September 14, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Samuel Barker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SAMUEL BARKER (Hamilton).

Without wishing to occupy the time of the House, I want to say a word on this matter, Hon. Mr. FIELDING.
because I think it is somewhat dangerous to go on with this measure before we know clearly what we are doing. As I understand it, one complaint the Minister of Finance makes is that when differences occur between a department and the Auditor General, the Auditor General in some instances uses the method of refusing to renew credit in order to stop the payment. It strikes me that the method proposed by the hon. Minister of Finance will go to the other extreme, and, by compelling the Auditor General to renew the credit, will enable objectionable payments to be made ; and then perhaps we in parliament, after the horse has been stolen, will be asked to criticize the payments, which may not be very large amounts, but which in the aggregate may amount to a good deal. For example, a dispute may occur between the Militia Department or the Public Works Department and the Auditor General as to whether a particular item should be paid. The Auditor General refuses his certificate, because some vouchers or some particular information which he has called for, which he thinks he has a right to call for under the statute, has not been furnished to him. The department wanting to pay the money asks him to renew the credit. He says, if I do that, you will pay this very money which is in dispute out of the credit. It seems to me that a more practical way of preserving all the benefit of the Audit Act would be to provide in the statute, or in the rules of the treasury board, or in some other manner, that the credit, if renewed, should not be used for the payment of a disputed item, and then let the credit go on in the ordinary course. I have read discussions on various items which have appeared in the Auditor General's Report ; and I could easily see that if the credits were renewed from time to time, the Auditor General could be set at defiance, payments objected to could be made out of the credits, and the whole matter might be left for discussion in parliament. I quite admit that there is always friction between an auditor's department and a spending department in every corporation or company. That is an inconvenience perhaps ; but it is after all a protection to those who provide the money. I think it is very dangerous in any way to infringe on the rights and powers of the auditor, and I hope that this matter will be carefully considered before any alteration is made in the Audit Act along the line suggested by the hon. minister. I think it would be of the utmost importance that the Auditor General should be consulted, and that we should have his report on the propositions made before we take any action upon them. The Finance Minister has referred to delays by the Auditor General, and wishes to give the treasury board the power to override him, and to order payment when he delays giving his certificate. Well, surely the remedy in such a case as

that would be, if the officer entrusted with such important duties neglects or delays to give his certificate, for the minister to report that to parliament, and let us deal with the neglecting official. Not that we should override this duties, so that you would override another Auditor General who might hereafter be appointed and who was not neglectful. I understand that, with regard to the other matter to which the Minister of Finance has alluded, namely, the difficulty in the payment of the indemnity to members, there is some cause beyond what appears on the surface. 1 understand that the Auditor- General is entitled to 'certain statements, or perhaps that certain statements from the bank and those who require the money are necessary before he can certify to the Minister of Finance that a farther credit is necessary, and I am told that these statements-I do not like to say that they were intercepted-have not gone* to the Auditor General, and he is not actually in a position to say whether the money is required or not. It seems that he is expected simply to make application to the Finance Minister for money without the material on which to base such a request. I have not had the opportunity of knowing the Auditor General's side of the question, but I have heard that the bank statements and statements from the accountant's office, necessary to enable him -to know whether a further credit is required in order to pay the indemnity of! members, have not been furnished him. At all events he has not received them ; and if he had received them, he would have been able to make application under the statute and the money would have been provided.

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