Dan Albas MP report
This week Canada’s Auditor General, Karen Hogan, released Audits 9 and 10 that focused on the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Report 9 focused on vaccines. While the audit notes that Canada secured a sufficient supply of vaccine doses, it was also critical over significant levels of vaccine waste.
The auditor notes that there are approximately 32.5 million doses worth an estimated value of $1 billion that will have end up wasted due to not being administered or redistributed elsewhere prior to the expiry date.
Report 10 focused on COVID benefit payments. Here the Auditor General found several areas of serious concern. For example, she found there have been $4.6 billion of benefit payments paid to ineligible individuals.
The AG further estimates that a minimum of $27.4 billion in other benefit payments must be further investigated to determine proper eligibility.
The AG’s audit also found concerns with subsidy programs that were targeted to businesses.
As one example, the AG stated that potentially as many as 50,000 businesses may have received emergency wage subsidy payments (CEWS) in total value of$9.87 billion. These businesses may have also been ineligible.
Previously some media organizations have published stories of publicly traded companies that continued to pay executive bonusses, while at the same time collecting CEWS support from taxpayers.
Overall, the Auditor General notes that the government using “attestation” from businesses and individuals resulted in many situations where benefits were paid to those who were ineligible.
While the Government conceded this would be a foreseeable problem at the time, it also committed to doing a more thorough review and vetting of applicants after the fact.
Here the Auditor General has been critical and notes the Government has presented no formal plan of action on this 'thorough review and vetting'.
This raises the question how much of this potentially misspent money will ever be repaid to taxpayers.
Currently the Government of Canada has reported that it has collected just $2.3 billion from those who did not qualify for the benefits.
How much more will be collected remains unknown.
There is also the added challenge that the Trudeau Liberal Government has thus far not accepted the findings of the Auditor General’s report as is commonly the response from government.
In Question Period this week the Minister of National Revenue, Diane Lebouthillier, stated that: “the CRA does not agree with the Auditor General's calculations concerning recipients who were not eligible for the wage subsidy. The CRA's actual audits indicate that compliance with the subsidies was high and that the Auditor General's figure is exaggerated. This is not the Auditor General's fault. We all know that she was pressured by the opposition to produce this report.”
For the record none of the opposition parties have any influence or involvement over how the Auditor General conducts an audit or what the findings may or may not be.
There was a time when citizens were not supportive or even outraged if the government was not careful and prudent in the spending of tax dollars.
However, in this case, by allowing for attestation instead of verification, the Trudeau Liberal Government was taking applicants at their word that they were eligible for funding.
My question this week:
What are your thoughts on the government's use of an attestation in delivering timely support programs?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.