Politics

Parliament's watchdogs face budget cuts, too

Officers of Parliament are also coming under the knife as the government tries to cut its budget, interim Auditor General John Wiersema says.
Officers of Parliament are also coming under the knife as the government tries to cut its budget, interim Auditor General John Wiersema said Wednesday. Wiersema said he plans to cut about $6 million. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Parliament's watchdogs are reviewing their budgets to see what they can cut, interim Auditor General John Wiersema says.

Wiersema said Wednesday he and his staff went over their budget last summer and asked where they get the best value for their audit dollar.

The other officers of Parliament did the same, he said. Officers of Parliament include watchdogs like the privacy commissioner, information commissioner and chief electoral officer.

Wiersema has put the results into a letter to the House Public Accounts committee, but outlined it briefly for MPs.

He plans to cut $6 to $6.5 million, or about eight per cent, from the office's budget by trimming the number of audits they do and cutting staff.

Wiersema said they're proposing to cut about 20 annual financial audits of small boards, agencies and tribunals, but they will need a change in legislation to make that happen.

"The thinking is that if we're not auditing the annual financial statements of big government departments like the Department of National Defence or like Public Works and Government Services, we weren't sure that we were getting good value from our money," he said.

The auditor general's office will continue to do about 25 to 30 performance audits a year, such as the ones released Tuesday on the government's Economic Action Plan and the Defence Department's equipment maintenance program.

"We think that's a good number. That gives us an opportunity to effectively cover most areas of government operations over a 10-year period and we think that we can get an appropriate level of parliamentary engagement in our performance ... at that level."

Wiersema said the office will also try some internal changes like replacing staff laptops one year later than planned. He expects the eight to 10 per cent of staff to be downsized will happen mostly through attrition or redeployment.

Wiersema took over from former auditor general Sheila Fraser and is in the role until December, when Michael Ferguson will take over.