DHR ‘Road Ahead’ mission: streamlining govt hiring process
Department of Human Resources director Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford says DHR has been implementing many improvements to the department, which handles the complex hiring process for the government.
The DHR director was responding last week to Samoa News queries after questions surfaced in the House over the delay in filling some 50 teaching positions for the local Department of Education. (See Tuesday’s edition for Langford’s response).
“I have always acknowledged where this department falls short but… corrective action plan through the ‘Road Ahead’ mission is addressing recurring problems that originate from what should be the greatest resource, Human Capital,” Langford said.
Part of that plan is shared upgrades of the government integrated finance and accounting system, IFAS, which includes DHR, Budget Office and Payroll modules that process the workflow for government employee personnel and payroll actions, she said.
“We have been working collaboratively and in great appreciation with the... Department of Treasury in a joint venture with the DOE in the upgrade of the IFAS as well as the installation of IFAS to the DOE as a compliance measure to the US Department of Education,” she said referencing the DOE ‘high risk’ Corrective Action Plan.
Langford notes the computer hardware upgrades also allow for a paperless process, an electronic Official Personnel File, which includes an electronic filing system for the 5,000+ employee records currently maintained in the Personnel Division in rusty metal filing cabinets that occupy a large amount of workspace.
The new filing system, once on line, would centralize operations to file, retrieve, organize and better safeguard the records, she said.
The current launch date for the IFAS upgrade of the DHR module is scheduled for April 2012; and the DHR staff will begin training on the new upgrade, Langford said.
Referring to the training, she noted that “a system or a piece of equipment is only as good as the people who use the system or equipment.” In addition, she said, if management and leadership of all departments exercise hiring practices, decisions and demands that are within statutory directives, the process would be a transparent, fair and competitive system based on merit.
‘ROAD AHEAD’ MISSION
Through the creation of the "Road Ahead" mission, the DHR has redefined its Vision and Mission and identified key strategic long-term and operational short-term tasks to improve and provide ideal public service to the government and territory, Langford explained.
“A longstanding problem in the DHR has been the continued use of antiquated equipment — hardware about 11-12 years old — and a labor-intensive, not user-friendly database system that was operating on an DHR module of a 4th version when the upgrades were already up to the 9th version,” she said.
The short-term fixes to correct the tracking and routing process began with the identification of the processing time for the Personnel and Budget requirements; and through this review it was learned that the ideal process time for a hiring action, with minimal delays should be in a range from 30 to 52 days (4 to 6 weeks).
“This is almost half the time for processing a hiring action in other state county or city governments with a comparable government workforce, with their average processing time at about 6-8 weeks or longer. The federal government is attempting to reduce the hiring time from 150+ days to 80 days,” she said.
Langford explained that since 2009, DHR began its own internal review of the hiring process based on Gov. Togiola Tulafono's 2009 Transition Report, which documented input from DHR management and employees, a DHR analysis, feedback from the Fono leadership during the 2009 confirmation hearings for the DHR Director and input from a Personnel Manager's Workshop and a Leader's Personnel Conference conducted for all ASG directors and deputy directors.
The review also included input from focus groups held in government departments through a separate but relevant initiative in the revamping of ASG’s Performance Management System, she said.
The DHR IFAS module upgrades are financed by a technical assistance disaster grant award for $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs for the mitigation against disasters to protect official employee and sensitive information, which was applied for and received by DHR, in the aftermath of the September 2009 earthquake and tsunami disaster, Langford told Samoa News.
See the online version of this story at www.samoanews.com for details explained by Langford regarding the hiring process — from the beginning to the end — and what’s involved.