The Remarkable Resilience of the Auditor General

Audit and the Development of the Modern State

From the CPA-Ivey Centre for Accounting and the Public Interest at Western University

Should auditors "stick with the number-crunching"? Some in the political class seem to think so. When a November 2020 report by Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk FCPA, FCA found the province's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic to the crisis to be "disorganized and inconsistent", Premier Doug Ford was quick to accuse the Auditor General of overstepping the mark.

Yet, according to new research from the CPA-Ivey Centre for Accounting Education, the role of the Auditor General has been remarkably stable and consistent for more than 40 years – and has always encompassed more than just "number-crunching".

KEY TAKE AWAYS FROM THE PAPER

 

Ontario led a wave of reforms in government auditing around the world

The study examines the historical development of government auditing, using newly released material from Library and Archives Canada, which provide an interesting account of the development of a new approach to government auditing that sparked a wave of reforms in Commonwealth countries around the world.

"Ontario's Auditor General Act of 1977, still in place today, has proven remarkably resilient and flexible even as the role of government has changed," says Mitchell Stein, CPA, CA, Director of the CPA-Ivey Centre for Accounting Education and one of the study's authors.

The Auditor General’s role has grown in scope

As the government's remit has increased, so too has that of the Auditor General. The public accounts section of the Auditor General's report, which examines the government's financial statements, is about the same size today as it was in the 1970s—yet newly added volumes provide increased oversight of government spending and operations.

Why does this matter? "History has consequences," says Vaughan Radcliffe, Professor of Managerial Accounting and Control at the Ivey Business School. Professional accountants must understand how current practices developed if they are to effectively judge whether they are still fit-for-purpose.

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