Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre called on the federal government to increase its funding to the auditor general, claiming the office has been “deprived” of at least $11 million needed to examine government spending.
“We need the government to tell us next week: how big is the deficit? How big is the debt? Stop hiding the mess,” he said Sunday.
Poilievre said the office was doing 28 audits a year during Stephen Harper’s leadership 10 years ago with a budget of $250 million, but now only does 14 — despite doubling its budget to $500 million.
“We have twice the spending and half the audits, which equals one quarter of accountability,” he said.
A press secretary for the finance minister’s office said in an emailed statement to Global News that the federal government was committed to supporting “the important work” of the auditor general.
“After the Conservatives cut nearly $6.5 million from the auditor general’s budget, we took action to restore funding. In Budget 2018, we committed to investing more than $41 million in additional funding to the Ontario auditor general. We welcome the new auditor general and look forward to working with her,” the statement read.
Interim Auditor General of Canada Sylvain Ricard told the House of Commons finance committee on May 12 the office had faced “limited resource challenges for years.”
He said $21 million in permanent funding was requested by former auditor general Michael Ferguson during the 2018 federal budget and only received “some” of the funding they requested.
In 2019, Ricard said his office requested an additional $10.8 million but didn’t receive a single cent.
“We continued to pursue additional resources in the 2019 budget cycle but did not get any new funding at that time,” Ricard said.
“Our limited resources meant that we had no choice but to decrease the amount of performance audits that we conduct.”
Since parliament returned in January, he said his office received three requests for audits, including an audit of the $187 billion Investing in Canada Plan and an audit of the federal government’s handling of the pandemic emergency.
“Given the nature and extent of the work that we believe is required to conduct the audit on the Investing in Canada Plan and the COVID-19 response, and in light of our limited resources, we had to revisit the timing for completing and reporting on our current and future performance audit work,” he said.
“On that basis, we informed the Speaker of the House that we had to delay all the performance audit work that is not related to the motions adopted by the House of Commons.”
During the meeting in May, Poilievre, who is vice-chair of the finance committee, asked the auditor general if his office had enough money to sufficiently respond to its audits. Ricard said: “We’re behind, there’s nothing we can do about fixing the investment we should have done over the last few years, so we will have to make difficult choices.”
“The COVID situation — simply demonstrated, times 10, if I can say it that way — the struggle we were living. We have no leeway, we have no way to adapt to an additional request from the House, no way to invest in technology and get our staff to have the right needs,” he said.