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Notice of Inquiry: Comprehensive Audit of Auditor General

Comprehensive Audit 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) our 1988 Senate National Finance Committee study of the Auditor General of Canada; and, to then incumbent Kenneth Dye's February 3 testimony, wherein he described parliament as his "client," but also said, ". . . , our office views itself as a servant of Parliament"; and, to his explanation of the comprehensive audit, the term used by the June 6, 2013 Senate government motion, inviting the auditor general to audit exam senators; and, to the Auditor General's term, "performance audit," that describes this same audit of senators; and,

(b) to the learned research and scholarship on the auditor general's role and its incursion into the political, policy spheres; and, to Carleton University's Professor Sharon Sutherland's January 28, 1988, testimony before our National Finance Committee; and, to the abandonment by auditors general of their traditional audit role as quantitative bean counters; and, to their movement into the policy and advice spheres, the inexorable consequence of the then new 1977 Auditor General Act, the political result of then Auditor General James Macdonell's, successful public media campaign to that end; and,

(c) to the political fact that this Act enlarged this auditor's powers to add a new unknown power to judge and opine on the "value for money" of government expenditures; and, to these judgments which, not amenable to arithmetic measurement and quantification, will inevitably be flawed, because by human nature, such judgments will tend to be social, political and qualitative in character, which judgments, so totally liable to human subjectivity and selectivity, cannot be sound measures to form sound conclusions on government spending; and,

(d) to the fact that such auditors' opinions, politicized as they are, having of necessity become public policy opinions, will undermine the constitutional fact that public policy is the exclusive domain of politics, governments and parliaments; and, to Auditor General Act "value for money" section 7.(2)(d), which says:

7.(2) Each report of the Auditor General under subsection (1) shall call attention to anything that he considers to be of significance and of a nature that should be brought to the attention of the House of Commons, including any cases which he has observed that . . .

(d) money has been expended without due regard to economy or efficiency;

and,

(e) to the fact that Mr. Macdonell's 1977 Auditor General Act wholly altered audit of the public finance; and, to this then new audit role's drift away from the appropriation audit, towards the regulation of government, and now even the houses of parliament, with the result that, in the public mind, the auditors general have become a check on politicians, parliamentarians and senators; and, to this auditor general new role in social and political control, with all its unfortunate results; and, to the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation, founded, financed, and operated by Auditor General Macdonell's office; and, to its famous paper, Comprehensive Auditing — An Overview, which, at page 6, states that:

Although the primary function of auditors is to add credibility to financial information, recent developments seem to indicate a growing trend towards viewing them in a broader context as agents of social control, . . . .

An Hon. Senator: Bravo!

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