It's seriously time for the federal Department of Waste

By Walter Robinson
web posted January 31, 2000

With the revelations in Canada of a billion missing dollars – if not three billion – at the department of Human Resources (HRDC), combined with the latest edition of the John Williams Waste Watch report, not to mention years of Auditors General reports that chronicle billions in mismanaged tax dollars, the time has come for a new federal department, the Department of Waste.

Now while you may think this the mere raving of a taxpayer advocate, it is actually a suggestion with some merit. Organizations in the public and private sector alike are rethinking their departmental and management structures.

Departments of Personnel are now called Departments of Human Resources. Directors of Organizational Review are now referred to as Change Management Leaders.

So why not do the same for the federal government? HRDC doles out CPP, OAS, EI and other types of assistance cheques each year. Let's just call it the Department of Assistance. National Defence, the RCMP, customs and excise officers and CSIS could be regrouped in a new Department of Security. Finance, the Revenue folks, Treasury Board and other similar units could be consolidated into the Department of Money, and on it could go.

Now we turn to the Department of Waste. Job funds, industrial handouts, and the litany of offensive funding schemes courtesy of Canadian Heritage from lesbian porn films to dead rabbit displays to flag giveaways to dumb blonde joke books to publishing past horoscopes (can you say Back to the Future?), they would all be there.

And we shouldn't forget the Millennium Bureau of Canada and its $143 million for Y2K activities like millennium sundials, 10-story dinosaurs and a Viking symposium. Heck this program deserves

This suggestion is not off the wall. On the contrary it would be a transparent approach to the reporting of public finances. If the government isn't going to end these boondoggles, at least it could be honest and tell us how much it is wasting. If businesses can account for bad debt and uncollectible receivables on their books, surely the feds can quantify the sum total of squandered taxpayer dollars on an annual basis.

The challenge for Ottawa each year would be to reduce the Waste Department's budget in terms of percentages and actual dollars spent, er, I mean wasted. And given the recent revelations of HRDC's missing billion dollars, if they just end this funding boondoggle next year, they'd be making progress.

To recap, a fall 1999 audit of 459 files (worth $1 billion) in the HRDC jobs fund program yielded some shocking results.

-- 97 per cent weren't checked to see if the recipient owed money to HRDC;
-- 72 per cent had no cash-flow projections;
-- 25 per cent provided no description of activities that the funds would support; and
-- 15 per cent of recipients received money without formally applying.

Think about, the HRDC folks and Minister Jane Stewart can't find a billion dollars. If you were given a billion dollars to spend (wow), you'd have to spend on average $2.7 million a day, every day for an entire year. This works out to $114,000 per hour, over $1,900 a minute or $32 per second. Could you do it, probably not, but rest assured, our government sure can, and it did!

Taxpayers are justifiably enraged about this boondoggle. And the fact that the Minister in charge sees no reason to clean house or fire the jabronees responsible is simply unheard of. Yes the time has come for the Department of Waste …

Walter Robinson is the Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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