Government Response to the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Departmental answers to questions about government responses (39th Parliament)
The Government appreciates the efforts of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to strengthen the Government’s accountability to Parliament, and to enhance the Committee’s contributions to public policy and administration, which are highly valued by the Government. The Government fully supports the Committee in fulfilling its important mandate.
To this end, the Government will continue to work with the Committee and respond to its reports and requests for information in a manner that appropriately respects the respective roles of Cabinet, ministers and public servants within our system of responsible government. The reports of parliamentary committees play an important role in our democracy, are taken seriously by this Government, and are supported by a robust set of Standing Orders setting out the process for the issuance of reports and the requirements for Government Responses.
Within this process, it is important to recognize that Government Responses are tabled in Parliament by the responsible Minister or Ministers and represent the collective position taken by the Government as a whole and as such are approved by Cabinet through its collective decision-making process. While public servants are often able to assist the Committee’s evaluation of a Government Response by providing relevant information of a technical or factual nature, the Government believes it would not be appropriate to ask these officials to address perceived inadequacies with the positions taken in the Response. Rather, such requests are properly addressed to Ministers. The Government very much appreciates the recent correspondence from the Chair of the Committee indicating that future “follow-up” requests from the Committee will be directed to Ministers, and thanks the Committee for addressing its concerns on this point. The Government reaffirms its commitment to making officials available to provide explanatory and factual information to the Committee where needed, and notes that scheduled appearances before the Committee offer an excellent venue for this to occur in a manner that is most responsive to the specific concerns and questions of Committee members.
On a related note, the Government respectfully suggests that when formulating follow-up requests to Ministers, the Committee consider the degree to which a request may involve issues that fall outside of the original Government Response; with the result that the Government may determine that it is necessary to reengage the cabinet decision-making process. If requested information does go beyond the scope of the original response, the Government would suggest that the Committee adopt a new recommendation, which may be reported to the House along with a request for a Government Response.
The recently introduced Federal Accountability Act contains many measures aimed at increasing the information available to Parliament for holding the Government to account. The Government looks forward to continuing to work with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts toward our shared goal of providing accountable government for all Canadians.