Sheila Fraser

2002 Auditor General's Report:
Canada Heads for the Dustbin of History

Ottawa - Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - by: Walter Robinson, Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation


Auditor General (AG) Sheila Fraser tabled the first (eight chapters) of three reports for the 2002 calendar year earlier this week. Once again her report is replete with numerous examples of waste, financial mismanagement, and laughable — or lamentable, depending on your perspective — public administration.




Yet again, the AG has clearly shown how irrelevant and powerless Parliament has willfully and negligently allowed itself to become when it comes to the ultimate stewardship and responsibility for over $170 billion in annual federal spending.




The scope, depth, and quality of the work of successive Auditors General from Maxwell Henderson to J.J. MacDonnell to Kenneth Dye to Denis Desautels and now Ms. Fraser is a testament to continuous improvement. Not bad for an annual budget of $60 million.




Moreover, the language in these reports has steadily moved from nicey-nice bureaucrateeze to plain yet powerful English. Still, almost half the AGs recommendations are never followed. For example, the AG has raised concerns about Ottawa’s disquieting frequency in placing tax dollars beyond the reach of Parliament through the use of foundations, special purpose funds, investment funds and partnership arrangements. At last count over $7.1 billion has been transferred to nine foundations since 1996-97.




Chapter 1 notes,
“in many cases, these arrangements do not meet all three requirements that government departments would have to meet to ensure accountability to Parliament: credible reporting of results, effective ministerial oversight, and adequate external audit.”




Chapter 5 examines the recruitment and retention of military personnel at National Defence (DND). Basically our forces have more cooks than engineers and skilled personnel.
“For example, HMCS Huron has been tied to the dock since October 2000, partly because the Navy cannot provide it with enough skilled sailors to put to sea.”




The AG also states that personnel who leave the military cite “concerns about leadership” and the “conditions of service” (read: poor pay and decrepid equipment) as some of their reasons for departure.




This brings the present scandal surrounding the $101.5 million purchase of two Challenger jets into sharper focus. No wonder soldiers are leaving when they’re forced to train without weapons or fly in 40-year old Sea Kings.




Even when the top brass try to get it right, things go south in a big, bad way. Chapter 8 (Other Audit Observations) of the AG’s report slams the DND purchase of
“a $174-million satellite communications system completed in 1997-98, most of which has been in storage, unused since its delivery.”



no contract

Such waste is not restricted to DND. In her foreword, Ms. Fraser points out
“Health Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada failed to follow the government’s contracting rules in awarding a $25 million contract to establish the Canadian Health Network … work began without a written contract, equipment that was purchased was underused and its ownership not clearly identified, and expenses were overclaimed.”




Note to self: Buy Microsoft FrontPage software … opportunity to make big coin in government web publishing exists!)




In Non-Zero: The Logic of Human Destiny, acclaimed author Robert Wright states:
“Badly governed societies are littered with losses, and history is littered with the remains of badly governed societies.”




Unless Ottawa changes it current ways, Wright’s conclusion is a chilling prophecy of our future. Canadians need and deserve a government and Parliament with the political will to demand value for money and measurable results for dollars spent to avoid this sad date with history.
  Walter Robinson
Federal Director
  Forward to this year's report with chapter summaries
  Auditor General's link page to media releases
  The actual report
  Note on illustration: The image at the top of the page includes one of the nineteen year old Challenger 604 aircraft used in navy patrol, the HMCS Huron on US exercise in 1998.