Evidence of meeting #14 for Public Accounts in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was audit.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Sheila Fraser  Auditor General of Canada
  • Lyn Sachs  Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

9:35 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada

Sheila Fraser

This is the federal government's commitment to employment equity. In our office we have to measure these four groups within the office, as compared to the labour market availability in the area where we work.

If we take, for example, women, we are at 118% of workforce availability. Say it is 50% of the workforce that is women. We have 50% times 118%. So we have more women in the office than in the workforce.

Where we need to obviously improve is in members of visible minorities. We are below the workforce availability or the labour market availability here. So we have strategies that we put in place to try to increase the representation of visible minorities within the office.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

By tying this to the “finding professional auditors”, does this tie in at all to foreign-trained professionals? Is there a whack of people available that you could utilize, or that we could utilize throughout government, if we had the ability to recognize foreign-trained professionals, as we're finding particularly in the health field?

9:35 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada

Sheila Fraser

I know generally in accounting in the private sector there are a lot of foreign-trained accountants who are coming into the country. We have to give priority, actually....

May 11th, 2010 / 9:35 a.m.

Lyn Sachs Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

We give priority.

9:35 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada

Sheila Fraser

We give priority to Canadian citizens, and of course in certain areas, because of security requirements and all the rest of it, we have to be careful. But I don't think we have very many, if any.

Perhaps Ms. Sachs can respond.

9:35 a.m.

Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Lyn Sachs

Most of our hiring is external. We try to do outreach and get the students, and at the student level we have some luck in getting visible minorities. Because at the experience level we are looking for a secret clearance, it does require a number of years of residence, and then we would give priority to Canadian citizens. Until we reach the point of having the total impossibility of finding people, then we would have the ability to look for another level. But at this point it does hamper a little bit looking at those foreign professionals.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Shawn Murphy

Thank you, Mr. Christopherson.

Mr. Saxton, you have seven minutes.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Fraser, I refer to the 2010-2011 report on plans and priorities, in which you state that your office hopes to report on the international peer review by the middle of this year. Do you have any comments at this time on the progress of that peer review that you'd like to share with us?

9:35 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada

Sheila Fraser

Thank you.

In fact we have received a draft of the report, which we are responding to and developing responses to the recommendations and an action plan that we will be making available at the same time.

We hope to have the final report completed and delivered to the committee by mid-June. We are hoping that perhaps in the week of June 11 we will be able to present it to you and to table it then.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Do you wish to make any comments on the content at this time, or would you rather wait until June?

9:35 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada

Sheila Fraser

Well, they should probably be telling you what their audit says, but.... As I mentioned in here, the peer review does raise issues. It does have recommendations, very much in line with our own practice reviews, that there are areas that we need to improve in our methodology, to some degree, but largely in the implementation.

There are issues like documentation, looking at control systems, things like that, which we have to work on and will be integrating into this larger project as Canada moves to international auditing standards. That's quite a significant change for us, so we have to redo all our methodologies. We are using the opportunity as well to address the issues coming out of both our practice reviews and the peer review.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

That leads to my next question, which is regarding the international financial report and audit standards that you'll be adopting. Could you explain the strategy that you have in place to get yourself ready for that? And how it is proceeding?

9:40 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada

Sheila Fraser

Some members will know that Canada, for the private sector, has moved to international financial reporting standards, and that affects many of the large crown corporations, particularly corporations that are not appropriation-dependent.

Other crown corporations have a choice to adopt IFRS, or to use the standards that government uses, the public sector standards. So almost of all of the crown corporations are changing their basis of accounting this year. IFRS is quite a significant change. We have been working very closely with the crown corporations to ensure that they have put in place a plan, that they have analyzed what the changes will be, what the impacts are, and that they get their systems ready to do this changeover.

As for our staff, we have done extensive training. We have at least two series of training that we have gone through already. There will also be more specialized training for some of our staff who are, for example, the ones who are tasked with looking after financial instruments. They require more extensive training. And we have a strategic alliance as well with one of the major accounting firms, so we can consult with them on issues. We're also working with our provincial colleagues to provide them training on all of this. So it is a very significant effort and a very significant change.

I want to tell the committee that I'm very pleased with the progress the crown corporations are making. I think they've taken this seriously, and we don't at this point foresee any major problems in the transition to IFRS.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Thank you.

Your office has established three strategic priorities for 2010-2011. Could you elaborate on those priorities at this time?

9:40 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada

Sheila Fraser

I'd be glad to.

As we talked earlier, the first one is about the adoption of international standards and the training that we need to do for that, and we've actually now combined that with our whole issue of what we call our QMS--quality management system. We have actually combined those two projects together, to a large extent, integrating the changes to professional standards and updating and modernizing and strengthening our quality management system.

Finally, the other one is our resource allocation and project management. We have made progress, I believe, over the last couple of years. We now have a scheduling system that has been in place for about three years, where we know exactly what everyone is working on, what the availabilities of the staff are month by month, which projects are not fully staffed, and we have a team that is dedicated to managing that. Then, of course, there is the individual project management where we have given more training and more tools to staff to better assess budgets.

It is particularly challenging in this period in which we're going through a lot of changes, both to auditing standards and to accounting standards, to try to assess the time that may be required on some of this, but our performance is improving. I hope it will continue to improve over the next year.