[Democracy Watch Logo] [Op-ed]

Auditor General has not only the power, but actually a legal duty, to audit MPs and Parliament

Set out below is a letter to the editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in the May 24, 2010 issue of the Hill Times, in the May 26, 2010 issue of the New Brunswick Times and Transcript

Dear Editor:

Not only does federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser have the power to audit the expenses of MPs whether or not they invite her to do so, a strong argument can be made that she is legally required to do the audit at least every few years.

The Auditor General Act states that the Auditor General "shall make such examinations and inquiries" needed "to report as required by this Act" (section 5).  The Act requires the Auditor to audit the "public accounts" (which includes all the money spent by federal government institutions, including the House of Commons and Senate) and issue reports on whether the public's money is being spent in ways that are proper, efficient and waste-preventing.

The Act also states that the Auditor General has the right "to information that relates to the fulfilment of his or her responsibilities" (subsections 13(1) and (4)) so she clearly has the right to look at MP expenses.

The Auditor General does not have the resources to audit the entire government every year and so most of the main institutions are audited every few years.

Given that it has been 20 years since MPs were audited, the Auditor General will essentially be failing to fulfill her legal duties if she waits any longer to audit the $500 million spent by MPs annually.

P.S. See set out below quoted sections from Auditor General Act

Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Democracy Watch


Auditor General Act (R.S., 1985, c. A-17)

5. The Auditor General is the auditor of the accounts of Canada, including those relating to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and as such shall make such examinations and inquiries as he considers necessary to enable him to report as required by this Act.
1976-77, c. 34, s. 5.

Access to information
13. (1) Except as provided by any other Act of Parliament that expressly refers to this subsection, the Auditor General is entitled to free access at all convenient times to information that relates to the fulfilment of his or her responsibilities and he or she is also entitled to require and receive from members of the federal public administration any information, reports and explanations that he or she considers necessary for that purpose.

(4) The Auditor General may examine any person on oath on any matter pertaining to any account subject to audit by him and for the purposes of any such examination the Auditor General may exercise all the powers of a commissioner under Part I of the Inquiries Act.
R.S., 1985, c. A-17, s. 13; 2003, c. 22, s. 90(E).

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