The Auditor General watches over the administration of Ontario’s finances to help the Legislature hold the government accountable. The Auditor does this by carrying out detailed scrutiny of government spending and then producing Annual and Special reports that provide MPPs with the information they need to judge how well public resources are being used.
The Auditor General Act (Act) mandates the Auditor to examine the government’s financial accounts and transactions, known as the Public Accounts, and to report to the Legislature her findings, including any instances of misuse or mismanagement of public funds.
The Auditor is also required to assess whether government and broader public-sector activities operate with due regard for economy and efficiency, and whether procedures to measure and report on the effectiveness of programs and organizations exist and function properly. This is known as the “value-for-money mandate.” For more detailed information on the Auditor General’s role and responsibilities, see our Office chapter in the latest Annual Report.
Under the Act, the Auditor General is an officer of the Legislative Assembly. This provides a vital safeguard for the Office to fulfill its responsibilities objectively and fairly by making it independent of the government and its administration.
Similar to the Auditor General of Canada, the Auditor General of Ontario has established a panel of Senior Advisors to provide strategic advice and recommendations concerning the Office’s work. This may include considering and providing advice on emerging trends and issues, future audit topics, and the Office’s strategic direction. The Panel’s Terms of Reference can be found here. Panel membership is made up of a broad cross-section of prominent individuals in the sectors of accounting, public service and law. Members are as follows:
Tim Beauchamp is the former director of the Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) of Canada and has been directly involved in standard-setting for the public sector since 1989.
He joined PSAB with extensive experience in public-sector accounting, budgeting and debt management, and was responsible for strategic and operating plans, provided advice on technical projects and administered staff activities.
Previously, Beauchamp was the treasurer of the North-South Institute, a private sector not-for-profit organization and has served on various governmental financial reporting committees. He is currently an advisor to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada and assists the Canadian members of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board.
In addition to his numerous publications and speaking engagements, Beauchamp has instructed on public sector accounting and financial reporting issues at York University.
Richard Brennan is an award winning journalist who has reported on politics at both Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill for most of his 43-year career.
He is the only journalist who has been president of both the press galleries at the Park and Ottawa.
Besides working for the Toronto Star, Brennan (who is known to many by his nickname, Badger) was city editor at The Record in Waterloo Region and helped mentor a number of journalists.
Brennan served for three years on the Ontario Press Council, which adjudicates newspaper readers’ complaints, and was a former director for the Ontario Newspaper Awards, which recognizes outstanding journalism.
At Queen’s Park, the Brantford native covered the governments of Bill Davis, David Peterson, Bob Rae, Mike Harris, Ernie Eves, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne.
Brennan now works with former CBC Radio and Television reporter Conway Fraser providing media coaching and communications crisis management.
Deborah Deller retired as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario after a career spanning over thirty five years at Queen’s Park.
As Clerk of the House, Deller provided consistent, expert, confidential and non-partisan procedural advice and assistance to the Speaker, Members of Provincial Parliament and colleagues in other jurisdictions. Deller led a staff of 400 employees providing procedural and administrative support to the House and its Committees including security, building management, library and information services and educational outreach. She also served as the chief administrative officer of the Office of the Assembly, responsible for strategic planning and the development and implementation of programs and policy and Secretary of the Ontario Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Deller has participated in several international advisory projects and missions on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the British Overseas Office and has presented and participated in various forums including the Canadian Association of Clerks-at-the Table and the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries. She was also a regular participant in an education program operated jointly by the Canadian Study of Parliament Group and the Association of Clerks at the Table in Canada and was a member of the Editorial Board of the Canadian Parliamentary Review.
Burkard Eberlein is an Associate Professor of Public Policy in the Schulich School of Business at York University where he teaches public policy and management. He is the Program Director, Public Sector: Business & Government. Before joining York University, he had appointments at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, the Technical University of Munich and the University of Konstanz (Germany).
Professor Eberlein has published widely on comparative public policy and international governance. He is the recipient of several research grants to investigate, among other things, private standard-setting in corporate reporting, transnational business governance initiatives and energy policy. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, one of the top public policy schools globally. More recently, he has held a Visiting Research Professor position at the University of Konstanz.
Professor Eberlein obtained his MSc in Public Administration and Public Policy from the London School of Economics, a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Konstanz in Germany.
Sheila Fraser is a member of the Board of Directors of Manulife Financial Corporation, Bombardier Inc., and IISD-Experimental Lakes Inc. She is also a trustee of the IFRS Foundation and a member of the Audit Advisory Committee of the United Nations Development Programme.
Fraser served as Auditor General of Canada from 2001 to 2011, the first female to hold this position. Born in Dundee, Quebec, she is a Chartered Professional Accountant and earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University. Before joining the Office of the Auditor General in 1999, Fraser enjoyed a fruitful and challenging career with the firm of Ernst & Young, where she became a partner in 1981.
For her noteworthy service to the auditing and accounting professions, Fraser was awarded the designation “Fellow” by the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec and by the Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario. She was a 2009 recipient of the ICAO Award of Outstanding Merit, the highest honour that the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario can bestow upon its members. Fraser has also been awarded honorary degrees from 17 Canadian universities, which recognize her contribution to the fields of accounting, legislative auditing and public administration.
David Marshall is the former President and CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario. The WSIB, a provincial agency, administers no-fault workplace insurance for employers and provides disability benefits, monitors the quality of health care and assists in the early and safe return to work for injured and ill workers.
Marshall is a Fellow of the Certified Public Accountants Association of Canada and has divided his time between appointments in public service and in the private sector.
He served from 1977 to 1993 in several senior executive roles in the Government of Canada, consecutively as Assistant Auditor General for Canada; Assistant Deputy Minister at Revenue Canada; and Assistant Deputy Minister at Employment and Immigration Canada.
Joining the private sector from 1993 to 2003, Marshall served in senior positions in the telecommunications and banking industries. He has worked on Wall Street as a Managing Director of a leading investment bank and, more recently, he served as Vice Chairman of CIBC for three years before rejoining the Government as Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services (from 2003 to 2007). Prior to joining the WSIB, Marshall was appointed by the Prime Minister as High Commissioner (Ambassador) to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean where he served for two years.
Bill Robson took office as President and CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute in July 2006, after serving as the Institute’s Senior Vice President since 2003 and Director of Research since 2000.
He has written more than 200 monographs, articles, chapters and books on such subjects as government budgets, pensions, healthcare financing, inflation and currency issues. His work has won awards from the Policy Research Secretariat, the Canadian Economics Association, and the Donner Canadian Foundation.
Robson is a Senior Fellow at Massey College and holds an ICD.D designation from the Institute of Corporate Directors. He is a member of the ifo World Economic Survey expert group, and a Big Picture Panelist on the CBC’s On the Money.
Robson taught public finance and public policy at the University of Toronto from 2000 to 2003, and currently teaches a Master’s level course in public finance at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance.
Carmen Rossiter is a corporate director serving on the boards of North York General Hospital, Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario and Statistics Canada.
Prior to her service on boards, Rossiter was a Partner with PwC (Global Risk Management Solutions) and founding Managing Director for Protiviti Canada. Her experience also includes controllership and planning positions with Crown Life Insurance, Royal Trust (now RBC Financial) and CIBC. Currently, Rossiter is Program Director for the Centre for Governance, Risk Management & Control Excellence at the Schulich Executive Education Centre at York University. She is also a lecturer for the half-day risk management session for the Institute of Corporate Directors ICD.D program at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
Christopher Wirth is a Partner at Keel Cottrelle LLP, joining the firm after having been a partner at Stockwoods LLP, one of Canada’s leading litigation boutiques.
He has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeal, Divisional Court, Superior Court of Justice, the British Columbia Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the Federal Court of Canada and the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench.
Wirth regularly appears before many professional and regulatory bodies and at coroners’ inquests and has acted as an independent legal advisor to a number of administrative tribunals. He is also a chair of the University of Toronto’s Tribunal.
Wirth has been rated BV Distinguished for over 10 years by Martindale-Hubbell.
The Auditor General’s responsibilities include: examining the province’s Public Accounts and the accounts and financial transactions of a number of Crown agencies; carrying out value-for-money audits of selected government activities and programs, and of broader public-sector organizations that receive government grants; and assessing compliance with relevant legislation and government directives. The Auditor General’s main responsibilities are described below.
The government is required to report annually to the Legislature and the people of Ontario on its financial performance. It does this in part by submitting to the Legislature each year its audited financial statements, called the Public Accounts. These statements outline all spending, borrowing and revenues for the previous fiscal year (the province’s fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31).
The Public Accounts are a record of financial transactions that have actually occurred, while the province’s Budget and Estimates outline planned financial activities. The Auditor General audits the province’s Public Accounts annually in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards in what is known as an attest audit. After her audit, the Auditor General expresses an opinion on the financial statements of the province—whether they are fairly presented and comply with appropriate accounting principles.
The Auditor General’s opinion is reproduced in both the Public Accounts of the province and in her own Annual Report.
In addition to auditing the financial statements of the province as a whole, the Auditor General examines the accounts and financial transactions of numerous provincial Crown agencies such as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, TVOntario, the Ontario Securities Commission and Metrolinx.
These audits include the expression of an opinion that is usually supplied to the agency’s board and the Minister responsible. As well, the Auditor General directs the audits of several other Crown agencies that are performed by public accounting companies. The Auditor General also has access rights to audits of Crown-controlled corporations, whose audits are also done by public accounting firms
Generally, each agency and Crown-controlled corporation reproduces its audited financial statements in its own Annual Report, which is publicly available.
A key part of the Auditor General’s mandate is the value-for-money audits, which assess whether money was spent with due regard for economy and efficiency, and whether appropriate procedures were in place to measure and report on the effectiveness of government programs. Under the Auditor General Act, the Office is required to report to the Legislature significant instances where it has found the government is not fulfilling its responsibilities in these areas.
Each year, the Office audits selected ministry or agency programs and activities, with the major ones generally audited every five to seven years. In deciding which areas to audit, the Office considers such factors as the results of previous audits, the total revenues or expenditures at risk, the impact of the program or activity on the public and the costs of performing the audit in relation to the benefits.
Results of these value-for-money audits are published in the Auditor General’s Annual Report, and usually get a great deal of attention from media and the public attention.
When the Auditor General Act became law on November 30, 2004, it expanded the Auditor’s value-for-money mandate to include organizations in the broader public sector that receive government grants. These include hospitals, colleges and universities, school boards, children’s aid societies, and so on. This was a significant change to our mandate, allowing us for the first time to audit an area that accounts for more than 50% of provincial spending. While the expanded mandate does not apply to municipalities, it does allow the Auditor to determine whether a municipality spent a provincial grant for the purposes intended.
The expanded mandate also allows the Office to conduct value-for-money audits of Crown-controlled corporations, such as the new hydro companies that began operating in 1999 after the restructuring of Ontario Hydro
Under the Auditor General Act, the Auditor may also be asked to undertake special assignments by the Legislature, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, or a Minister of the Crown. Such assignments, however, should not take precedence over the ongoing work of the Office, and the Auditor may decline an assignment by a minister if it conflicts with her other duties.
In recent years, when we have received such assignments, our normal practice has been to obtain the requester’s agreement that the special report will be tabled in the Legislature on completion and made public at that time.
Every year, the Auditor General reports on her examination of government resources and administration in an Annual Report tabled by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in the Legislature. Tabling is usually at the end of the year, at which time the Annual Report becomes public.
The main body of the Annual Report deals with individual value-for-money audits of ministries and agencies, and includes significant findings, observations and recommendations, as well as ministry and agency responses to the recommendations. There is also a chapter of follow-up reviews of all the value-for-money audits from the Annual Report published two years previously, and another on the Office’s review of government advertising. In addition, the Annual Report includes observations resulting from the attest audits of the Public Accounts and reports on the Office’s operations and on the activities of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. After the Annual Report is tabled, it is referred to the Public Accounts Committee for review.
In order to determine whether the government is doing a good job managing the public purse, the Legislature needs quality and timely information, for which it turns to its Standing Committee on Public Accounts (also known as the Public Accounts Committee, or “PAC”), and to the Auditor General.
The mission of the eight MPPs who make up PAC includes reviewing and reporting to the full Legislature their observations, opinions and recommendations on the province’s financial statements, called the Public Accounts, and the Auditor General’s reports.
PAC is an all-party legislative standing committee that examines, assesses and reports to the Legislature on a number of issues, based on the Auditor General’s reports. These include: the economy and efficiency of government operations; the effectiveness of programs in achieving their objectives; controls over assets, expenditures, and the assessment and collection of revenues; and the reliability and appropriateness of information in the Public Accounts.
The Committee also selects parts of the Auditor General’s report on which to hold public meetings. The responsible Minister, Deputy Minister or agency chief executive officer, along with senior staff, normally attend these hearings to answer questions. Following these hearings, the Committee prepares and submits to the Legislature a report containing comments and recommendations based on the Auditor General’s report. It is then up to the government to respond to the Committee’s recommendations.
The Committee’s reports can be accessed by clicking here. The Auditor General attends all Committee meetings and provides assistance to the Committee on preparing its agenda, reports, and other areas as required.
Critics have in the past claimed that some taxpayer-funded government advertisements contained partisan elements designed to give the government party an unfair advantage. In an effort to bring greater accountability in this area, the government in 2004 gave the Auditor General the added responsibility of reviewing proposed government advertisements. The Auditor examines these advertisements before they are published or broadcast to verify that they meet certain standards.
Under the Government Advertising Act, 2004, no reviewable government advertisement can be published, displayed, broadcast or distributed a reviewable item without approval from the Auditor General. If the Auditor finds the item in violation of the Act, it may not be used, and all decisions of the Auditor General are final.
The Act applies to all ministries, Cabinet Office and the Office of the Premier, and it covers newspaper and magazine advertisements; advertisements displayed in public places such as billboards, posters in malls and shopping centres, advertisements on subways, buses, streetcars, and transit shelters and stations; radio and television commercials; and printed matter distributed unaddressed in bulk to households.
For more information, please see the Government Advertising Review page here.