Canada’s Spring Report card: Auditor General Points out the lack of upfront planning within certain sectors

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Ottawa: In his ‘Spring 2014 report’ tabled in Parliament, Auditor General Michael Ferguson examines a number of different areas, including public sector pension plans and the expansion of federal correctional facilities, which illustrate how important it is for government to consider both the long and short term perspectives in its planning.

“As some of these audits show, government can become caught in a cycle of reacting to pressures, whether to mitigate capacity concerns in prisons or meet program timelines,” said Mr. Ferguson. “Though government should work to provide Canadians with programs and services in a timely fashion, planning should also look beyond the needs of the day.”

“Better long-term planning is achievable in many of the areas we are reporting on today, and would improve results for Canadians and make better use of taxpayer dollars, “added Mr. Ferguson.

The report by Auditor-General Michael Ferguson underscored the challenge facing the government as it tries to tackle what it sees as one of the country’s biggest economic problems: a shortage of skilled labor in some regions and sectors.

In the first of the audits the watchdog looked at how the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the RCMP, National Defence, and Finance Canada have carried out key responsibilities to manage the federal government’s pension plans for public servants. The federal government’s net liability relating to these pension plans exceeds $150 billion.

AG says, “ Although we found that the entities we audited have carried out their responsibilities under the law, no one is responsible for carrying out a regular and systematic assessment of whether government of Canada pension plans are sustainable over the long term.

Pension plans are operating now in an environment where interest rates are low, and plan members are living longer. It is therefore important that public sector pension plans be designed and managed in a way that considers not just present circumstances, but also protects the interests of current and future employees and taxpayers.”

The report also comments upon the First Nations Policing Program. It states that the Program is sometimes used to replace core services normally provided by the provinces. We also noted that in Ontario, the Program does not ensure that policing services on First Nations reserves meet the standards that apply to policing services elsewhere in the province.

AG found that a lack of upfront planning within Public Works and Government Services Canada, National Defence, the RCMP and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat led to missed milestones. This affected decisions the organizations had to make, and actions they took along the way. Correctional Service Canada planned and executed the expansion of its correctional facilities to accommodate offenders. The Agency is adding over 2,700 cells to 37 facilities. It expects that when it completes this work in 2015, overcrowding in federal prisons will largely be eased. We found that the Correctional Service met its immediate needs, but it did not consider the impact of expansions on supporting infrastructure. It also did not consider how to address regional pressures and the long-term needs of the offender population.