Auditor General says she needs bigger funding boost due to pandemic demands

Auditor General says she needs bigger funding boost due to pandemic demands

Auditor General says she needs bigger funding boost due to pandemic demands

OTTAWA — Auditor general Karen Hogan said Monday the government needs to boost funding to her office because of the unprecedented demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hogan said her predecessor, interim auditor general Sylvain Ricard, asked for an additional $10.8 million in February.

“A lot has changed since then,” Hogan said in her first appearance before the House of Commons finance committee.

She told MPs on the videoconference that she is working with the Finance Department to determine how much additional funding her office will need and expects to know more in the coming weeks.

Hogan said her office won’t be able to audit every single program the government has introduced in response to the pandemic but will move forward selectively.

“I simply wanted to highlight that auditing all of the COVID programs would be astronomical. There’s just so many. We would likely just be doing that for many years to come, which we don’t believe is the best thing for Parliament and the best for Canadians,” Hogan said.

Hogan said her priorities are to examine the government’s ability to buy personal protective equipment for health-care workers, a study of Canada’s food supply and a more detailed look at the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

The CERB is a subsidy the government created to help Canadians who lost their jobs or had their hours cut by the pandemic and help them transition back to work. The $2,000-a-month subsidy is now budgeted to cost $60 billion.

“The CERB is one that is a large monetary drain on the government, and it has an impact to so many Canadians across the country,” said Hogan.

“It is one that, unfortunately, we’re all aware might have some activities that are fraudulent.”

By studying the CERB first, the auditor general might be able to provide lessons learned and best practices that could be applied to other government spending programs since the pandemic, said Hogan.

But Hogan said the auditor general’s office is also keen to examine other government spending not related to COVID-19.

Top priorities are military spending and cybersecurity, as well as a follow-up on connectivity in the North, she said.

Not working out of government offices during the pandemic has increased the amount of time and effort it takes to access, receive and exchange information, said Hogan, suggesting the days when officials can simply meet in boardrooms to exchanges pieces of paper are long gone.

Hogan said there will be delays in getting information to Parliament but she will be in position to table new assessments in the early 2021. But those won’t be full audits, she added.

“We’re trying to tackle this so we can get some information to Parliament because of the importance of the spending and the attention.”

Hogan said she is moving ahead with hiring new staff because the work needs to start now, despite the lack of a government commitment of additional funds.

“We are not sitting back and waiting,” she said. “Obviously, we are taking some risks.”

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said Parliament is eager for answers, but MPs also want the auditor general to do a thorough job. He noted the committee gave the previous auditor general a January deadline to report back.

“That said, we understand the work overload and the funding deprivation that you’re dealing with. What we really want is a quality job,” Poilievre told Hogan.

“This is really unprecedented, and I’m hoping that the government will correct the shortfall it has created.”

But Peter Julian, a New Democrat committee member, blamed successive Conservative and Liberal governments for under-funding the auditor general.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2020.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Employee at Bethany CollegeSide in Red Deer tests positive for COVID-19

An employee at a Red Deer continuing care facility has tested positive… Continue reading

The Government of Alberta has identified 1,828 new cases and 15 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the provincial death toll to 590. (File photo)
Alberta identifies 1,828 new COVID-19 cases on Friday

Central zone has 1,251 active cases

Higher sales of cannabis helped Canadian farmers come out in the green. (Black Press Media File)
Drumheller RCMP lay charge for unlawfully distributing cannabis

A joint forces investigation involving the AGLC investigation team partnered with Drumheller… Continue reading

Three weapons have been seized and four people are facing charges following a police operation in central Alberta. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
RCMP, Lacombe Police seize loaded guns, arrest four people

Four people have been arrested and multiple prohibited firearms are off the… Continue reading

The Salvation Army's 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign includes a new $5 tap feature for pandemic-friendly donations. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Salvation Army officers safe, touchless options for Kettle donation this year

The Salvation Army in Red Deer needs help. Kettle donations are needed… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Montreal Alouettes' Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan (3) and Mexico's Jacqueline Ovalle (11) battle for the ball during a CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying soccer match Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Edinburg, Texas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Delcia Lopez
Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris celebrates his touchdown against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the first half of the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. Running back Andrew Harris, who was instrumental in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ending their Grey Cup drought in 2019, tops the CFL team's list of potential free agents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

24Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) goes up for a shot agains the Boston Celtics during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.. Watching Connor McDavid let a slapshot fly or Fred VanVleet sink a deep three can be a salve to the soul of a sports fan run down by the difficult realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark J. Terrill
Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Coastal Carolina's Grayson McCall (10) scrambles past Texas State's Nico Ezidore (95) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in San Marcos, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chuck Burton
BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, arrives at B.C. Supreme Court to attend a hearing, in Vancouver, on Friday, November 27, 2020. The U.S. Department of Justice is refusing to comment on media reports that its lawyers are seeking a plea deal of sorts with Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

Alek Minassian is shown in a handout photo from his LinkedIn page. A psychiatrist retained by the defence will testify for a fifth consecutive day today at the trial for the man behind Toronto's van attack. Dr. Alexander Westphal says Alek Minassian does not truly understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but says criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

Most Read