Highlights from the fall 2017 report of auditor general Michael Ferguson

Some of the key findings from the fall 2017 report of federal auditor general Michael Ferguson.

CRA answered only 36 per cent of all incoming calls, auditors found

Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Some of the key findings from the fall 2017 report of federal auditor general Michael Ferguson:

  • It is going to take years and "much more" than the original projected $540 million over three years to fix the chronic and ongoing problems with the snafu-stricken Phoenix public service pay system; the government may be "in a similar situation" to Australia, where a comparable problem has already cost more than $1.2 billion over eight years and still isn't fixed.
  • Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Treasury Board failed to recognize early enough the depth and severity of the Phoenix problem, and failed to involve other departments in developing a timely plan to deal with the issue.
Auditor General Michael Ferguson says the Phoenix pay system will cost millions more than thought, take years to fix, but there are no options to replace it. 2:21
  • As of June 2017, 18 months after Phoenix was first implemented, more than 150,000 public servants were waiting for a pay request to be processed, with the value of the outstanding errors at about $500 million.
  • Some 1,400 new or reallocated employees have been seconded to resolving Phoenix, in addition to 550 staff at the Miramichi Pay Centre, more than offsetting the savings Phoenix was supposed to produce by eliminating the need for 1,200 jobs.
Auditors uncovered dismal service standards at the Canada Revenue Agency's nine call centres across the country, reporting that nearly a third of all callers were given incorrect information. (CBC)
  •  Agents at the Canada Revenue Agency's call centre, meant to assist taxpayers with their tax questions, answered only 36 per cent of all incoming calls and provided incorrect answers to auditors nearly 30 per cent of the time.
  • The CRA blocked some 29 million of the 53.5 million incoming calls during the audit period, resulting in a busy signal or a message to try back later. Each blocked caller made an average of three or four calls per week, often never getting through. Those that eventually did allowed the agency to claim 90 per cent of callers were able to connect.
Auditors found the government largely lived up to its commitment to provide services such as language training to the more than 40,000 Syrian newcomers. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not track a number of key indicators about the integration of Syrian refugees, including whether those with chronic health problems were getting treatment and whether children were actually attending school.
  • The Royal Military College of Canada was not being run in a cost-effective way, lacked effective governance and often failed to provide effective instruction on military leadership for its officer cadets, contributing to a number of incidents of improper conduct.
  • Women offenders with significant impairment from serious mental illness are still being placed in segegation, and those same cells are often used to monitor prisoners at risk of self-harm or suicide, allowing limited oversight.
  • Correctional Service Canada uses a 25-year-old custody rating scale designed for male prisoners to assess female offenders for correctional programming, increasing their risk of taking programs that can't help them.
  • Female prisoners are often held past their parole eligibility dates because their correctional programs are too long and not designed to meet their needs.
  • Indigenous female offenders don't always get appropriate access to programming designed specifically to meet the unique needs of Aboriginal Peoples.
  • Health Canada cannot adequately assess the effectiveness of its oral health services programs for Indigenous Peoples.