Highlights from the 2014 spring auditor general’s report

Watch above: Canada’s auditor general Michael Ferguson found problems with prison plans, pension plans and policing. Vassy Kapelos and Jacques Bourbeau report.

OTTAWA – Auditor General Michael Ferguson released his spring report Tuesday, and Ottawa was abuzz (or maybe that was just the 6 a.m. coffee).

The gist, as it were, is that the federal government needs better long-term planning – on everything from pensions to prisons to policing.

“Though government should work to provide Canadians with programs and services in a timely fashion, planning should also look beyond the needs of the day,” Ferguson said in a release.

We read the report so you don’t have to. Here are some of the highlights.

EXTENDED: 2014 spring auditor general’s report

Are public sector pensions sustainable? Don’t ask the government:

The federal government’s net liability for public servant pension plans exceeds $150 billion. But Ferguson’s office found that no one is responsible for assessing whether the pension plans are “sustainable over the long term.”

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The report recommends the Treasury Board Secretariat, along with the RCMP and National Defence, periodically assess its sustainability. “The entities should recommend changes to plan designs so that they are up to date, affordable, and fair to current and future generations.”

Another 2,700 prison cells for Canada, but double-bunking continues:

The Correctional Service of Canada is expanding the country’s prisons – with plans to build 2,700 cells in 37 facilities by 2015. But the prison service did not consider regional or long-term pressures, the audit says, including new spaces for health care or segregation.

Cells were build not according to expected need, but where land was available. As a result, the expansion meets immediate needs, the audit found that prisons will again be over-capacity in a few years. “Even after the construction is completed, CSC officials expect double bunking to continue,” the report says.

The government is also saving about $34 million a year less than advertised by closing three prisons including the notorious Kingston Penitentiary. Auditors recommend the prison service come up with a longer term accommodation plan. Side note: it now costs $211,618 a year to house a female inmate at any security level, and $151,484 to imprison a male in maximum security.

First Nations policing not working:

The First Nations Policing Program – an agreement between the provinces, federal government and First Nations – is supposed to supplement aboriginal communities with services not provided by the province.

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But it is not working as intended, the report finds. In particular in Ontario, the program does not ensure that services on reserves “meet the standards that apply to policing services elsewhere in the province.”

The program is not accessible or transparent to all First Nations communities, and funds are often not used as intended, the report says. Public Safety Canada, the federal body responsible for the program, doesn’t collect information about whether facilities comply with building and fire codes or provincial standards.

Economic development in Canada’s North not being tracked

The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency was created in 2009 as Canada’s first stand-alone agency dedicated to economic development in the North.

But it is not adequately monitoring contributions or collecting enough information to know if recipients are complying with requirements.

The agency also doesn’t know whether programs are working or if funding is making a difference to the North. Recommendations include following-up and monitoring activities to ensure agreements are being met.

Statistics Canada has quality data – except for small areas

The report found Statistic Canada obtains accurate information, ensures timeliness, and makes data accessible to users.

But the needs for small geographic areas and subpopulations “are not being met,” the audit says. The reason is because the data wasn’t available from the National Household Survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census. “Statistics Canada estimates that reliable national data was unavailable from the National Household Survey for 3 percent of the population,” it says.


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