Since 1879, the Auditor General of Canada’s main instrument for reporting has been an annual report to the House of Commons. The Auditor General Act was subsequently amended to allow for the submission of additional reports.
Today, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada normally submits reports on performance audits to the House of Commons twice a year, in the spring and fall.
The findings of these audits are communicated to the media and the public once they have been tabled in the House of Commons.
Because the Auditor General’s reports can be tabled only when Parliament is sitting, tabling dates are planned with the Parliamentary schedule in mind.
The Auditor General notifies the Speaker of the House of his intention to table a report at least 30 days before a tabling date. The Speaker is given a short summary of each audit topic; the summary does not include audit findings or recommendations. At that time, the Auditor General also notifies all Members of Parliament and Senators.
Once a report has been finalized, and about a week before it is tabled, the Auditor General offers to brief Cabinet ministers whose organizations are included in the report. Until then, the Office deals only with public servants, giving them an opportunity to check facts, provide additional information, and respond to recommendations.
On Tabling Day
The Auditor General gives MPs and Senators a confidential preview of the report several hours before it is tabled in the House of Commons. This preview session, which is hosted by the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, consists of a short statement by the Auditor General and a question-and-answer period. (Parliamentary staff may attend, but they must remain in the briefing room until the report is tabled.)
A media lock-up takes place at the same time as the briefing for Parliamentarians. Since reports are often complex and may deal with up to a dozen different topics, the lock-up gives journalists time to understand the information in the report. Journalists receive the report at the beginning of the lock-up, and the Office ensures that auditors are present to answer their questions.
The Auditor General also holds a news conference during the media lock-up, making a short statement and answering questions. The news conference is taped, and may be broadcast only after the report is tabled in the House of Commons.
The Speaker of the House of Commons tables the report on behalf of the Auditor General, usually shortly after 2:00 p.m. The Auditor General is present in the House of Commons for the tabling.
Parliamentary committee hearings are important opportunities for Parliament to use the Auditor General’s reports to improve government management and accountability.
All of the Auditor General’s reports are automatically referred to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee for further review. The committee holds hearings to discuss issues raised in the reports, as do other Parliamentary committees.
The Public Accounts Committee bases much of its work on the Auditor General’s reports. The Auditor General and senior public servants from the audited organizations are invited to make brief statements and answer questions at committee hearings.
At the conclusion of such hearings, the committee may table a report in the House of Commons that includes recommendations to the government. The government is expected to table a response to the committee’s report within 150 days. Its response is approved by Cabinet.