Friday, February 15, 2013

Sheila Fraser Calls for Regular Audits of Commons and Senate

Former auditor general, Sheila Fraser, says Canadians shell out half a billion dollars a year on Parliament and are entitled to know where their money is going and how it's spent.

Fraser suggests that the auditor general conduct comprehensive audits of the Senate and Commons at least every 10 years, or more frequently if the spending watchdog smells possible trouble.

"All these allegations are calling into question the reputation of the Senate," she argues. "So it goes beyond the individuals and really to the institutions."

Fraser's often scathing reports on government waste and mismanagement helped to make her one of Canada's most popular public servants of the past decade, before her retirement in 2011.

One of her final achievements was to pry open the books of the Senate, albeit just once, and with the promise that her audit would not include a comprehensive audit of senators' expense accounts.

Fraser says internal financial audits are no substitute for the kind of work the auditor general does in a comprehensive review.

For one thing, financial audits only confirm that money has been spent as claimed — not whether the expenditure was justified, or whether taxpayers received maximum value for their money.

The former auditor general isn't at all surprised the Senate has once again bolted the doors to its accounting department.

For most of her 10 years in office, Fraser relentlessly hammered both MPs and senators over their refusal to subject themselves to the same scrutiny as other public servants entrusted with taxpayers' money.

"They will get into a large argument about how the members and their offices are distinct," Fraser says, "but it's still public money, and I think there should be accountability."

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