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Canada’s auditor general says $27.4B in COVID benefits need more scrutiny

Click to play video: '$4.6 billion in COVID-19 benefits went to ineligible recipients: AG'
$4.6 billion in COVID-19 benefits went to ineligible recipients: AG
WATCH: After examining the feds' response to the pandemic, Auditor General Karen Hogan has discovered $4.6 billion in COVID-19 benefits were claimed by ineligible recipients. Mackenzie Gray explains why the government isn't going to try to recoup the money, and the billions more in pandemic relief still under scrutiny. – Dec 6, 2022

OTTAWA — Canada’s auditor general says COVID-19 benefits were delivered quickly and helped mitigate economic suffering, however, the federal government hasn’t done enough to recover overpayments.

In a new report looking into the federal government’s delivery of pandemic benefits, Karen Hogan said the programs provided relief to workers and employers affected by the pandemic and helped the economy rebound.

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Click to play video: 'Estimated $4.6 billion in COVID benefits paid to people not eligible: AG report'
Estimated $4.6 billion in COVID benefits paid to people not eligible: AG report

At the same time, the auditor general says the Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada have not followed up by verifying payments.

Hogan estimates $4.6 billion was paid to people who were not eligible, while another $27.4 billion in payments to individuals and businesses should be further investigated.

“I am concerned about the lack of rigour on post-payment verifications and collection activities,” Hogan said in a news release.

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Click to play video: 'CERB repayment notices lead to confusion and anxiety'
CERB repayment notices lead to confusion and anxiety

The audit found that efforts to recover overpayments have been limited, with the Canada Revenue Agency collecting $2.3 billion through voluntary repayments.

Pre-payment controls were also lacking, though the report said the federal government made some changes to those controls for individual benefits.

However, the CRA made few changes to improve prepayment controls for businesses to mitigate risks of overpayment.
Click to play video: 'Conservative shadow finance minister says AG’s report on COVID spending ‘requires further investigation’'
Conservative shadow finance minister says AG’s report on COVID spending ‘requires further investigation’

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Hogan also flagged that there was a lack of sufficient data to assess the effectiveness of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

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Although the subsidy did go to businesses in industries hardest hit by the pandemic, the report said the effect of the subsidy on business resilience is unclear because the agency collected limited data from businesses.

Click to play video: 'Money Matters: Dealing with CERB repayment'
Money Matters: Dealing with CERB repayment

The auditor general has offered the federal government a set of recommendations to improve the collection of overpayments and to fix data gaps relating to businesses.

Government organizations reviewed in the audit say they have accepted the recommendations.

Click to play video: '‘We’re being compassionate’: Minister responds to AG report critical of COVID repayments'
‘We’re being compassionate’: Minister responds to AG report critical of COVID repayments

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