Frequently asked questions about the audit of the Senate

Frequently Asked Questions—Audit of the Senate


Q. When did your Office start the audit of the Senate?
A. The audit started in Fall 2013, after the Senate gave us the mandate to undertake it. On 11 June 2013, the Auditor General had informed the Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration of the Office’s decision to accept the Senate’s invitation to conduct a comprehensive audit of the Senate of Canada, including Senators’ expenses.

Q: How is the audit of the Senate progressing?
A. The work is progressing. We are looking at a lot of information, but the work is progressing.

Q. When will the report be released?
A. No date has been set for the release of the report. Our performance audits generally take up to 18 months to complete, and this audit started in Fall 2013. It’s hard to say exactly when it will be finished, but we are hoping to be finished by the end of this calendar year. A report will likely be released somewhere between late 2014 and the first quarter of 2015.

Updated 15 January 2015
We appreciate that there has been sustained interest in this audit and the related forthcoming report. Our work is ongoing, and it is our intention to have a report ready to deliver at some point this spring. Given the breadth and extent of this audit, we are unable to provide a more specific timeframe.

Conduct and reporting of the audit

Q. Will there be an interim report from the Auditor General on the Senate audit?
A. No decision has been made about interim reporting at this time.

Q. Is the audit of the Senate a performance audit or a compliance audit?
A. We are conducting a performance audit. This type of audit often includes an examination of compliance with legislation and/or policies.

Q. Will Senators be identified in the audit report?
A. We do not speculate about audit findings, or how they will be presented.

Q. Will the Office of the Auditor General be making recommendations about the way expenses are filed and approved?
A. We do not speculate about audit recommendations.

Q. Will the Office of the Auditor General follow the same process it uses for performance audits of government departments and agencies, whereby the audited entity receives a working version of the report for fact validation and responses?
A. We are not speculating about future steps. The report will be addressed to the Senate, with a covering letter addressed to the Speaker of the Senate.

Q. If the Auditor General comes across issues that should be referred to the RCMP, will he refer it right away or wait until the audit is completed?
A. Any referrals to other authorities will be made before a report is made public.

Q. Is the Office of the Auditor General auditing the expenses of all Senators?
A. The period under examination is 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2013. The expenses of any Senator sitting in the Red Chamber during that two year period are subject to this audit. On an exception basis, the period covered may be extended to verify other matters that have come to the attention of auditors. Expenses of Senators that are being investigated by the RCMP will not be audited. Also, the expenses of former Senators Doug Finley and Fred Dickson, who have passed away, and of Senator Joyce Fairbairn, who retired early for health reasons, will not be audited.

Q. Is the Auditor General looking at the credit card records of Senators?
A. Auditors have access to any information that is relevant to the conduct of the audit.

Q. One Senator said that the Auditor General must spell out exactly what the parameters of this audit are. He thinks this seems to have become a forensic audit, and seems to be open-ended.
A. All Senators were provided with a copy of the audit plan summary. The Office’s auditors briefed Senators and their staff. An individual meeting takes place with each Senator when the audit of their expenses starts. Each Senator also received a letter inviting them to contact the Office if they had questions about the audit.

Q. What sort of authority does the Senate Audit Subcommittee have over the Auditor General’s audit?
A. In the planning phase of any performance audit, the team assigned by the Office of the Auditor General to conduct the audit acquires appropriate knowledge of the audited entity, the activities and programs to be audited, and the issues facing the entity. Based on that knowledge, the audit team develops an examination plan as a basis for conducting an orderly, efficient, and cost-effective audit. In this case, the Senate Audit Subcommittee plays a role similar to that of any internal audit committee within a department or Crown corporation. It acts as one of several contact points between the Office of the Auditor General and the audited entity, and it can help facilitate the Auditor General’s work and understanding of the entity. However, it does not in any way influence what is audited or how the audit work unfolds.

Q: How do you feel about the level cooperation you are receiving from Senators?
A. So far, we are satisfied with the cooperation we have received. Obviously there are questions and Senators want information about what we are doing, but so far we are satisfied with the level of cooperation.


Q. How much will this audit cost?
A. We are tracking the cost of the audit of the Senate as we do for all our audits. The full cost of this audit will be made available once we have completed our work.

Updated 9 June 2015

Cost of the audit of senators’ expenses (as at 5 June 2015)

Please note that the following tables indicate the share of the Office of the Auditor General’s annual budget envelope that was attributed to the audit of Senators’ expenses. No additional funds were requested to complete this audit.

Cost in $ (millions) 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 Total
Staff costs
Hours worked directly on the audit multiplied by an hourly rate. Includes salaries and benefits as well as the Public Works and Government Services Canada’s accommodation charge (rent, tax, operation, and maintenance fees).
1.7 6.3 1.1 9.1
Contract costs
Professional services and cost of travel undertaken by contractors.
0.3 1.1 0.1 1.5
Other direct costs
Staff travel, rent paid for off-site office, photocopier rental, office supplies, translation, and printing costs directly used for the audit.
0.1 0.2 0 0.3
Direct audit costs
2.1 7.6 1.2 10.9
Allocated indirect audit costs
Time spent by audit operations staff on activities not directly related to a specific audit. Includes administration, leave, professional development and training. Calculated as a percentage of hours worked.
0.8 3.2 0.6 4.6
Total audit costs
2.9 10.8 1.8 15.5
Support costs
Cost of support services, such as IT, Finance, HR, Communications, Methodology and Legal allocated to the audit.
1.6 5.3 1.0 7.9
Grand total 4.5 16.1 2.8 23.4

Cost in hours 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 Total
Total 21,700 85,500 13,600 120,800

Q. Does the Auditor General need to increase its office budget because of the cost of this audit of the Senate?
A. There will be no incremental cost to the Office of the Auditor General for conducting the audit of the Senate.

Q. Is there any mechanism in place for the Senate of Canada to cover a portion of the costs of the audit?
A. No. The Senate is not billed for the professional services that make up the audit. The Office of the Auditor General does not undertake cost recovery for the financial and performance audits it conducts. This is an important element in maintaining our independence from the organizations we audit.

Q. How many auditors are working on the audit of the Senate?
A. At this time, there are approximately 40 auditors working on the audit of the Senate in any given month. That number is subject to change monthly, based on our scheduling of auditors on the project.

Q. Is the Office of the Auditor General using any external resources for the audit of the Senate?
A. The Office is conducting the audit of the Senate in the same way that it conducts all performance audits. This includes the use of specialists and outside advisors if necessary; examining documents, conducting interviews and analysis; and ensuring that audit standards are adhered to.