The head of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) says it “wouldn’t be worth the effort” to fully review $15.5 billion in potentially ineligible wage payments due to the pandemic. The Auditor General of Canada pointed out.
CRA Commissioner Bob Hamilton told members of Congress on Thursday afternoon: “In general, we have mostly adopted an within-agency approach to focus on risk-based assessment. “So take a look at the information we have available, try to identify where the risk is highest, and go after that information as well as the highest risk and resilience, not 100% coverage. everyone.”
Hamilton appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Thursday alongside auditor general Karen Hogan.
“We don’t have a problem with the risk-based approach [CRA]’ was done,” Hogan said during the two-hour meeting. they are an individual or business—fairly.”
In December, Hogan’s office tabulated a performance audit that identified an estimated $4.6 billion in benefit overpayments to ineligible individuals. The audit also highlighted some $27.4 billion in payments to individuals and employers that needed “further investigation” for possible disqualification, including $15.5 billion already in the process of being disqualified. payments through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program, was the subject of Thursday’s committee meeting.
“The first step is to identify payments to ineligible recipients, then a decision can be made after collection or not,” Hogan told lawmakers. “I’m just encouraging the government to be a lot more transparent with what they’re doing and I think they need to do a lot more.”
For his part, Hamilton took issue with the calculations during the audit, saying the true amount of the ineligible payments was expected to be “significantly lower” than the “overestimated estimate.” high” by the Auditor General, based on sales tax data.
“It is too early to estimate the amount of overpayment,” Hamilton said at one point, through a French-language interpreter. “But we have experience [and] We can say that about 6% of businesses or individuals have received funds but are not eligible.”
CEWS has gone directly to employers to help keep employees on payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. The $100.7 billion program accounts for nearly half of the estimated $210.7 billion the Liberals have spent on COVID-19 aid, including the Canada Emergency Response Grant (CERB). ) and its successor program, the Canada Recovery Grant (CRB), is transferred directly to the individual.
“In my view, based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s not going to be worth the effort,” Hamilton said of investigating all $15.5 billion in potentially inadequate wage subsidies. conditions outlined by the auditor general. “Based on our evidence to date, we’ve found that businesses are generally compliant… We have several groups of people who have intentionally deceived and we’re going after those people.”
Focusing on “claims that are most likely to be ineligible or exaggerated,” Hamilton explains, “optimizes recalls and ensures that high-risk claims are addressed while making efficient use of CRA resources.”
In December, the auditor general’s office took aim at the government’s reliance on applicants’ testimonials and honesty to qualify for benefits, and said authorities had “lacked omission” when verifying after payment.
“In this case, the prepayment controls are very limited for the purpose of doing the postpayment work rigorously,” Hogan said on Thursday. “The only way you can find out if a business qualifies is to make a payment afterwards, because there’s no other information to verify eligibility.”
Former Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau has been vocal in his criticism of the government’s pandemic-related spending. In my new book From where to here?Morneau claims Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his advisers regularly reject recommendations from his department in favor of larger payments for the pandemic and political spots, which have contributed to Morneau’s departure. He took office in August 2022. He cited the CEWS example and saw the prime minister announce funding amounts “significantly higher” than he thought they had agreed to.
“It was one of the worst moments of my political life,” Morneau wrote. “During a period when the largest government expenditures as a share of GDP were made in the shortest time since the advent of World War II, the calculations and recommendations from the Treasury Department were essentially overrun. skip to win the popularity contest.”
With files from CTV News Senior Digital Congressional Correspondent Rachel Aiello