Saskatchewan's Provincial Auditor Is Owed Sask Party MLAs Respect - Saskatoon Star Phoenix Editorial
Saskatoon Star Phoenix
February 4, 2013
The government might not like the fact that provincial auditor Bonnie Lysyk is going beyond what her predecessors have done in stressing the need for one set of books in reporting the province's finances, but that doesn't excuse her treatment by Saskatchewan Party MLAs on the public accounts committee on Friday.
Starting with a question by Herb Cox as to whether the auditor had considered a cut in pay for herself, the proceedings eventually degenerated into an aggressively partisan line of questioning that went well beyond the business of reviewing Ms. Lysyk's business and financial plan for her office.
Members of a government that has adopted the Lean process as its guide to improving the operations of its ministries and health regions turned their guns on the auditor, seemingly for her decision to stress performance audits and report them in a way that makes them more prominent in public reports.
Apparently, what the auditor sees as delivering value to the citizens of Saskatchewan by doing more performance audits, following a practice used widely elsewhere in Canada and around the world, the Saskatchewan Party government MLAs on the committee somehow consider to be Ms. Lysyk going beyond her mandate. MLA Jennifer Campeau went so far as to question whether these performance audits were "supported by legislation."
Even after assurances by the auditor that her business plan, which seeks to increase to 20 per cent the proportion of performance audits, is still committed to do the same financial audits of government agencies that are the responsibility of her office, Ms. Campeau wondered, "Should your office be doing them, or should another entity be doing them?"
Ms. Lysyk responded by saying that her office had received positive feedback from the ministries about the performance audit reports.
"What I have heard through the grapevine is that perhaps there are people in the government that have concerns that the auditors are doing performance audits because we were identifying in the last report significant recommendations that we think are important, that we think the citizens should think are important, for the government to address."
She noted her office "did take a bit of a harder stand on the general revenue fund and the summary financial statement issue," and went on to put her concern bluntly:
"I just hope the discussion around here - and with all due respect - is not a message to me and to my staff that we should not be operating independently and performing the work that we think is appropriate in this province."
That the four Saskatchewan Party members of the committee chose to delay by one week the approval process of the auditor's budget - a rare move done for highly questionable reasons - only reinforces the concerns Ms. Lysyk raised about being sent an unwelcome and intimidating message.
Kudos to Ms. Lysyk for standing her ground as an independent officer of the legislature in the face of this ugly partisanship. Premier Brad Wall, who in opposition supported summary financial reporting and performance assessments (then known as value for money audits), needs to instruct MLAs on respecting legislative officers even if former principles are abandoned.
(The editorials that appear in this space represent the opinion of The StarPhoenix. They are unsigned because they do not necessarily represent the personal views of the writers. The positions taken in the editorials are arrived at through discussion among the members of the newspaper's editorial board, which operates independently from the news departments of the paper).