The Auditor General of Canada
Michael Ferguson was appointed Auditor General of Canada on 28 November 2011. Prior to this appointment, he served in a variety of roles in the Government of New Brunswick, including five years as Comptroller, five years as Auditor General of New Brunswick, and one year as Deputy Minister of Finance and Secretary to the Board of Management.
The Auditor General of Canada is an Officer of Parliament appointed for a non-renewable 10 year term upon resolution of the House of Commons and Senate.
The Auditor General audits federal government departments and agencies, most Crown corporations, and many other federal organizations, and reports to Parliament. The Auditor General of Canada is also the auditor for the governments of Nunavut, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, and reports directly to their legislative assemblies.
Past Auditors General
- John Wiersema (Interim, 2011)
- Sheila Fraser (2001-2011)
- Denis Desautels (1991-2001)
- Kenneth M. Dye (1981-1991)
- Michael H. Rayner (1980-1981)
- James J. Macdonell (1973-1980)
- Andrew Maxwell Henderson (1960-1973)
- Robert Watson Sellar (1940-1959)
- Georges Gonthier (1924-1939)
- Edward Davenport Sutherland (1919-1923)
- John Fraser (1905-1919)
- John Lorn McDougall (1878-1905)
- John Langton (1867-1878)
The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Julie Gelfand was appointed as Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in March 2014.
Before joining the Office of the Auditor General, Ms. Gelfand held the positions of Chief Advisor at Rio Tinto Canada and of Vice-President of Environment and Social Responsibility at the Rio Tinto Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC).
Prior to joining IOC, Ms. Gelfand was Vice-President, Sustainable Development at the Mining Association of Canada and co-chair of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Centre of Excellence, under the federal CSR Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector.
From 1992 to 2008, she served as President of Nature Canada. She also founded and chaired the Green Budget Coalition.
The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is appointed by the Auditor General of Canada for a seven year term.
On behalf of the Auditor General, the Commissioner provides parliamentarians with objective, independent analysis and recommendations on the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development.
The Commissioner conducts performance audits, and is responsible for:
- monitoring sustainable development strategies of federal departments;
- overseeing the environmental petitions process; and
- auditing the federal government’s management of environmental and sustainable development issues.
- Neil Maxwell (Interim, 2013-2014)
- Scott Vaughan (2008-2013)
- Ron Thompson, FCA (Interim, 2007-2008)
- Johanne Gélinas (2000-2007)
- Rick Smith (Interim, 2000)
- Brian Emmett (1996-2000)
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) employs approximately 575 people between its head office in Ottawa and four regional offices in Vancouver, Edmonton, Montréal and Halifax.
We conduct independent audits and studies that provide objective information, advice, and assurance to Parliament, territorial legislatures, boards of crown corporations, government, and Canadians.
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) has a legislative basis in the Auditor General Act, the Financial Administration Act, and a number of other statutes. The Auditor General’s powers and responsibilities are set forth in legislation passed by Parliament.
Since 1995, as a result of amendments to the Auditor General Act, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada has a specific mandate related to the environment and sustainable development. This mandate is carried out by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD), on behalf of the Auditor General.
Under the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the CESD must review a draft of the federal government’s sustainable development strategy and comment on whether the targets and implementation strategies can be assessed. The CESD must also monitor and report on the extent to which federal departments have contributed to meeting the targets and goals set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
In 2007, Parliament passed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. Under the Act, the CESD was required to prepare a report at least once every two years, up to and including 2012, on Canada’s progress in implementing the Climate Change Plans and meeting its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.
Our audit professionals are highly qualified in their fields and bring a rich mix of academic disciplines and experience to their work. They include accountants, engineers, lawyers, management experts, information technology professionals, environmental specialists, economists, historians, and sociologists. All audit staff have a graduate degree, or a bachelor’s degree and professional designation, and many have additional credentials.
Auditors are organized into teams that are assigned to audits of specific departments, agencies, or Crown corporations, and audits of Canada’s three territories. They are supported in their work by specialists in law, professional practices, international relations, information technology, knowledge management, human resources, financial management, communications, and parliamentary liaison.
All OAG employees adhere to a Code of Values, Ethics and Professional Conduct that serves to encourage and maintain a professional work environment, and to maintain and enhance the confidence of the public and the government in the Office’s integrity. The Code also clearly outlines employee responsibilities to Parliament, audit entities, the public, and the Office. Once a year, employees are required to certify that they comply with this code.
Five core values drive how OAG employees conduct themselves and their work.
Democracy and independence
We are an officer of Parliament that is independent of government. Our reports are based on evidence collected in accordance with our policies and professional auditing standards. We bring a non-partisan, objective, and fair approach to our work.
Respect for people
We are committed to providing a working environment in which all are treated with dignity and respect and encouraged to realize their full career potential. We encourage open and honest communication to create a climate of trust and teamwork. We value each other’s talent and diversity and support learning and work-life balance.
Integrity and professionalism
We sustain public confidence by conducting ourselves, in everything we do, with honesty and integrity and in a manner that meets the highest standards of professional conduct.
Stewardship and serving the public interest
We focus on significant issues to make a positive and measurable impact. In particular, we promote government accountability for the collection and use of public funds and for the results achieved. We also promote continuous improvement of the environment and sustainable development.
Commitment to Excellence
We meet the highest standards of professionalism in our work with Parliament and those we audit. We are committed to continuously improving our processes and practices and delivering products and services of the highest quality. We share our experience with others and contribute to the advancement of the legislative audit discipline in Canada and abroad.
We strive to be a model organization for the federal government. We treat people fairly. Our audit plans are strategic and risk-based, our reports are focused on results, and our effectiveness is measured and reported annually to Parliament. Our policies and practices are aligned with our vision and values, and our processes are economical, efficient, and responsive.
Planning and Results
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) produces various reports that set forth its plans and priorities, review its performance, and demonstrate its commitment to employment equity. The Office also prepares a sustainable development strategy every three years.
The Office periodically surveys its employees to evaluate its success in achieving its objective of providing a work environment where employees are satisfied and engaged.
The Office also prepares
- quarterly financial reports, and
- annual reports on the Access to Information Act and on the Privacy Act.
Finally, the OAG conducts periodic surveys of Parliamentarians and other users of our reports to help us ensure that we are meeting their needs.
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) seeks to adhere to the highest standards, and is committed to continuous improvement in all areas of its operations. The Office ensures the quality of its audit work in a variety of ways.
Quality Assurance Reviews
We systematically seek assurance that our work meets professional standards through:
- compulsory audit methodology that is anchored in professional auditing standards;
- quality checks throughout the audit and post audit;
- periodic reviews from external organizations; and
- input from external experts for our performance audits.
We also subject all of our audit products to regular practice reviews, and conduct internal audits that focus on the Office’s management and administration. These are carried out in accordance with the annual Practice Review and Internal Audit Plan.
Every year, we review our system of quality control to ensure it is operating effectively. Results are communicated to the Office’s management and to all staff.
The Green Ribbon Panel
In 2007, the Auditor General of Canada asked an independent panel of experts—the “Green Ribbon Panel”—to examine implementation of the Office of the Auditor General’s (OAG) environment and sustainable development mandate to date, and explore opportunities within the mandate that would allow us to serve Parliament better.
In its report, Fulfilling the Potential—A Review of the Environment and Sustainable Development Practice of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (2008), the Green Ribbon Panel made nine recommendations, all of which were accepted. Two of these recommendations resulted in the drafting of a discussion paper in 2010: Managing Sustainable Development.
The Office subsequently prepared a Response to the Report of the Green Ribbon Panel reflecting the status of implementation of those nine recommendations.
Who Audits the OAG?
Every year, an external auditor appointed by the Treasury Board of Canada audits the OAG’s financial statements. The auditor’s report is submitted to the Treasury Board and is tabled in the House of Commons.
Like other federal government departments and agencies, the OAG submits annual spending estimates to Parliament and appears before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to explain its estimates, priorities, and management practices.
The OAG also voluntarily subjects its work to independent external reviews.
- In 2009, an international peer review team led by the Australian National Audit Office examined the work of the OAG.
- In 2003, an international team of peers led by the National Audit Office of the United Kingdom reviewed the OAG’s performance audit practice.
- In 1999, an external audit firm examined the OAG’s quality management system for financial audits.
A Brief History
John Lorn McDougall, a former member of Parliament, was appointed the first independent Auditor General of Canada in 1878. Up to that point, the job had been performed by the deputy minister of finance.
At the time, the Auditor General had two main functions:
- to examine and report on past transactions, and
- to approve or reject the issuance of government cheques.
The Auditor General’s annual reports to the House of Commons in that era listed every single government transaction, from the purchase of bootlaces to contracts for bridge building. Those detailed records revealed a focus different from the work of the federal audit office of our day. But like today, the Auditor General of the late 19th century was expected to report on whether public money was spent the way Parliament intended.
In 1931, Parliament transferred responsibility for issuing cheques to a newly created government official, the Comptroller of the Treasury. This drew a clear line between the duties of government and the auditor: the government was responsible for collecting and distributing public funds, while the auditor was responsible for examining and reporting on how those funds were handled.
The work of the Office began to move in its current direction in the 1950s, when the Auditor General began to report on "non-productive payments." These were transactions that, while legal, provided no apparent benefit to Canadians. The reports were controversial, however, because government officials felt the Auditor General was commenting on government policy and therefore going beyond his mandate.
The 1977 Auditor General Act clarified and expanded the Auditor General’s responsibilities. In addition to looking at the accuracy of financial statements, the Auditor General was given a broader mandate to examine how well the government managed its affairs. The new Act maintained the important principle that the Auditor General does not comment on policy choices but does examine how policies are implemented.
Further amendments to the Act in 1995 established the position of Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development within the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.