What’s the answer to the missing $3.1 billion?

Either way, it’s time to reform the estimates process

John Ivison says Tony Clement was shocked to learn that the $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding couldn’t be tracked and Ivison suggests part of the solution is reforming the estimates process. The Hill Times considers the same possibility.

The thought that estimates reform might be linked to the missing $3.1 billion occurred to me when the Auditor General released his report, so I asked Scott Clark and Peter DeVries if there was such a link to be made. In response, they suggested there was not.

The information on what happened to the $3.1 billion will not be resolved by any of the proposed changes to the Estimates process.  Since all monies must be approved by Treasury Board and then Parliament, the records are there as to what happened to the $3.1 billion.  However, to find out would be very time consuming given the number of years under review.  If it lapsed, the info should be there.  If it was reprofiled, TB would have to approve it.  If it was reallocated to other programs, TB would have to approve it.  

After John’s column yesterday, I double-checked with Scott and Peter. Was moving to a program-based estimates system a solution to problems such as $3.1 billion?

Not necessarily.  TBS and departments would still need to keep track of all of the transactions as to whether they lapsed, were reprofied or directed to another vote or program.  Details on programs would require more info.  There is no reason why the $3.1 b can’t be accounted for except for slopply paper work.  The same could happen under a program system.

Whatever the applicability of estimates reform to the question of the $3.1 billion, the estimates process needs to be reform. And $70 million seems a relatively small price to pay to ensue Parliament can better scrutinize government spending. As no less than the Finance Minister was recently moved to declare, “Canadians are entitled to know what their government is up to.” And $70 million is considerably less than the Harper government has already spent on “economic action plan” ads.