The Office of the Auditor General audits the financial statements of the province and the accounts of agencies of the Crown. We also audit the administration of government programs and activities and of public-sector organizations receiving government grants. Our Office reports on its audits in an Annual Report to the Legislative Assembly. We are independent of the government and help the Legislature, on behalf of taxpayers, hold the government, its administrators and certain grant-recipient organizations accountable for how well they spend public money in their operations.
Sections 9 and 12 of the Auditor General Act set forth the auditing and reporting responsibilities of the Auditor General. These responsibilities encompass two types of audits:
Attest audits — On an annual basis, the Auditor General attests to the accuracy of the financial statements of the province and of numerous Crown agencies. In other words, the Auditor reports whether, in the Auditor's opinion, the government's financial statements present fairly the financial position of the province, the results of its operations and the changes in its financial position in accordance with the accounting principles stated in the Public Accounts.
Value-for-money audits — The Auditor General examines government programs, agencies, certain public-sector organizations receiving government grants and Crown-controlled corporations to see if their administrators have spent money with due regard for economy and efficiency and have satisfactory procedures for measuring and reporting on effectiveness. In other words, he ascertains if taxpayers have received value for the tax dollars spent by the entities we audit. As part of these audits, the Auditor also checks that the management of the auditees being examined collected and spent money in the ways that the Legislature intended it to.
The Auditor General Act also directs the Auditor General to: examine and report on any matter in the Public Accounts if requested to do so by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts; and undertake special assignments when requested to by the Legislature, the Public Accounts Committee, or a minister of the Crown (provided such assignments do not take precedence over the Auditor's other duties).
In addition, the Government Advertising Act, 2004 directs the Auditor General to review proposed government advertising to verify that it meets certain standards.
The scope of our work goes significantly beyond attest audits. For example, in our value-for-money work, we identify significant accountability and performance issues in government and the broader public sector and explain how these issues affect both the public sector and taxpayers. The areas we audit — such as health care, education, social assistance, and the protection of the environment and Ontario's natural resources — are vitally important to Ontario citizens. In judging whether citizens have received value for money in these and other areas, we "bring it all together," presenting to the Legislature a balanced picture of financial and administrative performance in the government and parts of the broader public sector.
We also work collaboratively with other legislative audit offices and organizations throughout Canada and the world. The expertise we share with these bodies enables the legislative audit community to develop better public sector accountability standards and value-for-money-audit and attest-audit best practices.
Every year, the Auditor General reports findings and conclusions to the Legislature. The Annual Report includes the results of our attest audit of the Public Accounts, but focuses on the results of our value-for-money audits. The report also presents follow-ups of all value-for-money audits conducted two years previously.
Upon its release, the Annual Report attracts considerable media and public attention. Once tabled by the Speaker in the Legislative Assembly, our Annual Report is permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. The role of this committee is to protect the public interest as it relates to the government's management of public funds. The committee selects those findings and recommendations in our report that it judges to be most critical to the public interest and arranges for public hearings on them. At these hearings, public servants can be called to account for their management of public funds. Following the hearings, the committee prepares and submits a report to the Legislature that summarizes the committee's hearings and often makes recommendations to improve administrative practices and procedures.