Evidence of meeting #37 for Public Accounts in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chapter.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michael Ferguson  Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Jerome Berthelette  Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Wendy Loschiuk  Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

9:40 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I believe the reason we didn't make more of a recommendation in this chapter was the point in time that we were actually looking at it. The fact that we simply identified that sufficient due diligence was not applied is information that needs to be taken to indicate that throughout the completion of this....

The final objective is to replace the CF-18s. Even though there isn't a recommendation on it, the message in the chapter is clear: to complete this project, there needs to be a very good and rigorous process that people can have confidence in.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Thank you.

Now I would like to ask Mr. Berthelette a question. In 2010, when the report on the helicopters was prepared, I know you were there. On that occasion, the deputy minister of public works said the following:

Second, we need to develop tools and templates for complex procurement activities, which will inform best approaches vis-à-vis lowest-cost compliant or best value to the crown. Finally, we need to provide enhanced training for staff assigned to complex procurement processes.

Those words were spoken in 2010, and you were present. Mr. Berthelette, do you think that the objective that the department set itself has been achieved?

9:45 a.m.

Jerome Berthelette Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Mr. Chair, we did not follow up on the helicopter chapter. So I am not in a position to provide the member with a specific answer.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Is it your view that the observations made in this report on the F-35 process are very similar to what was written about the deficiencies uncovered in the helicopter procurement process?

9:45 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

The critical thing is that we identified in this chapter that there were some significant issues with the purchasing process, the decision process. They speak for themselves. We haven't done a follow-up on the helicopter chapter and that detailed comparison. I think the items we found in this chapter are significant and stand on their own as things that need to be done better as this process moves forward.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Thank you both.

The time has expired.

Madam Bateman, you have the floor.

April 5th, 2012 / 9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much, sir, for being here with us today, and your colleagues. I really appreciate that the work you do adds value to the work of every public servant and elected official. I would very much like you to share that with your entire team. I understand the complexity and work that go into these reports, and I very much appreciate it.

I'm also a student of French.

Your work really does give us added value, sir.

I am going to choose the interest-bearing debt chapter for a few questions. I'm doing that because, as you know, this is an enormous amount of money, and it's the intention of this government to ensure that the amount goes down in the very near future.

When I look at the details in this chapter of what has been done, I'm very pleased to see that overall your findings were quite positive. As a government, we absolutely support all five of your recommendations in this particular chapter of the report. We are willing to do everything possible to improve this system, and that's where you are the value-added for us always.

The report spoke to the sound decision-making process and the analytical framework supporting efficient management of this government's market debt. Two of your five recommendations have already been acted on, and I believe we've already taken action on the recommendation on public sector pension plan investments; as well, the presentation of a breakdown of interest and other costs within the estimates has already been addressed.

While we're very pleased with your findings, we always want to get it better and make it more efficient and effective for Canadian citizens, so I'm just wondering.... I have to mention that yesterday a Wall Street Journal report indicated that our debt management approach is superlative, and it's worth a read. It says, “Canada Beats America. And we don't mean in hockey. Try taxes, spending and energy.”

On the spending piece, I see you as a valuable tool to make the process better for Canadians. Were you pleased with the openness and the receptiveness of our officials in the Department of Finance to embrace all your recommendations and to cooperate and implement them?

9:45 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

Certainly we had cooperation from the Department of Finance, and they agreed with our recommendation, so we didn't have any concerns in that matter.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

You got cooperation. I've already spoken to the fact that two of your recommendations have already been addressed and embraced and implemented.

What is a reasonable timeline to implement the remaining recommendations? Could you speak to that?

9:50 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

When we make a recommendation, it's then the responsibility of the department to which we are making the recommendation to put together an action plan, including a timeline for implementation. I wouldn't have any specific timelines for the individual recommendations, but that's what we would expect the department to come forward with.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Do you speak to the department about their action plan subsequent to the audit or as a part of the final meetings within the audit process? I ask that in terms of a guidance piece. The words “action plan” make my heart sing, but I'm just curious about your follow-up approach with officials.

9:50 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

As part of our process when we're making recommendations to departments and they are responding to us, we would have a discussion about how difficult or how complex it would be to implement some of those recommendations. Then the actual action plan and their implementing of it could possibly be the subject of a follow-up audit, if we chose to do one, or would be information that would come forward to a committee such as this one for the departments to speak to and to be held accountable to.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Okay. And there's—

9:50 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Sorry, Madam, but time flies when you're having fun.

We are now back to Mr. Byrne; you have the floor, sir.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Ferguson, could you confirm to the committee that the Department of National Defence and the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada replied to your office, when presented with the draft findings of your performance audit on the F-35 purchase, that they did not accept the conclusions as outlined in paragraphs 2.80 and 2.81? Did the Department of National Defence and the Department of Public Works reply to you that they did not accept your conclusions?