Highlights from the federal auditor general's latest report

Key findings from the fall report of the federal auditor general

Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks at a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 to discuss the Report on Senators' Expenses. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks at a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 to discuss the Report on Senators’ Expenses. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

OTTAWA — Key findings from the fall report of the federal auditor general, released Tuesday:

Employment and Social Development Canada was inconsistent in making decisions on whether to grant Canada Pension Plan disability benefits, and often failed to meet guidelines for deciding more quickly in cases of terminal illness (late-stage cancer) or grave conditions (Alzheimer’s, liver cancer, Parkinson’s disease).

Canada’s Social Security Tribunal, which adjudicates cases for Canadians who have been denied disability benefits, takes too long to decide on appeals.

While other federal benefit programs such as employment insurance can be applied for online, the CPP disability benefit involves an overly lengthy, complex, time-consuming process that can take several months to complete, with 42 pages of paperwork that causes difficulties for Canadians with disabilities and an unnecessary burden for ESDC.

In about 13,000 cases, about 38 per cent of those whose appeals were granted, it took more than a year for the successful applicants to begin receiving the benefit.

In the case of one patient with terminal cancer whose appeal was ultimately not granted, the request for a faster appeal hearing was filed away without being read, resulting in unnecessary delay.

When the tribunal was established in April 2013 in an effort to streamline the appeals process, it inherited a backlog of 6,585 appeals; by December 2014, the backlog had grown to 10,871 and it was taking more time, not less, for appeals to be heard.

When ESDC set out to help the tribunal with the backlog, it found a number of cases where applicants who had been denied benefits were indeed eligible to receive them.

Goods that violate Canada’s export control laws, such as stolen property, have been allowed to leave the country because the Canada Border Services Agency lacks the necessary resources _ weaknesses in export authorities, information, practices and controls _ to properly carry out its enforcement duties.

During the audit period from April 2014 to December 2014, some 20 per cent of shipments identified as “high-risk” for containing stolen vehicles went uninspected by border control officers. In some cases, officials said they didn’t receive information about shipments until after they had left the country; in other cases, staff shortages were to blame, or shipments simply couldn’t be located.

Shared Services Canada, established in 2012 to update, consolidate and manage the federal government’s information technology infrastructure, does not adequately measure, track or report on its costs, progress or savings, or on the expectations and satisfaction levels of its department and agency partners, making it impossible to determine whether it is actually saving taxpayer dollars.

In March 2014, SSC-managed radio communications for 9,000 police officers, paramedics, firefighters and other first responders failed for a full 40 minutes, an outage that was linked to the agency’s failure to establish service expectations with the RCMP; affected personnel were forced to rely on spotty cellphone service in the interim.

At senior management meetings between SSC and its partners, the agency “presented its own assessment of partner satisfaction,” the audit says, with some partners disputing SSC’s assessment of their level of satisfaction.

As of March 2015, the SSC’s “Email Transformation Initiative” had migrated only 3,000 mailboxes to the new email service, when the original plan had been to have migrated more than 500,000 mailboxes by that date.

An SSC initiative to consolidate the government’s 485 data centres down to seven by 2020 has closed or decommissioned 49 such sites, according to the agency’s annual report, but the audit found “insuficient supporting evidence” to back up that claim, nor could it verify the elimination of 300 out of 23,400 servers.

Some 20 years after gender-based analysis was first adopted, only a relative handful of federal departments and agencies use the tool to analyze how policy decisions might impact women and men differently; for those that do, the analyses are often incomplete or inconsistent.

There is no mandatory requirement subjecting policy, legislation and program decisions to gender-based analysis.

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