Life / Health

Highlights from the federal auditor general's fall report released Tuesday

OTTAWA — Key findings from the fall report of federal auditor general Michael Ferguson, released Tuesday:

— The Canada Revenue Agency takes too long to respond to objections to its income tax decisions — an average of 263 days for individual income tax objections registered between 2011 and 2016 — and uses incomplete and inaccurate methods to evaluate how well objections are handled.

— Some 65 per cent of the objections reviewed by the auditor were eventually resolved either fully or partially in favour of the taxpayer, suggesting more can be done ahead of time to resolve issues prior to objections being filed.

— The CRA also fails to adequately analyze or review decisions on objections and appeals, nor does it adequately share results throughout the agency.

— Transport Canada has no way of assessing the potential security improvements resulting from a $133-million baggage screening technology initiative meant to save time and money for airlines and passengers at eight Canadian airports.

— There is no evidence that $91 million worth of federal efforts to share biographical and biometric information between the U.S. and police and immigration authorities in Canada have improved immigration and border decision-making.

— Shiprider, a $60-million RCMP initiative aimed at improving border security on Canadian waterways, lacks performance indicators to show it has resulted in any improvements in law enforcement, such as more seizures or arrests.

— National Defence officials consistently underestimate the cost of maintaining military equipment; Ferguson cites the example of Canada's Victoria-class submarines, where in-depth maintenance was  supposed to cost $35 million per vessel but ended up at $321 million.

— The federal government's efforts to streamline indigenous land claims have resulted in funding cuts, less shared information and barriers that have hindered First Nations' access to the claims process and the resolution of claims.

— Very few aboriginal offenders were released on parole in 2015-16 — more than two-thirds had reached their statutory release dates — and three-quarters of those were released directly into the community from maximum or medium-security instititions, rather than through a graduated program to facilitate reintegration.

— Transport Canada lacks an up-to-date regulatory framework for passenger vehicle safety, often taking too long — sometimes more than 10 years — to implement new safety standards or make changes to existing ones. The agency also fails to systematically consult with stakeholders, such as parts and equipment suppliers, insurance companies and police.

— Transport Canada’s national database of collision information lacks complete Canadian data and other relevant information, such as insurance industry statistics.

— The ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces are declining, with just 66,400 regular force members at the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year, well below the stated target of 68,000 members. In addition, the military is 4,300 soldiers short of its target of 60,500 fully "trained and effective" members — a gap that has nearly doubled since 2011-12.

— Despite a stated goal of eventually having women represent one-quarter of its ranks, the actual number of women in the Canadian Armed Forces remains unchanged at 14 per cent of regular force members, with no special employment equity measures having been put in place.