Highlights from the spring 2018 report of auditor general Michael Ferguson


OTTAWA — Some of the key findings from the spring 2018 report of federal auditor general Michael Ferguson:

— The failed federal public service pay system known as Phoenix was the result of a “government culture” that stands in the way of helping people. The system was mismanaged from the very beginning and is just one of the “incomprehensible failures” of the government over the last decade.

— The pay system was never properly tested before its launch in February 2016 and Phoenix executives either didn’t understand or ignored warnings of problems, choosing to place potential savings targets ahead of system readiness.

— Public Services and Procurement Canada, which is responsible for the pay system, was aware of significant failings even before the launch but appeared to ignore the warning signs. Ferguson recommended that an oversight mechanism be put in place before any new IT projects are launched.

— Indigenous Services Canada has failed to measure and accurately report the social and economic gaps between First Nations people on reserves and other Canadians. It also has failed to engage meaningfully with First Nations people in order to report whether their lives on reserves are improving.

— The education gap between on-reserve First Nations students and other Canadians did not improve in the last 15 years.

— Information on the education gap reported by Indigenous Services was inaccurate because it did not account for students who dropped out. Using department data from the 2011-12 to the 2015-16 fiscal years, Ferguson’s auditors calculated graduation rates that accounted for all students who dropped out in Grades 9, 10, 11. His office found these rates were 10 to 29 percentage points lower than reported by the department.

— Employment and Social Development Canada did not collect data or identify performance indicators to show whether two programs aimed at helping Indigenous people find work were increasing the number of people getting sustainable employment.

— The department allocated money under the training strategy based on information from 1996, which doesn’t reflect current needs. The department did not reallocate funding to groups that had been consistently and successfully training individuals and helping them get jobs.

— ESDC could show that the two programs had helped people find jobs, but couldn’t say whether those jobs were part-time or full-time or how long people stayed employed.

— Consular officials responded quickly when there was a report of suspected torture or abuse against a Canadian detained in another country by getting in contact with the person. But it took up to seven months to assess the credibility of such allegations and flag cases to top officials and the foreign affairs minister.

— Officials often checked in on arrested Canadians by phone or email, when they are supposed to visit in person.

— Canada’s military justice system is unacceptably slow, resulting in prosecutors abandoning nine cases because of delays — and the dismissal of one tribunal involving a charge of assault causing bodily harm. The Canadian Forces has known about the problems “for at least a decade, but has failed to correct them.”

— The government routinely sells off surplus assets at fire sale prices when goods or equipment could be reused by other federal organizations instead. Based on the government’s own accounting, auditors said assets were sold for less than two thirds of their value with almost no consideration given to repurposing.

— One department was held out as an example of the benefits of reusing assets. Auditors said the Canada Revenue Agency saved more than $4.5 million over three years by adopting reuse practices.


The Canadian Press