The Comptroller General

Many of the functions of the Office of the Comptroller General have been in place for a long time. However, the name, the location, and the role of the comptroller function have changed frequently over the years.

At times, the federal government has adopted a system of centralized control to manage and account for government spending. At other times, it has encouraged greater departmental responsibility by delegating more managerial authority to departments.

Several commissions of inquiry have influenced the development of the comptroller’s role. These include the 1962 Royal Commission on Government Organization (Glassco Commission) and the 1979 Royal Commission on Financial Management and Accountability (Lambert Commission). Recommendations made by the Auditor General of Canada have also influenced the comptroller’s role and functions.

In 1931

•The position of Comptroller of the Treasury established under the Consolidated Revenue and Audit Act of 1931;

•The Comptroller reported to the Minister of Finance;

•The Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury located within the Department of Finance; and

•The Comptroller's staff is responsible for certifying and authorizing all departmental expenditures.

In 1967

•The Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury is transferred to the newly formed Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

In 1969

•The position of Comptroller of the Treasury abolished as part of post–Glassco Commission reforms;

•The office became part of the Department of Supply and Services; and

•A period of increased departmental accountability in financial management ensues.

In 1978

The position of Comptroller General of Canada is established as a distinct entity (in response to the 1976 Auditor General’s report concerning the control of the public purse);

•The Comptroller General reports to the Treasury Board and

  1.    Responsibilities are broadened to include financial management, program evaluation, and internal audit.

In 1993

The title and the responsibilities of the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada are assumed by one individual;

•The office becomes part of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (the Comptrollership Branch); and

Responsibilities expand to include financial management, internal audit, financial information strategy, project management and procurement, real property and materiel management, risk management, results-based management and evaluation, expenditure management and operations, and modern comptrollership.

In 2003

•The Office of the Comptroller General of Canada is re-established;

The position of Comptroller General of Canada is [re]-created;

•The office becomes a separate entity within the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat;

•The focus is on enhanced accountability; and

Responsibilities include financial management and accounting policy, financial systems management, internal audit, and community capacity building. [Note that program evaluation is no longer mentioned!]

In 2010

  1.   The role is expanded to include procurement and real property.

Source: Website of the Treasury Board Secretariat, Government of Canada, August 2015

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The following text was extracted from the website of the Treasury Board of Canada. It is relevant to an appreciation of the Evaluator General proposal for the following two reasons:

  1. 1.    In 1978 the Comptroller General was assigned responsibility for ensuring that federal departments and agencies systematically evaluated their programs and policies.

  1. 2.    As the role of the Comptroller General position has been altered over the past 40 years, so has the amount of attention and support for internal program evaluation.

The most important message from this history is that the position of Evaluator General must be protected by a specific Act of Parliament. Otherwise it could be eliminated, weakened, or radically changed over time, as has the position of Comptroller General.