Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We are pleased to be here today to present our May 2008 report, which was tabled in the House of Commons on May 6.
As you mentioned, I am accompanied by Assistant Auditors General Ronnie Campbell, Doug Timmins, and Mark Watters.
The report addresses a variety of issues that affect Canadians. We have also presented an overview of our special examination practice for crown corporations and for the first time the key findings of recent special examinations.
In a special examination, any major weakness in a corporation's key systems and practices that could prevent it from safeguarding and controlling its assets or managing efficiently, economically or effectively is reported as a significant deficiency.
Since we last reported on Crown corporations in 2000, we have seen a marked decline in the number of corporations with significant deficiencies.
We are pleased at the improved results we are seeing in crown corporations, and we hope that presenting annual summaries of our key findings will be useful to parliamentarians.
Let me turn now to results of our performance audits, starting with the government's management of fees charged to the public and industry.
In 2006-07, federal departments and agencies reported collecting about $1.9 billion in fees for anything from a passport to a license for manufacturing pharmaceuticals.
The fee charged for a good, a service or the use of the facility must take cost into account. We found that Parks Canada is a good example of fee management. Its entry fees are based on the full costs of the related programs.
On the other hand, we found that some federal organizations do not adequately consider cost and, in fact, some do not know the cost.
As well, the total amount collected from a fee for a service should not exceed the cost of providing that service. In Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, however, we found that for a number of years, revenues from the consular services fee, which is part of the charge for an adult passport, exceeded the costs of the activities set out in the Treasury Board approval.
One of our audits looked at the support provided by National Defence for the Canadian Forces' deployment to Afghanistan. We found that National Defence has been able to deliver its equipment and supplies to troops in Afghanistan who need them; however, there have been some delays in moving supplies to Afghanistan.
We also found that some key equipment has been difficult to maintain because of a shortage of spare parts. Also, the supply system does not provide enough information to track the arrival and whereabouts of ordered items. This has resulted in losing track of some items needed for operations.
So far, the military has been able to adapt and adjust so that operations have not been significantly affected but, unless the problems we found can be resolved, the Canadian Forces could have increasing difficulty supporting the mission.
Another chapter of the report looks at Transport Canada, which is in the process of changing its approach to the oversight of air transportation safety, a requirement of the International Civil Aviation Organization. This means that Transport Canada's focus will shift from traditional oversight, such as conducting inspections and audits, to assessing the safety systems that aviation companies themselves have in place.
Although Transport Canada deserves credit for being the first civil aviation authority in the world to introduce regulations for this new approach, we found weaknesses in several areas.
We found that in planning the transition, the department did not formally assess the risks involved in the change or forecast the cost of managing it. Nor has it measured the impact of shifting resources from traditional oversight activities to the new approach.
The first part of the transition affected 74 airlines and aircraft maintenance companies. The rest of this transition process would be more complex to manage with over 2,000 smaller companies affected.
We hope our recommendations will help Transport Canada to complete this change successfully.
In this report, we also look at the first nations child and family services program of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Government policy requires that services to first nations children on reserve meet provincial standards, be reasonably comparable with services for children off reserve, and be culturally appropriate.
Funding for the services needs to match the requirements of the policy. We found that the department does not take sufficient account of these requirements in establishing levels of funding for first nations agencies to operate child welfare services on reserves.
The Department's funding formula dates back to 1988. It has not changed significantly to reflect variations in provincial legislation and the way child welfare services have evolved. In addition, the formula assumes that all First Nations agencies have the same percentage of children in care and that the children all have similar needs.
In practice, the needs of children in care who are served by First Nations agencies vary widely. The outdated funding formula means that some children and families are not getting the services they need.
We turn now to the Public Health Agency of Canada, created in 2004, and now responsible for leading federal efforts in the surveillance of infectious diseases. Well-informed and rapid public health actions based on effective surveillance can prevent and contain outbreaks, reduce the economic burden of infectious diseases, and ultimately save lives.
We found that while the Agency has surveillance systems in place, weaknesses in some aspects of surveillance have remained since we last reported them, in 2002. For example, except for Ontario, the Agency has no formal protocols or data-sharing agreements with the provinces and territories.
Formal agreements would help ensure that the information that the agency receives is timely, complete and accurate so that it can better respond to a disease outbreak.
One of our audits examined the maintenance of official residences. These residences are more than housing provided to the country's senior government leaders. They are part of Canada's heritage and need to be preserved.
We found that the National Capital Commission has improved the condition of most official residences in recent years, although further work is needed at Rideau Hall. However, the Prime Minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive has had no major renovations for 50 years. The National Capital Commission estimates that completing the needed work would require full access to the residence for 12 to 15 months. It has a schedule for the planned repairs, and delays are likely to result in further deterioration and higher costs.
Finally, let me turn to our chapter on the Canada Border Services Agency. Since its creation in 2003, the Agency has been responsible for detaining and removing individuals who enter Canada illegally or who pose a threat to Canadians.
We found that the Agency has made progress in certain areas but it needs better processes for detentions and removals to ensure that individuals are treated consistently.
The agency does not monitor its detention and removal decisions across the country to ensure that they are consistent. We also found that it does not collect and analyze enough data at a national level to properly manage detentions and removals. The agency has improved its tracking of individuals. It has established a database of 63,000 people with removal orders, and it knows the whereabouts of 22,000 people who have been ordered to leave Canada. Although a growing number of people might still be in Canada illegally, the good news is that the agency is focusing its available resources on the higher-risk individuals.
That concludes my statement, Mr. Chair. We would be happy to answer your questions.
We will now be happy to answer your questions.