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Opening Statement to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Costs of Implementing the Canadian Firearms Program

(Chapter 10 - December 2002 Report of the Auditor General of Canada)

17 March 2003

Sheila Fraser, FCA
Auditor General of Canada

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to meet with the Committee and further discuss our December 2002 chapter on the costs of implementing the Canadian Firearms Program. With me today are Alan Gilmore, Principal, and Gordon Stock, Director, both responsible for this audit.

As I indicated previously, my report did not comment on the merits of the government's firearms control policy. Such a review is not within the mandate of my Office. In addition, I did not audit the operations of the Program because it was undergoing major changes.

The objective of my audit was to examine the costs of the Program and the information provided to Parliament on the Program. We found that the information Parliament received was not clear and not complete; information on the rising costs was given to ministers and to central agencies but not to Parliament.

We concluded that the Department should have provided this information to Parliament in its reports on plans and priorities and departmental performance. This was particularly the case for the Firearms Program because it was being managed as a high-cost, high-risk major Crown project where more stringent Treasury Board policies on reporting apply.

At your Committee's February 24th hearing on this audit, the Deputy Minister of Justice questioned whether the Canadian Firearms Program was subject to the reporting requirements for a major Crown project.

We have reviewed this issue with the Treasury Board Secretariat. The Secretariat has agreed with us that the Program was to be managed as a major Crown project and that reporting should have been better.

Mr. Chairman, the bottom line is that Parliament should have been fully informed. I hope there is no disagreement that Parliament should have received comprehensive and timely information on the Canadian Firearms Program. The information was available within the government and it should have been reported to Parliament. Such reporting would have helped Parliament keep the government accountable.

We have recommended that the Department of Justice provide Parliament annually with complete and accurate information on the Program. I am pleased that the Minister of Justice, at the last hearing on this issue, indicated again that the Department has accepted our recommendation without conditions and that full reporting on the program will be provided to Parliament.

Thank you Mr. Chairman. We would be pleased to respond to questions.