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Kafka's Castle: The Treasury Board of Canada revisited

Authors

  • Gérard Veilleux,

    1. Gérard Veilleux is secretary to the Treasury Board and Donald J. Savoie is professor of public administration, Université de Moncton, and the Canadian Centre for Management Development, Ottawa, Governrnent of Canada. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone and they are not intended to represent the opinion of the government of Canada.
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  • Donald J. Savoie

    1. Gérard Veilleux is secretary to the Treasury Board and Donald J. Savoie is professor of public administration, Université de Moncton, and the Canadian Centre for Management Development, Ottawa, Governrnent of Canada. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone and they are not intended to represent the opinion of the government of Canada.
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Abstract

Abstract: In the early 1970s, A.W. Johnston likened the Treasury Board to Kafka's Castle. Widespread misconceptions existed, he wrote, about the workings of the Treasury Board and its Secretariat. Since then, the scope of Treasury Board activities has broadened substantially. Both the Board and the Secretariat have assumed new responsibilities in the area of personnel policy, in establishing new administrative policies for government operations and in managing the government's property holdings, for example. Yet little has been written about these new responsibilities and, to an outsider, the Treasury Board must resemble Kafka's Castle now as much as it did in the early 1970s.

This paper describes the various changes introduced over the past fifteen years that have transformed the operations of the Treasury Board and its Secretariat. The paper goes further and locates the Treasury Board between the competing forces of centralized decision-making on the one hand and “letting the manager manage” on the other. The paper points out that the Treasury Board has been a key actor in the various attempts at “letting the manager manage.” It recently launched a major new initiative - Increased Ministerial Authority and Accountability (IMAA) - which is designed to transfer important decision-making authority to managers. The paper concludes with a review of IMAA, its origin, its design and its operations.

Sommaire: Au début des années soixante-dix, A.W. Johnston comparait le Conseil du Trésor au Château de Kafka. Il affirme que les malentendus quant aux activités du Conseil du Trésor et de son secrétariat étaient répandus. Depuis, le Conseil du Trésor a beaucoup élargi le champ de ses activités. Le conseil et son secrétariat ont accepté de nouvelles responsabilités concernant les politiques de gestion du personnel et l'élaboration de politiques de gestion des affaires gouvernementales et de gestion des avoirs fonciers du gouvernement, par exemple. Pourtant, on n'a pas dit grand-chose de ces nouvelles responsabilités et, pour un observateur étranger, le Conseil du Trésor resemble sans doute autant aujourd'hui au Château de Kafka qu'au début des années soixante-dix.

Dans cet article, l'auteur expose les changenients qui sont survenus depuis quinze ans et qui ont transformé les activités du Conseil et son secrétariat. L'auteur va plus loin et situe le Conseil du Trésor entre deux pôles, d'une part les forces concurrentielles qui caractérisent des prises de décisions centralisées et, d'autre part, l'attitude qui veut que “les directeurs aient la latitude de diriger”. L'auteur souligne que le Conseil du Trésor a joué un rôle-clé dans les diverses tentatives visant à laisser “les directeurs diriger”. Le Conseil a récemment lancé un important programme, intitulé Autorité et responsabilité accrues du Ministère (ARAM), lequel vise à donner plus de pouvoir décisionnel aux gestionnaires. En conclusion, l'auteur passe en revue l'origine, la conception et les activités de ce programme.

So he resumed his walk, but the way proved long. For the street he was in, the main street of the village, did not lead up to the Castle hill, it only made towards it and then, as if deliberately, turned aside, and though it did not lead away from the Castle it got no nearer to it either. At every turn K. expected the road to double back to the Castle, and only because of this expectation did he go on. F. Kafka, The Castle

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