Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon to you and committee members. It is a pleasure to be back today in the earliest slot possible, and I'm happy to be joined by Roger Ermuth, assistant comptroller general, from our Office of the Comptroller General.
I'll be brief in my remarks because this is an opportunity to receive feedback from the committee regarding our response to the committee's March 10 motion and to answer any questions members may have. We look forward to receiving members' feedback and to be in a position to best meet the needs of the committee.
In terms of context, with the unprecedented impact COVID-19 has had on Canadians, Parliament has prioritized measures that respond to the crisis. Funding for COVID-19 priorities was presented within the three supplementary estimates tabled for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Taken together, those estimates presented $159.5 billion in planned spending authorities for organizations across the Government of Canada related to COVID-19 measures.
It is important to note that these estimates are “up to” authorities that have been provided to address, on an urgent basis, the uncertainty in which these measures were brought forward within the context of the pandemic. To further explain planned COVID-19-related spending, additional information was presented in the supplementary estimates, including, for example, a detailed listing of COVID-19 legislation in part 1, an online annex with additional information on planned COVID-19 expenditures and how this correlates with the fall economic statement for 2020, including all of the authorities together in one easy access panel for GC InfoBase.
Reporting on actual government expenditures is typically done through three means: on a monthly basis through the Department of Finance's “Fiscal Monitor”, on a quarterly basis in the quarterly financial reports by departments, and annually through the annual financial report in the public accounts, supported by departmental results reports.
Given the extraordinary context of the pandemic, TBS reached out to the organizations to gather spending data related to COVID-19 on a monthly basis.
The committee's motion on March 10 asked TBS to provide all monthly COVID-19 expenditure reports and spending data from departments.
At TBS our focus is primarily on COVID-19 spending that falls within planned authorities as outlined in the estimates. The ability to effectively track COVID-19 expenditures varies greatly by measure and by organization, and these amounts are estimates that have not been audited.
As of January 31, 2021, federal organizations reported total estimated expenditures of $123.1 billion for the measures announced in the government's COVID-19 economic response plan to fall within the planned authorities presented in the estimates.
In that same time frame, departments and agencies are also reporting additional estimated expenditures of $2.4 billion related to COVID-19 measures, including salaries and overtime for additional hires, and employees reassigned to support COVID-19 initiatives and operational expenditures, including the acquisition of personal protective equipment and supplies.
For the most part, these estimated expenditures are against existing funding in departmental reference levels that have been redirected to address COVID-19 activities.
Importantly, they only include the cash payments that have been made to suppliers for goods and services or for grants and contributions to recipients. They do not represent the implementation status or results achieved from measures, and organizations are responsible for determining how best to identify the appropriate estimated expenditures and are best placed to provide explanations of the amounts and corresponding activities.
The final expenditures for the 2020-21 fiscal year will be reported in the public accounts, which are expected to be tabled in the fall. The purpose in presenting these estimated expenditures by measure and on a consolidated year-to-date basis is to enable members to compare them with the spending authorities listed on GC InfoBase. It also allows members to compare announced measures as part of the fall economic statement in 2020.
The format provides the information by organization to enable parliamentarians to ask questions and seek explanations from organizations responsible for delivering these measures.
As per the committee's request, we will be reporting on a monthly basis going forward. In line with the comptroller general's covering note that accompanied the department's response to the motion, we welcome this opportunity to discuss the feedback on the content and the format of the reports going forward.
With that, we're very pleased to hear the views of committee members.