At the time this article was written Craig James was Clerk Assistant in the
Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly
Delegates to this year's conference held in
Regina from July 6 - 9 consisted of thirty parliamentarians and six committee
clerks and researchers. Every public accounts committee in Canada, except
Ontario, was represented.
The tradition of holding the CCPAC annual
meeting concurrently and in the same location as the Conference of Legislative
Auditors continued with a joint reception on July 6, in the Hotel Saskatchewan.
The joint reception allows conference participants to renew old acquaintances
and establish new ones. This is a valuable and even vital way for public
accounts committee members and clerks to become familiar with the legislative
auditors and their work.
Recent electoral changes throughout Canada
combined with membership substitutions have altered the composition of the
Council since its meeting in Whitehorse last year. Ottawa, New Brunswick, Yukon
and Northwest Territories retain essentially the same members, chairmen and
vice-chairmen while all others have new faces.
The conference got underway in the
Legislative Chamber with a message from E W. Johnson, Lieutenant Governor of
Saskatchewan. The Public Accounts Committee from the host province presented
the first topic entitled "The role and effectiveness of the Public
Accounts Committee and the need for reform". It was a panel discussion
between R.L. Andrew, Minister of Economic Development and Trade and former
Minister of Finance in the present Progressive Conservative government as well
as a former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee; and Mr. E.B. (Ned)
Shillington, MLA, who, until May 29, 1986, was Chairman of the Public Accounts
Committee and President of the WPAC as well as a Minister of the Crown prior to
the 1982 provincial general election. Both panelists brought to the first
business session their unique perspectives on the functioning and role of
Saskatchewan's own public accounts committee during the past decade. Their
experience on both sides of the House evoked questioning from members of the
Council during the one hour allotted to this topic.
Alberta was represented by Barry Pashak, a
newly elected member who, as chairman of his Public Accounts Committee,
provided the Council with an overview of Alberta's Committee system.
Aideen Nicholson, chairman of the Standing
Committee on Public Accounts of the House of Commons in Ottawa presented a
paper entitled "Procedures and Practices of the Standing Committee on
Public Accounts. With parliamentary reform very much in the news from Ottawa,
Ms. Nicholson's presentation further enhanced an outsider's understanding of
the ways in which the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee works and
Graham Lea of British Columbia, Lynwood MacPherson
of Prince Edward Island, Dave Blake of Manitoba, George Archibald of Nova
Scotia and Michael McKee of New Brunswick, brought to the business sessions
their perspective on the functioning of their respective public accounts
committees and the impact felt by governments and legislatures as a result of
Committee scrutiny and reporting procedures. Winston Baker of Newfoundland
presented a case study on a recent issue encountered by his Committee "How
much information does the auditor general need to audit for compliance with
authority?". The presentation studied current legislation affecting the
authority of Newfoundland's auditor general and the problems it created for the
public accounts committee throughout its inquiries. Arnold McCallum of the Northwest
Territories presented a report which updated a survey undertaken by John Kelly
and Hugh Hanson in their 1981 publication entitled 1rnproving accountability:
Canadian Public Accounts Committees and Legislative Auditors". There was
some discussion during this session that a revised and updated survey be
conducted of all public accounts committees in Canada. Jim McLachlan of the
Yukon presented a background paper entitled 'Developing performance measurement
indicators in the Yukon: Watching mountains grow". The report illustrated
the "systematic and straightforward" approach taken by the Federal
Treasury Board and its intended application nation-wide: a) Determine what
outputs (that is, goods and services, are produced; b) Determine the number of
each kind of output produced in a given period; c) Allocate to each output the
cost of producing it; d) Calculate the efficiency ratio for each output; e)
Calculate efficiency ratios for several periods and determine how they have
varied; 0 Identify the appropriate service indications for each output and
determine how they have varied over time; g) Determine how the outputs
contribute to the achievement of objectives and identify effectiveness
indicators; and h) Develop a simple means of reliably reporting performance
information, together with the relevant financial data, to the responsible
managers in a regular, timely manner".
Each year the Canadian Council of Public
Accounts Committees and the Conference of Legislative Auditors hold a joint
business session on a topic or topics of mutual concern. The expectations gap
as it related to Legislative Auditors and Public Accounts Committees provided
an opportunity for parliamentarians and auditors to discuss frankly what each
expects of the other; what common ground is shared in their pursuit of
government accountability; what frustrations are encountered of one group to
the other; and what goals and objectives exist that might create a better
atmosphere and more effectiveness between them.
John Kelly of the Canadian Institute of
Chartered Accountants was the speaker on the second half of the joint business
session which had as its topic the financial reporting standards developed by
the public sector auditing and accounting committee of the Canadian Institute
of Chartered Accountants.
A typical spin-off arising from the
concurrently held meetings is the cost sharing of social functions. The Premier
of Saskatchewan and Mrs. Devine hosted a reception and dinner at the Wascana
Country Club on behalf of delegates to both conferences. A tour of the Big
Muddy Badlands and the ranch of Edward Burgess gave delegates, even some of
those living in Saskatchewan, a glimpse of the province seldom seen by anyone.
The trail the delegates took by bus wound its way along a partial section of
the 15,000 acres owned and leased by this most unassuming and knowledgeable
Both conferences, through formally
concluding their business sessions prior to the tour, unofficially wound up at
a dinner provided by the Big Muddy Kinsmen Club of Coronach on the farm of Mr.
and Mrs. Richard Volke. The Volke's provided ample opportunity for each tour
participant to see a typical Saskatchewan farm – it's owners, machinery,
livestock and grain and to ask a variety of questions pertaining to all aspects
of Saskatchewan agriculture in that particular region.
Certain decisions emanating from the CCPAC
mid-winter executive meeting were ratified by the Council during deliberations
affecting Council's affairs. Minor modifications to the constitution were
enacted as well as the election of a new (and continuing) executive. The
outcome of the elections are as follows: Jean-Guy Lemieux (Quebec), President;
George Archibald (Nova Scotia), First Vice-President; and Barry Pashak
(Alberta), Second Vice-President. Mr. Alain Major (Quebec), was deemed to be
the Council's Secretary while Mr. Craig James (Saskatchewan), was asked to
continue as an Executive Secretary for one additional year for the purposes of
preparing reports on activities of the Council.
For additional information on the conference
a limited quantity of the Council's published verbatim and report of its Eighth
Annual Meeting is available from the Executive Secretary.