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Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight
The Senate of Canada
Canada, K1A 0A4
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INTRODUCTION TO THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON AUDIT AND OVERSIGHT
The Standing Senate Committee on Audit and Oversight was created in October 2020 based on the principles of integrity, independence, transparency, and accountability which were determined to be essential to fulfilling its mandate to provide oversight and to report on the Senate’s spending.
The committee is authorized, on its own initiative, to exercise the review, monitoring and inquiry function of the Senate’s financial operations. More specifically, it is responsible for the following:
- retaining the services of and overseeing the external and internal auditors;
- supervising the Senate’s internal and external audits and reporting to the Senate;
- reviewing the Senate’s Quarterly Financial Reports and the audited Financial Statements; and
- tabling before the Senate all relevant financial documents, including an annual report with observations and recommendations.
The committee is also tasked with reviewing the Senate Administration’s action plans to ensure that they adequately address the recommendations and findings arising from internal and external audits and that they are effectively implemented.
The Rules of the Senate (the Rules) state that the committee is to be composed of five members, of which three are senators. On June 8, 2021, the Senate adopted a sessional order to appoint a fourth senator to the committee. One unique feature of this committee is that the Rules also require that two external members be appointed to the committee by the Senate. The Rules normally require that, after electing its chair and deputy chair, the committee must adopt a report to the Senate nominating two external members of the committee.
However, after meeting for the first time in November 2020, the three original senators named to the committee felt it would be essential to establish a transparent process to assist the committee in proposing the first two external members. After a competitive process in which over 200 candidate profiles were reviewed, the committee selected two highly qualified individuals to recommend to the Senate. On July 8, 2021, for the first time in its history, the Senate named two external members, when it adopted the Fifth Report of the Audit Committee.
The external member nomination report must be agreed to by all three senators who are members of the committee and is expected to include recommendations on remuneration and permissible expenses for the external members, in accordance with the Rules. A former senator or former member of the House of Commons is not eligible to be nominated as an external member. The chair of the committee must be a senator who is not a member of the recognized party or recognized parliamentary group to which the chair of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (the Committee on Internal Economy) belongs. Further, members of the committee cannot be members of the Committee on Internal Economy and the Committee on Audit and Oversight simultaneously.
Following the tabling of the Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Senate of Canada - Senators' Expenses in the Senate on June 9, 2015, the Committee on Internal Economy mandated its Subcommittee on Estimates (SEBS) to review the recommendations in the Auditor General's report.
Following its review, SEBS presented its Fifth report to the Committee on Internal Economy and concluded that the creation of a standing committee under the Rules to oversee all Senate expenditures would be the best option. In its 21st report to the Senate presented on October 26, 2017, the Committee on Internal Economy recommended that the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures, and Rights of Parliament (the Rules Committee) develop and propose amendments to the Rules to establish the general mandate for a Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight.
The Rules Committee considered several issues and as a result, on November 29, 2018, it presented its 10th report proposing amendments to the Rules to create a Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight. However, the report was not adopted by the Senate prior to the dissolution of Parliament on September 11, 2019.
On October 1, 2020, the Senate adopted a motion to amend the Rules to create the Standing Senate Committee on Audit and Oversight.
The Senate appointed the first three Senate members of the committee on November 5, 2020, and the committee held its first meeting on November 25, 2020. On June 8, 2021, the Senate named one additional senator and two external members to the committee, for the remainder of the session.
In June 2021, the committee presented its Fourth Report which proposed two recommendations to establish an Intersessional Authority on Audit and Oversight, following the end of the 2nd session of the 43rd Parliament. The report proposed an interim measure to allow the Senate’s audit and oversight work to continue in order of the committee be able to meet periodically to monitor the financial operations of the Senate at regular intervals throughout the fiscal year, without being interrupted by a dissolution or prorogation.
Detailed information on current work of the committee can be found on the Audit and Oversight Committee website at https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/aovs/.