Good morning, everyone.
I just want to make sure that you have in front of you the deck that we provided to the clerk for distribution.
Thank you for inviting us to come and talk about the business of supply. I'll give a short presentation on the business of supply; the roles of the Treasury Board, the president and the secretariat; and the key dates and documents.
Just because this is the first lap around the track on estimates and supply for a lot of people here, slide 2 is a good slide because it sets out that the Constitution and the Federal Administration Act require Parliament to approve all government spending.
We classify spending based on the type of legislation used to approve it. What we call “voted spending” is approved through an appropriation act for a particular year. Through appropriation acts Parliament approves “up to” amounts and places conditions on the use of funds. In contrast, statutory expenditures are authorized through any piece of legislation other than an appropriation act. There may or may not be limits on the amounts spent or the time frame for spending.
To help inform parliamentarians' review of appropriation bills, estimates documents are tabled in Parliament and give details on planned spending. The Treasury Board, its president and its secretariat all have roles to play in the creation of estimates documents and other facets of the business of supply.
The president of the Treasury Board tables a number of documents in Parliament, main and supplementary estimates. A couple of weeks ago we tabled supplementary estimates (B), which are the last supplementary estimates of the fiscal year 2019-20. Last week main estimates were tabled, which effectively are setting up the foundation of spending for the fiscal year 2020-21.
Departmental plans and results reports—so departmental results reports for fiscal year 2018-19—were tabled a couple of weeks back. Those set out, effectively, the results for the first year under the new policy on results that was put in place in 2017. It's the first vintage year having a departmental results report.
The departmental plans for 2020-21, which are intended to provide additional information and to corroborate with the main estimates that were tabled last week, were tabled this morning. Parliamentarians will have access to both in terms of their review of planned spending for 2020-21.
At the end of a year, so after a year is complete, there's the tabling of the annual financial report, or the release of it by the Ministry of Finance and Minister of Finance, and then the tabling of the public accounts, which provide the reporting on the year that was. The public accounts for fiscal year 2018-19 were published after the election in December.
The Treasury Board plays a central decision-making role in the government's procurement activity. It carefully reviews and approves the expenditure plans of departments and agencies.
The secretariat helps the Treasury Board and the president with the business of supply in the following manner.
The secretariat prepares the estimates documents and provides advice regarding departmental planning and reporting on results. It oversees centrally managed funding that may be allocated to other organizations throughout the fiscal year. It reviews spending plans to ensure their effectiveness and efficiency and their alignment with government priorities.
Slide 4 is a useful slide because it goes through the steps in the supply process. We often use “estimates” and “supply” interchangeably. Supply is just the broader process of coming to Parliament in seeking funding for government operations.
Before items appear in estimates, a Treasury Board approval is sought through a submission or, in the case of a simple adjustment, such as a transfer or previously approved funding, in aide-mémoire documents. Estimates may be tabled in each of three supply periods set out in the House of Commons Standing Orders. The estimates are tabled in advance of the related appropriation bill to allow for study by parliamentarians. When you see the blue book, that's the study document. The appropriation bill will follow, and that's the actual bill that is tabled and voted upon in the House.
As part of the study of estimates, the Treasury Board president and TBS officials may appear in front of this committee in order to discuss the estimates for the government as a whole, in addition to our department's own plans. I gather that officials from Environment and the minister will be coming to speak about estimates, I believe later this week. That's part of their process. Other ministers and departmental officials may appear before committees responsible for their review of their estimates, which corroborates with that.
On the last allotted opposition day in a supply period, appropriation bills are introduced and voted on in the House. The bills are subsequently voted on in the Senate. Appropriation bills come into force upon royal assent. In addition, the Governor General signs a warrant authorizing expenditures from the consolidated revenue fund to be released. Only when that warrant is signed are departments able to access funds as specified.
If you look at slide 5, you will see this question that we get quite often about just understanding and following the budgetary authorities throughout the fiscal year. Just stepping back, the main estimates are tabled under the current Standing Orders. Main estimates are tabled by March 1 every year and present a full year of funding for the upcoming year.
The mains support two separate appropriation bills, so there's a kind of two-step we do in order to get access to funding. What we call “interim supply”, for approval before the end of March, provides sufficient resources for organizations until the end of June. The whole idea is to provide funding to organizations for the first three months of the fiscal year until such time as a second appropriation bill for full supply can be introduced in June for the remainder of the resources set out in the main estimates. It gives more time for parliamentarians to be able to review this.
Departmental plans are tabled soon after the main estimates, as has been done today, and give details on planned goals and activities as well as the associated financial and human resources. On supplementary estimates—you'll hear a lot people call them “supps (A), (B) and (C)”—the supplementary (A)s are effectively the first supplementary estimates to be tabled, typically in the spring. Supplementary (B)s are typically tabled in the fall and supplementary (C)s typically in the winter.
Supplementary estimates, of which you can expect two or three in most fiscal years, present additional resource requirements above amounts in main estimates. These often reflect new spending announced in a federal budget, as well as adjustments to previously approved funding, such as transfers between organizations or between votes.
Treasury Board central votes support the board's role as an employer of the public service and the financial manager. Funding in these votes is allocated among organizations throughout the fiscal year, based on specific conditions. For example, the carry-forward votes allow organizations to access funds, up to certain limits, which were unspent in the previous year.
At the end of a fiscal year, again, as I mentioned earlier, the public accounts report on total authorities and actual spending, while departmental results reports report on what was achieved related to the goals set out in the departmental plans.
Finally, we have a website called GC InfoBase. It is kind of the one-stop shop if you're interested in understanding the funding of programs by departments, where it's going, understanding resources and FTEs to support these operations. Then when we do the results and the government tables the departmental plans, as well as the departmental results report, there's a portal on results that you can go down and look per indicator and identify what's going on per indicator for a department, including a roll-up by department.
I'm spending a disproportionate amount of time on this because it is a very, very useful tool to understand the business of supply and the business of government. It has a lot of information there. It's very user intuitive. The OECD has regularly cited it as a best practice. We have one, the U.S. has USAspending and each leading country on central treasury management and reporting has systems like this. The whole intention is to provide information to Canadians and to parliamentarians so you can formulate better questions and think through the spending that is produced in front of you through the supplementary estimates documents, as well as the main estimates.
Why don't I leave it there? I'm open to any questions people might have.