Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of the act to amend the Auditor General Act with regard to reporting.
Make no mistake about it. Canadians are going to hold this House responsible for every red cent the government spends. They see it as a duty of Parliament to ensure the highest standard of responsibility in government. It is the duty of this House to ensure that tax dollars entrusted to us are used prudently and for the purpose which Parliament allocated them.
I have concerns for the ability of the members in this place to fulfil their duty without sufficient information provided in a timely fashion. We have at our disposal an excellent instrument to ensure sound management, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.
Annually, the Auditor General submits a report to this House in which he reviews the manner in which the nation's business is carried out by the various departments, agencies and crown corporations. He takes into consideration not only purely fiscal concerns but also the performance and mandate of the organizations he is reviewing.
The Auditor General also makes recommendations for improving operations from time to time. Indeed the Auditor General's reports are thorough. The latest ran to some 700 pages. They are deserving of the fullest consideration by members of this House. Over the years a massive amount of waste and poor administration spending in government has been brought to light by the Auditor General.
Earlier this year he reported on the National Arts Centre, a crown corporation. He found serious deficiencies in the manner in which the corporation was managing its finances. With an annual budget of $40 million a year and a staff of about 300, the
Auditor General found serious deficiencies. This is a cause for serious concern to all Canadians.
Surely good stewardship of public money is not too much to ask. In fact, the Auditor General's annual report has been almost bursting with recommendations for improved management, for better performance of mandates as well as dire warnings regarding the practices of the federal government at times.
Indeed this report is probably the taxpayers' greatest friend. It is unfortunate then that more time is not available for members to give every topic in the report their fullest attention when the report is presented. Time however does not permit such a full debate. Unfortunately by the time the estimates find their way through committee much of the good work has been forgotten.
Government needs to spend a little more time discovering whether all those tax dollars we squeezed from our constituents are being spent to good effect.
At one point, being a brand new member in this House full of ideas and questions, I decided I would take on the task of trying to discover how effective various government job creation programs had been over the years. I discovered that no one had taken the time to follow up on these programs in any scientific way over a long period of time. Just think of all the billions of dollars that have been poured in this direction and we cannot even prove it even created one real long term job.
The work of the Auditor General is monitoring the activities of government in a very real, very necessary way indeed.
The private sector I would submit has its own controls on efficiency and productivity. It is called competition. Government has no such control. The best control the taxpayers have is full disclosure of the fiscal management of the government and accountability for it.
I will use a word that I hear often on the other side of the House, transparency. It is a word that we hear often. The Auditor General's office provides such transparency, that window into the workings of the government operations.
This transparency will be enhanced by the provisions of this bill that we are considering here today, allowing the Auditor General to report when he considers the matter to be timely. This will make his recommendations that much more effective. Rather than allowing the problems to run unchecked until the annual report is tabled, urgent concerns can be dealt with when they are uncovered and should be dealt with that way.
Over the years several auditors general have called repeatedly for parliamentarians to be supplied with adequate information in a timely fashion related to the management of government agencies and crown corporations to ensure the achievement of those organizations' objectives. In the task force report on crown corporations' accountability prepared by the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committee in July 1992 it was stated: "Legislators are generally not supplied with adequate information related to the achievement of crown corporation objectives".
What is troubling about these observations is they have been noted time and time again. The litany of waste continues unabated no matter how often we talk about it in this House.
It seems to me that part of the problem lies in the House getting its information in one large, somewhat indigestible serving at the start of the year. Maybe if we took it in bite sized portions we would be able to deal with these matters easier.
The massive document tabled in this place contains a wealth of information, but little time is allowed to analyse, discuss, debate or act on it. In some cases the problems revealed are very old problems and rarely ever come back to this House to be dealt with.
On page 23 of the current report the Auditor General states: "Parliament is not being provided with the information that would enable us to assess the desirability and affordability of sustaining programs at their current levels within the context of their commitments". He goes on to call for cyclical reviews of all statutory spending programs such as unemployment insurance, international aid and income support. This would be more possible within the framework of the bill under discussion here today.
Further in the report he comments on the current program evaluation. He says: "Based on the office's government wide findings, I am forced to report that the evaluation regime is not working as intended". He also underlines the necessity for objective reporting. "Evaluations for example of crown corporations which originate from within the organizations themselves are unlikely to treat objectivity with the problems encountered".
There are in fact several concerns here which I share with the Auditor General and which I suspect are shared by many members of this House. The issue comes back again to accountability.
In the bill before us we see measures which permit the Auditor General to do his work more effectively and thus permit this House to do its work more efficiently. It is also my belief that no crown corporation should fall outside the mandate of the Audi-
tor General's scrutiny and thus the scrutiny of these members to ensure the performance of their mandates and good fiscal management.
It seems to me that in this Parliament we have a dedication to accountability which has been endorsed by all sides of the House. The government on page 12 of its red book states: "Whether it is in health care or regional development we think that it is important to measure the long term outcomes and consequences of our policies and programs and that is why we have placed so much emphasis on evaluation, innovation and finding the best practices".
Similarly the Bloc Quebecois has had its calls repeatedly for accountability in government. So we are all in accord on this. In fact if we examine the record going back over many years, we have the recommendations of the public accounts committee, the auditors general committee and many members of this House, including the member for Ottawa-Vanier, supporting the changes included in this bill.
I call on all the members of this House to support Bill C-207. It is time to make these changes, changes which will strengthen the ability of Parliament to manage the nation's business with the care with which Canadians demand that we do it.