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Notice of Inquiry:Role and Function of Auditor General

Role and Function of Auditor General

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, pursuant to Senate rules 5-1. and 5-6.(2), I give notice that, two days hence:

I shall call the attention of the Senate to:

(a) the Auditor General of Canada, a statutory officer whose powers are limited to those expressly stated in the statute, the Auditor General Act; and, to his powers, by this Act, as "the auditor of the accounts of Canada," which powers do not include any audit of the Senate and senators; and, to the British House of Commons' great achievement, being the creation of the appropriation audit, to which audit all government departments were subject; and, to this appropriation audit, which inspired Canada's 1878 statute that created the Auditor General of Canada as an officer wholly independent of our finance department and most particularly of the government; and,

(b) to the auditor general's role in the appropriation audit, being to verify and to certify that government spending is as the House of Commons dictated and adopted in their appropriation acts; and, to the purpose and function of appropriation audits, which is the examination of the appropriation accounts of government departments, of which the Senate is not one, and therefore not subject to the Auditor General's audit examination; and,

(c) to the distinguished British Liberal Leader, William Gladstone, known for his constitutional acumen, and his defence of the powers of the House of Commons in the public finance and the control of the public purse, and who, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sponsored Britain's 1866 Exchequer and Audit Departments Act, which was the basis for Canada's 1878 statute, An Act for the better Auditing of the Public Accounts, which Act established the new independent Auditor General of Canada; and, to Britain's Commons House famous and powerful Public Accounts Committee and its 1865 Report from the Committee of Public Accounts, which Report clarified the role of audit in the public accounts of the departments of government; and,

(d) to this Report, that records the auditors' views and opinions on their role and proper function as never advising, controlling, or remonstrating, and also to never correct or prevent, but just to detect; and, to the fact that this great achievement of the appropriation audit is now largely unknown to Canadians, because recently, auditors general, by their own self-definition, have expanded their role away from the quantitative, arithmetic functions of audit, and have moved into the qualitative, policy spheres, to the extent that many Canadians now believe wrongly that the auditor general is the taxpayers' representative and guardian of their tax dollars, which function properly belongs to the Commons House, and not to the auditor general, who has absolutely no representative powers, which powers rightly belong to the elected members of parliament, chosen in representation by population for the purpose of no taxation without representation.

The remainder of this day's Senate Debates are available here.