commission would have powers to vary and to reflect the reality and practicality of the situation we find ourselves in. I just think it opens us up. If it is only $7,000, how come everyone is spending so much? There may be time to put in another figure.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: Just to add to what Mr. Kennedy has just been saying. For the same reason, I guess, we will have the opportunity to present it when the Commissioner gets set up and has hearings, but to make the point that because of the whole process we are using with regard to the tendering, et cetera, the four MHAs in St. John's from my Party, for example, still have their CAs here in this building because the process has not worked well here in the city. I think there are a lot of issues that we are going to need to look at when the Commission starts hearings around this issue so that it reflects more, really, how we can get the CA offices set up, or the Constituency Offices set up.
MR. SPEAKER: That is a fair point.
MS JONES: I agree with what has been raised by the House Leader. The last meeting we had six applications for exemptions for office space from MHAs. I think that if we look back, what we are seeing is a trend where the average cost is coming in around $10,000 or $12,000. That seems to be somewhere in the ballpark.
I am just wondering, is there a way, as a Commission, that we can look at this to make change without it going through the review process, because as you know, we will be into another year of tendering before that can actually get changed on the books. I am just wondering, is there another process we can take in terms of making the proper amendment to reflect what the actual cost is out there now?
MR. SPEAKER: I will speak to one of your points you raised with respect to next years cycle. One of the things we just finished is in the fall of 2000 we had the election, so a lot of these offices were re-tendered as a result of that process. What we now have, I believe, is all of the MHAs who in that initial wave anyway chose to have offices outside the Confederation Building, and there are still a couple who are expressing some interest, but we now have leases in place to take us to the rest of this term.
Those leases that were just signed now take us into the fall of 2015. We now have fixed numbers to deal with. These contracts have been awarded and leases signed. We now have a fixed item that we can deal with in the budgetary process. There is not a sense of urgency necessarily to deal with them because we have a number of others that will be coming up. We may have three or four potentially, but for the most part, MHAs now, all forty-eight, have settled into their decisions and have space, with a few exceptions.
The big thing now, I guess, as Mr. Kennedy pointed out, is ensuring that the budget allocations reflect that reality. Secondly, that the policy decision around the seven reflect more market conditions. The point that Ms Michael is raising is the mechanism we use to acquire the space sometimes might be a little bit difficult.
For those members who might recall when Justice Green's report first came out, it did not necessarily recommend that we use the Public Tender Act as a mechanism to acquire these properties but use proposals and we would evaluate the proposals and award on that basis. Our colleagues in the Commission's early life, after the Green report, made a decision that the Public Tender Act would be used as the mechanism to acquire these properties. That is a piece of policy decision that the Commission made, but that is a policy piece, together with the dollar amount Judge Brazil, it would be appropriate for her to look at that piece as part of her review.
MS JONES: I guess more indirectly related to that, I had an MHA, for example, who is now going through the third, I think, tender call to try to find office space and they are not getting any response. Nobody is responding to the tender call, simply because of the restrictions that are being placed on it. This particular MHA has had to relocate or move their office two or three times in the last few months. That is pretty disruptive, especially when you are constantly moving your phone lines, your Internet lines, things like that. I think we need to deal with that aspect as well. I know there is another tender call gone out right now. I think it closes today or tomorrow or something, so we will see if there is any response. If not, I think there needs to be an avenue to deal with that. You just cannot leave that individual out there having to move every few months because somebody does not have a lease signed with them and they are not interested in tendering, so they have to pick up and move on because they have just brought in another tenant.
MR. SPEAKER: It is a fair point.
MR. KENNEDY: This did come up in the meeting before. We wanted to know how many of these awards were one bid because the numbers seem to be high. From my Ms Michael's perspective, if it is costing us $17,000 in some of these rural communities, what is it going to cost in St. John's?
The Public Tender Act there is a new act being brought in, but I think that the Management Commission can certainly look at it. My experience, on Treasury Board for many years, the Request for Proposals gives you more latitude but, of course, the problem you run into then is the accusation that you are giving it to your buddies or giving it to your friends. I am assuming that is the reason why the Public Tender Act, Mr. Speaker, would have been used.
I think there is a realistic issue here. We are dealing with taxpayers' dollars and if we have a situation where there is only one bidder well, we are forced under the Public Tender Act I had to go through, when I moved my office out. The first bid someone bid, but they were not within the area that we had in line and we had to go again. So it really is a cumbersome process. I think the question may merit some further discussion by us as opposed to, as Ms Jones said, tying it up for another year. Is this something that we could deal with or could we put a proposal together which could go to Judge Jenkins? All we want to do is make sure that MHAs are entitled to have their constituency offices in their district and not to have to go through a process that just does not work.
MR. SPEAKER: One of the things there are two considerations as I understand the history here. One in Judge Green, in being very prescriptive in the space to be allocated, was to ensure that all forty-eight MHAs regardless of your status, whether you are in Cabinet or not in Cabinet, as an MHA you are entitled to office space. To ensure that there is consistency and fairness, every MHA, they were allocated a certain square footage. That way, you could not have one MHA living in one part of the Province with pretty elaborate office space because the market allowed them to do it, and someone else living in another part of the Province with very modest accommodations because that is all you could get for the money that you were getting. The specs were developed in a fashion to ensure that every MHA's office looked the same, had the same amenities, and the same amount of space allocated to them. The second consideration of the Public Tender Act was to ensure the fairness mechanism was in place to ensure that there was a very open and transparent mechanism for anybody who had space and had an interest in renting it, had an opportunity to bid. So those two principles were what drove some of the decisions.
Given the challenges we have had and recognizing that neither one of those policy objectives seem to be met and MHAs are in some cases compromising how they do their work because of it, then clearly it is something that Ms Brazil needs to give consideration to as part of her review. No doubt when she starts that process in early August, we will have an opportunity as individuals but also have an opportunity as a Commission to provide some commentary for her and to help guide some of the recommendations that she may come forward with at the end.
The second part of this process here now, in the same manner, there is a mechanism for the Clerk to approve certain expenditures under the Members' Resources and Allowances Rules in between meetings. We are reporting here now there were two such expenditures since our last meeting. The Member for the District of Lewisporte, there was an expenditure authorized of $169.99 for some office furniture; the Member for St. Barbe, the same thing, $107.35 and we are providing a report back to the Commission to that effect.
The next item, under Tab 3, recall the decisions we had a Budget meeting of the Commission on January 25, 2012, where the Budget Estimates for 2012-2013 were developed. Subsequent to that, after some consultation with the members of the Commission as a part of the Speaker's Delegated Authority Respecting Urgent Matters, there was a consultation with members of the Commission where there were some revisions to those budget figures. What we are seeing here now, this is a summary of all of the decisions that were made with respect to the Budget.
What you are seeing here as well, this is the estimates that were dealt with in the House of Assembly and voted on as a part of the budgetary process, the debate that took place. We have here now the reproduction of those figures from the budget estimates that were voted on in the House that reflect the budgets of the House of Assembly and the statutory offices. This is an information note that we have here to advise the members of the Commission. What we need is the Commission to confirm that these reflect the estimates that were tabled in the House and voted on by the House of Assembly.
MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible) if anyone knows the answer to this. We have the House of Assembly budget, that shows the total budget, I think, of $16.551 million. Is that at page 7.6?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MR. KENNEDY: Then you take your independent offices and you add them together and you come up with a total figure of the total Legislature is $25 million?
MR. SPEAKER: $25,052,200.
MR. KENNEDY: Does anyone know how many employees are currently employed in the House of Assembly as compared to, for example, prior to the Green report, and what the budget was prior to the Green report as opposed to today?
MR. MACKENZIE: You have to avoid the whole concept of the Legislature; you just deal with the House of Assembly service. So if you are looking through the Estimates, you start off with Admin Support, Hansard and Broadcast, and Legislative Library. Those would be the core House staff. There used to be Bill Murray and one other person handling the administrative matters. We now have fourteen handling those financial administrative matters and four handling human resources. Human resource issues are separate because Central Payroll used to handle for that, and irrespective of Green, they said you guys must start handling your own. Those four in HR and Payroll are immaterial, but the Green impact was those fourteen in financial administration matters.
AN HON. MEMBER: Versus two.
MR. MACKENZIE: Versus two.
There are other impacts. Green said, have an independent Law Clerk instead of using Office of Legislative Council staff. There have been other impacts from Green, but on the financial management it went from two to fourteen.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay. Can I have a motion to confirm that as a Commission we accept those as the confirmation of the budget that we approve?
So moved by Ms Michael, seconded by Ms Jones.
All those in favour?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.
MR. SPEAKER: Against?
The next tab we deal with is Tab 4, which is the quarterly. The financial reports are developed for the House of Assembly, which include all of the expenditures of the operation of the House but also include statements for individual MHAs with respect to their expenditures based on their allocations.
What we have here now, this happens to be the quarter ending March 31, 2012, which also reflects the fiscal year. This report itself reflects the period from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012. Then when we next meet in the fall, we will have the first quarter of this fiscal year, the period ending the end of June. This summarizes our fiscal year. You can see here now a clear snapshot of what the actuals were from last year. We table these for discussion and for review. No decisions come from them obviously, because this is a reporting process. We are reporting to the Commission on these expenditures.
The members have had an opportunity to review them. Are there any particular questions or are there any issues that arise from these statements that members may want to comment on?
MS MICHAEL: Thank you.
Under 1.1.03 Hansard and the Broadcast Centre; maybe what I am going to ask is about something that did happen and I either was not there or do not remember. Under subhead 07., Property, Furnishings and Equipment, it is the cost, the overrun related to the replacement of the analog broadcast equipment with digital broadcast equipment. Obviously, it had not been budgeted for in the budget of last year and I am assuming we must have approved their going ahead with this, where we have this overrun, but I cannot remember approving it. I am sure that we did, so I just want clarification.
MR. SPEAKER: The policy decision to replace the equipment was made in a previous year. A previous Commission made the policy decision to replace it. It did not get done in the year in which the policy decision was made to do it. Last year, we had the financial flexibility to do it so we proceeded with the acquisition. The policy decision goes back to the previous fiscal year 2010-2011. I do not have in front of me the actual Commission minutes that was made, but it happened in the previous year 2010-2011.
MS MICHAEL: If I just may add then, if we made the policy decision, I guess I am curious as to why we did not realize that perhaps it should have then been budgeted for in 2011-2012, if we had already made the policy decision.
MR. SPEAKER: I will ask Mr. MacKenzie to comment, please.
MR. MACKENZIE: Yes, you may remember we had hired a consultant to review the technical requirements. That consultant worked on it last year and did the plan for the rebuild.
MS MICHAEL: Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Any other questions or comments?
MS JONES: Under the Members' Resources, I notice that there was $142,847 collected in repayment of constituency allowances. Have all of those been paid now or is it still ongoing? Can someone tell me?
MR. SPEAKER: Marlene, I wonder could you give us a summary of the status of that.
MS LAMBE: These are still ongoing. There are still monies owning from the four former members who were charged in court. We are garnishing their supplementary allowance, to do with their pensions. There is so much coming out of their cheques every month. It is expected to be repaid in full.
MR. SPEAKER: That reflects last year's annual recovery and there is still recovery taking place as we speak. Next year we will have a figure maybe similar to this one as well, until the full debt is repaid.
MS LAMBE: That is right.
MR. SPEAKER: Any further questions?
This not being a decision note, just for information, and to make sure members have sought any clarity that they wish, we will move on then to the next item, which again is a reporting to the Commission. Periodically and throughout the fiscal year when we do our budget allocation, we allocate budgets to various expense categories. As the year progresses, sometimes there is a recognition that there are greater financial pressures in one expense category versus another. So periodically, there have to be management decisions made that is delegated to the Clerk that allows the transfer of funds between various accounts. The mechanism is then to report it back to this Commission that such action took place.
What we are seeing here now is a number of transfers. You can see the dollar amounts are relatively small, but they reflect transfers to one accounting area or one cost centre coming from another. The first one deals with some amounts of $1,200 and $500, and then we have the second one dealing with amounts of $300 coming in and out of accounts, another one dealing with an amount of $100 coming in and out of an account. As we start to close in on the end of the year, there is a recognition that there are certain transfers need to be made to cover off the expenses, and areas where we have some budget slippage, they come from those accounts.
MR. KENNEDY: My question is, Mr. Speaker, why? Sure, if you are going to budget, then to transfer $100 or $300 is that something that the Speaker really needs to be dealing with? Can't they find that money in their own budgets? Are the budgets that tight where you do not have $100?
MR. SPEAKER: I think what we are dealing with here, and I will ask Marlene to comment, but I understand that within the global budget of a particular whether it is House operations or some statutory office, they fall within their global budget but this is kind of subcategories of expenditures. To comply with the Financial Administration Act, there is a reconciliation that needs to occur. They do meet or fall within their global budgets as I understand it.
Marlene, I do not know if you can comment any further.
MS LAMBE: No, there is not much to add. The thing is with these small transfers, normally it is something that departments do and they do not report back to Treasury Board or Cabinet. The Commission made a decision early on that even every little transfer that was approved by House management would come back to the Commission for reporting. That is why you see all these little amounts, and the budgets were that tight.
MR. KENNEDY: It is probably costing us $500 to approve a $100 transfer?
MR. SPEAKER: I think again it ties into your question earlier about the changes that would have occurred and the additional staff that would have been put in place to ensure compliance with the recommendations made as we have tightened up the control mechanisms. This is one where the Commission had decided that if decisions are made about the allocations of money in a budget process and the Commission votes on it, then any changes to those that occur over the course of managing that money in the next twelve months, the Commission wanted to be made aware of it. I guess what we are seeing here now is the results of that recommendation that was made by this same Commission sometime earlier in terms of what they wanted to have by way of information.
MS JONES: Just to clarify: the expenditures that are reported here, they are all still within those budgets; they are not coming from somewhere else. The Child and Youth Advocate is asking to transfer this from one part of their budget to another, isn't that right? It is being reported to the Clerk or the Speaker for approval.
MR. SPEAKER: Exactly.
MS JONES: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: That is a good example; the Child and Youth Advocate still would have operated globally within their budget. The allocation that we made at this Commission and the House subsequently voted on, that office stayed within that allocation. It was just within that broad umbrella of the money that they were given, there were various expense categories that they had to move money around as the year progressed, which is a normal practice in any business whether it is government or the private sector.
MS JONES: This really just constitutes a reporting mechanism for that transfer of funds, right?
MR. SPEAKER: Absolutely.
MS JONES: Yes. Okay.
MR. SPEAKER: There being no other items on the agenda, I will entertain a motion for adjournment.
I wish everybody well for the summer and look forward to our Commission meetings starting in the fall.
Moved by Ms Jones; seconded by Mr. Granter.
I thank you all very much. Once again, as I did in the House, as the House adjourned, I thank the outgoing Clerk, Mr. MacKenzie, for the tremendous support he provided to the House, but also to this Commission; the work that you have done on behalf of the Commission, this Commission, shepherded in the new recommendations that were made in Justice Green's report. In looking at some of the minutes of the early minutes that were held post-Green report, they were much longer than this one and many more issues that needed to have focused discussion and decisions needed to be made.
I thank you on behalf of not only the members of this Commission but members of the past Commissions, for your guidance and leadership in implementing the Green report, but also in bringing forward the changes and amendments that needed to be made from a policy perspective to implement some of those recommendations that reflect the more practical realities of the day-to-day operations of the House.
I thank you on behalf of all of us for your support and leadership.
MR. MACKENZIE: I would be remiss in not acknowledging Marie and Marlene in that effort, because they have been instrumental through it all, too.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: To you, Ms Barnes, welcome to the Commission. I know this was your first meeting as Clerk and supporting the work of the Commission. As you will see, as time goes by, we have some very interesting discussions here. We want to make sure that the affairs of the House are properly managed, and appropriate decisions are made, and appropriate accountability for the public purse. So, thank you and welcome.
Folks, have a real nice summer and we will see you all in the fall.
On motion, meeting adjourned.