Jim McCarter is the watchdog of the public purse in his role as Auditor General of Ontario. Last week, he gave us an overview of the office’s responsibilities. Contrary to popular belief, the Provincial Auditor does more than check the books of the Ontario government, its ministries, ministries, Crown agencies, and public-sector grant-recipient organizations (although that in itself is quite the undertaking). Since 1978, the Provincial Auditor has the mandate to conduct value-for-money audits. These entail assessing the efficiency of expenditures and comparing them to best practices around the world.
These types of audits also have a broader mandate to measure the effectiveness of programs.
The auditor’s main power stems from publishing reports and recommendations. Ontario’s 2007 Pre-Election Report on Ontario’s Finances was the first of its kind in Canada and among the first in the world. It is designed to inform voters, Ontarians and political parties about the Province’s fiscal plan prior to the upcoming general election. The Auditor General of Ontario is responsible for reviewing the report from a neutral, professional, stand-point – contributing to the quality of the public debate about government expenditures.
The Auditor General of Ontario is appointed by an all-party selection committee to a 10 year, non-renewable term, and is the only officer who has a committee to report to – the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. A little known fact is that the Provincial Auditor also pre-approves all government advertising, as mandated by the Government Advertising Act.