Sixteen months ago, children and family development top bureaucrat Lesley du Toit identified "Quality Assurance" as a "a key part" of reforming her ministry. This, according to a transcript obtained by Public Eye via a freedom of information request. Of course, that shouldn't come as much a surprise. After all, in his April 2006 independent review of British Columbia's child protection system, Ted Hughes, stated the ministry "needs a strong quality assurance function to ensure compliance with its standards and practices." But what is surprising is the ministry has only just now gotten around to hiring an assistant deputy minister who will be responsible for leading "the design, development and implementation of an integrated quality assurance framework."
Asked about the matter, Children and Family Development Minister Tom Christensen responded, "I don't think anybody shouldn't take the fact that there hasn't been a specific ADM for quality assurance to suggest quality assurance hasn't been a focus of the ministry since it was established in the mid-1990s. We have a number of processes and structures in place around quality assurance."
"I think there's no question though that, coming out of the Hughes review and in bringing Lesley here as DM, that we wanted to have some additional look at quality assurance and what the most appropriate structures are to ensure we're providing quality services across the board - whether that's in child protection or in the other areas the ministry is involved with. And, in putting together the leadership team over the last 18 months to two years, we've sort of been working toward this point. So it was timely, at this point, to go ahead with finding an ADM for quality assurance. And we're very pleased with the person who has been hired to take that job on. And we're looking forward to her starting in the beginning of March."
So this hiring has nothing to do with child and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond recent criticism that the ministry hasn't acted on Mr. Hughes's quality assurance recommendations? "No. This is a hiring that has been planned for sometime," said Minister Christensen. "Certainly, having a specific ADM responsible for quality assurance, I think, is going to help in moving that work ahead. It's not as if there's been nothing that's been done around quality assurance over the last number of months or 18 months since the Hughes report came out. But this is, I think, a critical part of the work going forward."
Minister Christensen also rejected suggestions the appointment of Sandra Griffin to that post was pre-determined. "As I understand - and obviously ministers aren't involved in hiring decisions, certainly at the ADM level - that all the requirements of the public service generally have been followed in terms of this hiring," he said. "I do know that Ms. Griffin comes eminently qualified. I'm thrilled that she's prepared to take on this position and be involved in public life here in British Columbia. And I think she'll be a real asset to the ministry moving forward."