Thursday 3 December 1992

Committee business


*Chair / Président: Mancini, Remo (Essex South/-Sud L)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Cordiano, Joseph (Lawrence Callahan, Robert V. (Brampton South/-Sud L)

*Cousens, W. Donald (Markham PC)

*Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND)

Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East/-Est ND)

Haeck, Christel (St Catharines-Brock ND)

*Hayes, Pat (Essex-Kent ND)

*Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings/Prince Edward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud ND)

*O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

Sorbara, Gregory S. (York Centre L)

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

McClelland, Carman (Brampton North/-Nord L) for Mr Callahan

Morrow, Mark (Wentworth East/-Est ND) for Ms Haeck

Wilson, Gary (Kingston and The Islands/Kingston et Les Îles ND) for Mr Frankford

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Otterman, James F., Assistant Provincial Auditor

Sciarra, John, administrative assistant to Provincial Auditor

Clerk / Greffiére: Manikel, Tannis

Staff / Personnel: McLellan, Ray, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1020 in room 228.


The Chair (Mr Remo Mancini): The standing committee on public accounts is called to order. I'd like to report to the committee that we've had our best subcommittee meeting ever. We accomplished a number of important goals that we had set for ourselves at the last meeting. I'd like to give the committee a report.

The subcommittee discussed the chairman's agenda for the winter of 1993. It was agreed that the committee will consider the following sections of the Provincial Auditor's 1992 annual report: section 3.03, family benefits assistance; section 3.04, elevating devices; section 3.10, health registration system; section 3.12, non-profit housing.

The subcommittee agreed that the Ombudsman will be scheduled to appear, and that the committee will review the special reports on the Workers' Compensation Board move, the new head office move, and the registrar general's special report.

The subcommittee agreed that the committee will meet for a maximum of three and a half days per week, starting Monday afternoons and finishing up Thursday afternoons.

It was agreed that the subcommittee will finalize the length of time for each subject when the committee is advised of the amount of time the committee will be able to meet. You will recall that the committee had requested four weeks, and we're hoping that we get our four weeks.

Can I have a motion that we concur with the subcommittee's report?

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): So moved.

The Chair: Mr O'Connor moves that the subcommittee report be adopted as read. Any discussion on the subcommittee report, now that we've all agreed?

Mr Noel Duignan (Halton North): On the question of the Ombudsman, Mr Chairman, again we make a request that the Ombudsman appear. She's indicated she would like to appear in front of this committee for a half-day some time in the recess. If she, for example, fails to appear, we then simply say that the audit's going to go ahead anyway.

The Chair: We should inform the committee that we've made three separate formal attempts to accommodate the Ombudsman, and none of our attempts have been successful. We're going to try one more time. We're going to ask the clerk if she'll send another letter to the Ombudsman, and hopefully we can have her in for part of a day to answer the questions that members have.

Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): Do you want a motion to that effect, Mr Chairman?

The Chair: I think we would like a motion, yes.

Mr Duignan: To the effect that if she fails to appear or doesn't want to appear or can't meet the schedule of the committee, then we simply say to the Ombudsman that the audit's going to go ahead anyway. I think we've wasted enough time on this issue.

The Chair: Mr Duignan has moved that we communicate with the Ombudsman for a fourth time in a formal way inviting her to appear before the committee, and make every reasonable attempt to accommodate her schedule. If the Ombudsman fails to respond to our letter and our request in a positive fashion, we will then instruct the Provincial Auditor's office to immediately commence with the full audit of the office, as has been requested by the committee.

Mr Cousens: This is a very strong motion, and also a good motion in the sense that it really is asking the Ombudsman to come to our committee. The initiatives that have been taken so far are with the best of intentions, but it is our responsibility to see that certain financial audits take place, and we take that responsibility very seriously, as she does her work as Ombudsman. But I think the two can be balanced in a very harmonious way. I would hope that this motion causes everyone to expedite the process. I think it's a good motion, and on behalf of the Tory caucus, I will vote in support of it.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I would like to echo those remarks, and suggest that this committee endeavours to work with those whom we request to come before us in an effort to seek positive change in whatever subject matter we're dealing with. I think we, in this case, have on a number of occasions made every effort to accommodate the persons we've asked to appear before us. I think we've demonstrated that we're willing to work in that vein, and as a result, we need to move forward with this final motion. So I would suggest that we recommend that this motion be carried.

The Chair: Any further comments?

All in favour of Mr Duignan's motion? Opposed? Carried.

Mr Cousens: I can't take credit for this good idea. Mr Cordiano, in subcommittee, suggested that those areas within the just-released auditor's report that we have not had time to schedule in our immediate plans be written to by the Chairman of the committee to see what action is being taken by the specific ministries and areas involved and requesting them to report back to our committee for an evaluation of the progress that's been made in those areas within a reasonable time frame. I would leave that time frame to the discretion of the Chair, but it would give us a chance to have all areas that have been raised by the auditor in his report to at least have a follow-up by this committee.

I commend Mr Cordiano for this idea, and I just wish I'd thought of it myself. It really means that every area within our realm of responsibility will have been addressed one way or the other. If progress is made, then everyone can go away happy.

That is a motion, unless Mr Cordiano wants to put it in his words and take all the credit.

Mr Cordiano: No, I think you've done an admirable job.

Mr Duignan: Along Mr Cousens's line, I believe the public accounts committee is the watchdog of the public accounts of this province. I concur with Mr Cousens's and Mr Cordiano's decision earlier.

The Chair: Mr Cousens has moved that the committee prepare specific letters to send to certain departments that have been mentioned in the annual report of the Provincial Auditor, to seek out information as to what action these departments are taking in response to the auditor's report. Tannis will prepare the letters.

Mr Cordiano: Could I add something? I think, as has been pointed out, that it would be very useful for the committee to have this procedure, whereby all the work of the auditor is examined at one point or another. This is a method for doing it efficiently. But I would hope that we could carry through with this process almost on an annual basis -- that's from my point of view -- that it would become a kind of --

Mr O'Connor: I think you're going to set a precedent.

Mr Cordiano: I hope that would be the case and that we would be more efficient in our operations as a result of this. That's all I wanted to say.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Cordiano. Everybody understand the motion?

All in favour? Opposed? Carried.


The clerk reminds me that members have correspondence from the Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees, eighth biennial conference. I'd ask members to look over the information.

Any new business?

We do not anticipate a meeting next Thursday. That'll be the first Thursday we've not met since the Legislature has convened. If any members have any business that we should be looking after next Thursday, will you please let me know so we can convene a meeting?

Mr O'Connor: I don't know if it's in order to have a motion to send to Mr Cordiano's whip to suggest that after he came forward with such a brilliant idea this morning, setting his precedent, maybe he could be on duty for midnight sittings all the time and always be full of these bright ideas. A seconder for that motion?

The Chair: All in favour of that motion?

Mr Cordiano: No, no, no.

Mr Carman McClelland (Brampton North): Mr Chairman, as somebody substituting on this committee for the first time, I'd just say it is a very timely opportunity for me to be here. I wholeheartedly support Mr O'Connor's suggestion.

Mr Cordiano: In light of that, I would say this: I'd be delighted to be here every night till midnight, if you would offer to sit with my two kids, who happen to still be in diapers, along with my wife, who'd give you a whole roster of duties to perform while you're at home --

Mr McClelland: None of which you do, I might add, in any event.

The Chair: I think we should congratulate the auditor and the auditor's office for an annual report well done. I'm hoping we can continue to work together very closely to ensure that all of the important matters raised in this annual report are properly dealt with, and I think we've started down that right path. Any other comments?

Mr Duignan: I just wanted to extend our debt of thanks and gratitude to the assistant auditor for the work he's done, filling in between the retirement of the former auditor and the appointment of the new auditor.

The Chair: I think that's the feeling of the whole committee.

Mr Cordiano: I'll just add to that. I think Mr Otterman and his staff have performed wonderfully well, filling in as the acting auditor. I think I could speak on behalf of all members. We've been pleased and fortunate to have you perform in the way you have, and of course we have not seen a decline in any of the efforts put forward by the office of the auditor. For that, you ought to be commended, and I would like to congratulate you for your efforts.

Mr Cousens: I, on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus, would like to express our appreciation for James F. Otterman, FCA, assistant Provincial Auditor, for the way in which he has performed his responsibilities in a most professional way. It is one of those things, when the Provincial Auditor leaves and someone's got to fill the gap. I know we are extremely well served by Mr Otterman, and hope that as changes continue to take place around this place, we can continue to benefit from his advice and counsel.

The committee has established a very close and excellent working relationship with the auditor, and I think a lot of that has to do with the way in which we have built on trust. We have gone about things in a way that we're trying to make this province a better place without bringing in unnecessary confrontation. That's the spirit in which people are given a chance to grow and build and make it a better place.

I think that relationship has gone back a long time: The auditor, with research, the Chairman and all of our committee, has shown that there's a way of leading, and that is by showing the way. Again, to Mr Otterman and his staff I say a very hearty thank you, and trust that this will continue.

The Chair: Thank you very much. I certainly endorse every comment that's been made by the members of the committee. It's been a pleasure to work with Mr Otterman and his staff.

Seeing no further business, the committee stands adjourned until further notice.

The committee adjourned at 1035.