Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. We are pleased to be here today and would like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss our 2008-09 performance report and our 2010-11 report on plans and priorities.
As you mentioned, I am accompanied today by John Wiersema, Deputy Auditor General, and Lyn Sachs, Assistant Auditor General of corporate services and our chief financial officer.
Each year we are privileged to contribute to Parliament's oversight of government spending and performance, with the objective information, advice, and assurance that result from the performance audits, financial audits, and the special examinations we conduct. All of our audit work is conducted in accordance with the standards set by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. Our work is guided by a rigorous methodology and quality management system and is subject to internal practice reviews and to external reviews by peers. All of this provides assurance that you can rely on the quality of our work.
During the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the period covered by our most recent performance report, we used $84.4 million in parliamentary appropriations available to us. We employed the equivalent of 628 full-time employees, just under our budget of 635. Using these resources, we completed 148 audits, including 32 performance audits of various federal and territorial departments and agencies, eight special examinations of Federal Crown Corporations, and 108 financial audits.
Our 2008-2009 performance report contains a number of indicators of the impact of our work and measures of our performance. The tables containing our targets and actual performance for these indicators and measures are attached to this statement as Appendix 1.
For the 2008-2009 fiscal year, our performance report shows that almost all of our indicators of impact remained positive. It also shows that our on-time performance remained good, but our on-budget performance left some room for improvement. We have started to see improvements in our on-budget performance for financial audits, and I can now say that for 2009-2010 we will likely meet all of our targets for this indicator. As you will note we have increased these targets for 2010-2011.
Our performance report also shows that our internal practice reviews identified a number of instances when our quality management system was not applied consistently and rigorously, and where improvements should be made. As you may recall, an international peer review team is reviewing our audit practices and support services. The preliminary peer review findings are similar to those of our internal practice reviews, and we anticipate receiving their final report in June. I wish to assure the committee that we are not satisfied with these results, and I will outline shortly a major project we are undertaking that will address both this situation and the adoption of international accounting and auditing standards.
With respect to our 2010-11 report on plans and priorities, let me begin by saying that in light of the current economic situation, we plan to take the same course of action for this fiscal year as we did last year, and not request any additional funding. Our planning includes continuing our efforts to reduce our total expenses and delivering fewer performance audits—24 are planned in 2010, as compared with 30 in 2009. Appendix 2, attached to this statement, provides an updated list of our planned performance audits and special examinations for the coming years.
In budget 2010, the government stated that departmental operating budgets are frozen at 2010-2011 levels for the next three years and that departments are expected to absorb the economic increase of 1.5% in salaries. We estimate that the impact of this latter decision will require us to find a further $860,000 in savings for 2010-2011.
Given this requirement, we have reviewed and prioritized the work carried out by my office to identify any assignments or areas that could be reduced or eliminated. As a result of this review, we have recently communicated to the Comptroller General that we will not audit departmental-level financial statements. In addition to the issue of funding, we reached this decision after considering the delays in the readiness of the largest government departments to have their financial statements audited, as well as a lack of a formal government policy on audited departmental financial statements.
The adoption of international standards in 2010 and 2011 will lead to significant changes in accounting and auditing in Canada. And as I mentioned a moment ago, we also need to make improvements to our Quality Management System and its application in our audits. In response, we have launched a major project—a renewal of audit methodology—that will continue until December 2011. This project involves the development or updating a four audit manuals—one on matters common to all of our audits and three that are specific to our product lines. The project also includes developing or updating all our supporting tools, templates, checklists, and audit procedures. In addition, it includes the necessary change management activities, including revamping the training of our audit staff to ensure that our methodology is put into practice and implementing procedures to ensure that it is kept up to date.
The project involves about $3 million of out-of-pocket costs, largely for translation, and a significant amount of staff time over the next two years. Staff time includes the time spent to develop the material, take the training, and provide project management.
As we have said many times, our people are very important to our success. While we have been recognized as one of Canada's top 100 employers for the past three years and one of Canada's top 20 family-friendly employers for a second consecutive year, we foresee continuing challenges. In recent years the market for auditors and accountants has seen both increased demand and limited supply, affecting both the private and public sectors. We expect this competitive market to continue and to result in significant pressure on compensation.
Finally, we would like to inform the committee that we have recently had difficulties with access to information when conducting our audits. Officials have refused information that we requested, have redacted it, or have provided it very late. Some members will recall a similar situation in 2006. An order in council was prepared then that was supposed to resolve this type of conflict; however, it has been interpreted very narrowly by officials.
Senior government officials have recently agreed that there has been a problem with the interpretation of the order in council and that steps must be taken to resolve this matter immediately. As a result, the Secretary of the Treasury Board will be providing this week instructions to deputy ministers and to departmental legal counsel in order to provide clarity on our rights of access. I am pleased with the attention that senior officials have paid to this issue and believe it will resolve the matter.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, my staff and I appreciate your ongoing interest and support for our work. My colleagues and I look forward to continuing to support you in holding the government to account for its management of public funds.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. We would now be pleased to answer any questions that committee members may have.