There’s always work to do after the Auditor General reports

There are a few days that really set themselves apart from the regular rhythm of parliamentary sittings.  One of those is budget day and the other is the day the Auditor General (AG) reports to parliament.  Both feature ‘lock-ups’ where parliamentary staff and journalists spend time in information sessions studying what will soon be tabled in parliament.  This is why there is almost instant reaction and analysis available as soon as either document is tabled.  Both days also have the ability to direct the subject matter and tone of Question Period as well as what is reported in the media.  We had a budget in March and this week it was the Auditor Generals’ turn as Michael Ferguson reported his latest findings to parliament. 

The AG’s report found that closing two prisons while expanding and repairing two others is not resulting in the kind of cost savings the Conservatives claimed it would; that there isn’t much input from First Nations in the First Nations policing program and found instances where the program is replacing provincial police services altogether – which was not the intent;  that the public-sector pension plan needs better risk assessment and planning, and how the  Department of Finance, while claiming it does that assessment, won’t share its findings with the AG; that the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency doesn’t properly monitor the money it dishes out or demand recipients prove they are meeting the terms of their agreements; that the process to find a moving company for civil servants is inefficient; and that Statistics Canada is finding it more difficult to provide data for small geographic areas and population breakdowns.

To that last point we can draw a direct line to the Conservative’s controversial decision to scrap the mandatory long form census.  It provided dependable and accurate analysis which is critical in helping the government fine tune programs to match demand.  Without good and specific information we are left to ‘trust’ the government’s analysis of things like regional shortages of workers and the influx of Temporary Foreign Workers that are used to plug the holes that the government assures us exist, but are more invisible to Statistics Canada than they were in the past.

It is disturbing to have the Department of Finance claiming that it cannot answer questions about public service pensions and to cite cabinet confidence as the reason.  Public Servants have paid heavily into their pension plan and have every right to know that it is properly funded and managed.  It raises suspicion as to what the Harper government may be planning for the fund.

The latest report paints a damning picture of mismanagement of programs and services affecting Canadians.  Mismanagement and a lack of planning end up costing Canadians whether it’s a million nickels at a time or huge underestimates on big ticket items like F-35 fighter jets.  In this report we are told that mismanagement is plaguing almost every area the AG studied.  That leads to wasted money which could be directed to services people count on.  With tighter and tighter budgets, Canadians deserve real accountability, but that is something the government is failing to deliver.