Committee of the Whole: Ms. Karen Hogan respecting her appointment as Auditor General of Canada – Sen. Dalphond

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Senator Dalphond: Welcome to the Senate, Ms. Hogan. I believe you were born in Montreal, so I’m pleased to welcome another Montrealer here, in Ottawa, to an important position.

My first question is the following. Does the Office of the Auditor General plan to adapt its auditing principles to take the emergency assistance into account? I’m referring to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, and so on. All of these programs were designed to provide assistance to Canadians quickly, with as little red tape as possible. According to an internal memo reported in the media yesterday, public servants were apparently instructed not to do too many verifications. In your own verifications, will you adapt your audit principles to the operational reality of the pandemic, or will the normal principles apply?

Ms. Hogan: As I just said, when an organization makes a decision quickly, there’s always a risk of error. Yes, we’ll adapt to the fact that the normal processes were likely changed to take distance into account, for example that approvals were probably done electronically instead of through normal channels.

Departments must still have proof that their spending choices were prudent and that they complied with policies that support the sound management of public funds.

Senator Dalphond: Yesterday, the Prime Minister himself said that there are probably 200,000 people collecting the Canada Emergency Response Benefit who maybe shouldn’t be. That’s $400 million in the first month of the program. Does the amount of money at stake justify a more thorough audit?

Ms. Hogan: It’s very hard to say if that amount of money justifies a more thorough audit. All pandemic spending justifies a more thorough audit. Whenever we become aware of possible fraud, we have to investigate. We would expect departments to have processes and mechanisms in place to detect mistakes, follow up, make changes and, if necessary, recoup unwarranted payouts.

Senator Dalphond: My next question is about the fact that you have been with the Auditor General’s office for about 14 years so far. It is a typical question I ask in interviews, but I’m going to ask it of you. You’ve been there for 14 years: What are the lessons learned? What should we do better?

Ms. Hogan: What are the lessons learned for our office and the government?

Senator Dalphond: For your office and for the government, of course.

Ms. Hogan: Our office is one with so many passionate individuals who are incredibly professional and strive to continue to push themselves towards further growth. That is probably the biggest lesson I have learned since I’ve been there; continuously challenging what we do in order to do it better, to provide better results and more value added to Parliament and Canadians. It is probably the one thing I’ve learned the most and what I really respect about our organization. I think that’s something that translates to the government as well. We should all strive to do better and to make Canada better.

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