INDEPTH: AUDITOR GENERAL|
Auditor General's Report: November 2004
CBC News Online | November 23, 2004
Here are some of the highlights of Auditor General Sheila Fraser's November 2004 report:
EI fund surplus
Auditor General Sheila Fraser discusses her annual report at a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday (CP Photo)
As she has since taking the job of auditor general, Sheila Fraser has sharply criticized the government for collecting far more in employment insurance premiums than it needs to pay out in benefits. Fraser estimates accumulated surpluses have amounted to about $46 billion, including $2 billion last year.
"Parliament did not intend that a surplus would accumulate beyond what could reasonably be spent on Employment Insurance," the auditor general noted.
Fraser said the surplus is more than triple the maximum reserve the chief actuary of Human Resources Development Canada considered sufficient in 2001.
Ottawa is spending $1 billion a year on native education, yet far fewer aboriginal Canadians are graduating from high school than non-aboriginal Canadians. Fraser says the graduation gap is widening - and it could take 28 years for native graduation rates to catch up. She notes she's can't say whether the billion-dollar price tag is too little or too much to get the job done.
Fraser also criticized the Department of Indian Affairs for doing a poor job of tracking $273 million spent on college and university funding.
Privacy laws too strict?
Concerns over violating privacy rules are hampering investigations by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Fintrac), which was set up in 2000 by the federal government to fight international money laundering. Fintrac's scope was broadened after 9/11 to include terrorist financing activity.
Financial institutions are required to pass on all suspicious transactions to Fintrac, which then analyses the reports for links to money laundering or terrorist financing. However, Fintrac is limited to passing on only bank account numbers, dates and times of transactions, and names of account holders.
"Privacy concerns restrict Fintrac's ability to disclose intelligence to the police. As a result, law enforcement and security agencies usually find that the information they receive is too limited to justify launching investigations," Fraser said.
Millions wasted on prescription drugs
Ottawa could have saved tens of millions of dollars it spent on prescription drugs if it bought in bulk and required the purchase of cheaper generic drugs where they are available.
The federal government is the fourth-largest buyer of prescription drugs in the country, behind Ontario, Quebec and B.C.
Fraser looked at six government agencies that administer drug plans to various groups, including aboriginals and Inuit, veterans, the military, some immigrants, inmates and some parolees.
Federal spending on medication for a million Canadians has risen by 25 per cent over two years to $438 million.
Fraser warns Ottawa's $2.6-billion upgrade to Canada's fighter jets could be delayed beyond 2009 by staff shortages and bureaucracy. She says the process has already been delayed by bureaucracy, budget cuts and rising costs.
Fraser said the project must be completed as soon as possible because "the current CF-18 airframe has a limited amount of flying hours left."
Fraser found problems with Ottawa's monitoring of the continued safety of medical devices once they reach the market. She says that exposes Canadians to some risk.
"Medical devices play an important role in all stages of the delivery of health care," Fraser said. "As advances are made in technology, the complexity of devices and their importance to health care will likely increase."
Fraser said Health Canada is aware of the problems, but has not done enough to address them. She concluded the department would either have to allocate more resources to ensure that medical devices are properly monitored once they hit the market, or redesign its monitoring program to get the job done with fewer resources.
Medical devices include diverse products such as surgical masks, blood test kits, diagnostic imaging equipment, joint implants and heart valves.
Report of the Auditor General to the House of Commons
(The following is in pdf format)