AU­DI­TOR GEN­ERAL FINDS FAULT WITH FEDS YET AGAIN

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

THE GOVERN­MENT IS SLOW, in­ef­fi­cient and waste­ful. The find­ings in the lat­est re­port from Au­di­tor Gen­eral Michael Fer­gu­son ap­ply to Ot­tawa, but it’s pretty much the same story for ev­ery govern­ment across the coun­try, and for ev­ery year.

Re­ports rou­tinely point out that suc­ces­sive govern­ments have ig­nored the mess and the pro­scribed reme­dies year af­ter year.

The 2018 fall re­ports re­leased last week take on a grab bag of is­sues, in­clud­ing the Cana­dian Armed Forces’ ef­forts to stop in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual be­hav­ior in the mil­i­tary, Na­tional De­fence’s abil­ity to man­age the risks re­lated to its fighter force, the con­ser­va­tion of na­tional his­toric sites and her­itage build­ings, the su­per­vi­sion of of­fend­ers re­leased in the com­mu­nity, the ac­cess to high-qual­ity In­ter­net ser­vices for Cana­di­ans in re­mote and ru­ral ar­eas and an au­dit to de­ter­mine whether the Canada Rev­enue Agency con­sis­tently ap­plies rules to tax­pay­ers in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions (spoiler alert – it doesn’t).

Govern­ment de­part­ments are gen­er­ally found lack­ing. That much is prob­a­bly not a sur­prise to most Cana­di­ans, who in­stinc­tively know the faults to be true. But the AG is blunt about the self-serv­ing ways of the bu­reau­cracy. It’s some­thing we’ve iden­ti­fied at ev­ery level of govern­ment: the sys­tem is de­signed to ben­e­fit civil ser­vants, not the pub­lic they the­o­ret­i­cally ex­ist to serve.

There are sys­temic fail­ures iden­ti­fied year af­ter year, with noth­ing done in part be­cause the fo­cus is on the ad­min­is­tra­tion, not on the out­come. Is­sues are looked at in iso­la­tion rather than as part of a larger break­down of the bu­reau­cracy. Look­ing back over years and decades of au­dits, for in­stance, puts things in per­spec­tive, but ap­par­ently the AG’s re­ports are just put on a shelf to gather dust ... af­ter the oblig­a­tory hand-wring­ing fol­low­ing each new re­lease. (The vol­ume of plat­i­tudes, thank yous and “we’ll take this to heart” state­ments from min­is­ters and bu­reau­crats fol­low­ing the lat­est re­port was stag­ger­ing. Ac­tion is likely to be less so.)

Fer­gu­son notes this mind­set al­lows the is­sues to per­sist for decades.

If you asked the ad­min­is­tra­tors in­volved, chances are they’d say they’re do­ing a great job, in part be­cause they’ve de­luded them­selves about what the job is about: them­selves, not the pub­lic. (The politi­cians al­ways paint a rosy pic­ture about their ef­forts, even when they know the op­po­site to be true – it’s one of the rea­son’s peo­ple don’t trust them, or the bu­reau­crats, for that mat­ter.)

Fer­gu­son’s lat­est find­ings – seven re­ports de­tail­ing crit­i­cisms of ev­ery­thing from tax col­lect­ing to na­tional de­fence – show a lack of progress on ac­count­abil­ity, track­ing fi­nances and long de­liv­ery times for ser­vices. He was par­tic­u­larly scathing in de­scrib­ing the fail­ures re­lated the much-de­layed and lit­tle-fixed pur­chase of fighter air­craft.

The Trudeau govern­ment balked on the over-hyped and hyper-in­flated F-35 stealth fight­ers, changed the pro­cure­ment pol­icy, de­cided to buy new Boe­ing Su­per Hor­net fight­ers but can­celled that over a spat caused by U.S. tar­iffs on Bom­bardier, then de­cided to buy 30-year-old sur­plus CF-18s (the cur­rent mod­els here) from Aus­tralia. On that $500-mil­lion pur­chase, Fer­gu­son notes there’s been lit­tle progress, and even less on deal­ing with the short­age of pi­lots and tech­ni­cians to get them in the air. It’s a prob­lem the mil­i­tary has warned about for years, to no avail.

In other words, busi­ness as usual.

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