The government is accountable to the public for the appropriate use of taxpayer dollars and for clearly communicating the objectives and results of how those dollars are spent. Ontario continues to pursue opportunities to strengthen accountability to the public, improve transparency in reporting on the use of taxpayers' money, and ensure effective stewardship over government funds.
The government has taken additional actions to enhance the reporting and disclosure of salaries as required under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, 1996 (PSSDA). In June 2012, the government amended the PSSDA to allow the Province to audit organizations subject to the act to help ensure full reporting compliance. In the fall of 2012, the Province also made a regulation under the PSSDA, which amended the definition of salary to include per diem payments made to appointees of government bodies and other non-profit organizations that are subject to the act. These changes have strengthened the accountability of all organizations subject to the PSSDA to properly comply with the reporting requirements of the act.
Ontario continues to make progress in strengthening oversight of its agencies and other government organizations to ensure that measures ministries are using are effective and up to date. Over the past year, the government's internal financial assurance and certification process has been updated to clarify and strengthen ministries' requirements for ensuring effective accountability mechanisms are in place regarding their agencies and other government organizations. These changes have increased focus on the evaluation of financial results and internal controls of these entities, including compliance with associated government directives and identification of risks and required mitigation. Ministries are incorporating these new requirements into their oversight processes.
As well, both ministry and corporate audit committees are proactively focusing on these entities' and ministry risks and process improvements, and ensuring effective support to ministries as they carry out their oversight responsibilities.
Transparent and timely government financial reporting is a cornerstone of effective public accountability. Each Budget communicates the government's fiscal plan and economic and social policy priorities. Informed by public consultations and stakeholder input, the fiscal plan included in the Budget is approved by the legislature and represents a benchmark against which future results will be measured.
Public-sector accounting standards, as determined by the Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, establish how the financial activities of governments and public-sector organizations are measured, recorded and reported to the public. They are an essential building block for effective government decision-making, budgeting and transparent reporting of financial information. Consistency in presentation and measurement of planned and actual results enable the government to provide clear and understandable information to the public. This alignment between fiscal plans and financial reporting is common among senior governments in Canada. Ontario, like other senior Canadian governments, continues to support the PSAB standards and to provide input to the standard-setting process to ensure that the standards support transparency and accountability to the public, and enable sound fiscal policy decisions.
The PSAB initiated a project to review its accounting conceptual framework for the Canadian public sector in 2011. All Canadian senior governments, including Ontario, are supportive of PSAB's efforts to develop a sound conceptual framework for the Canadian public sector. This will help ensure that changes to PSAB's standards continue to serve the public interest and reflect the nature of accountability relationships between governments and the public. Without a sound conceptual framework, changes in accounting standards may not clearly reflect the economic substance of the government's activities and may negatively impact fiscal policy decisions. This could lead to governments having to reconsider the basis upon which they report in order to protect the public interest and ensure continued alignment between fiscal accountability and financial reporting in the future.
Ontario expects that PSAB will incorporate the results of its conceptual framework review into its current standards and any future proposals to ensure consistency and appropriateness.
The PSAB has issued a number of changes to its standards for government financial reporting, including accounting for liabilities for contaminated sites, financial instruments and foreign currency. The government is currently evaluating the implementation impact of these standards on future financial reports of the Province. However, a preliminary assessment of the impacts of the new financial instruments and foreign currency standards has raised some concerns that these standards do not properly recognize the long-term nature of Ontario's borrowing program and that they will introduce volatility into the Province's net debt and annual surplus/deficit. Following similar concerns raised by other governments, PSAB is planning to review the application of financial instruments and foreign currency standards by December 31, 2013. Ontario supports PSAB's upcoming review of the standards and looks forward to providing additional details for PSAB's consideration.
The government continues to take steps on increasing the transparency of financial reporting of its real estate portfolio. New public works construction (using the Alternative Financing and Procurement model) is now identified within each responsible ministry's appropriations. This allows the public to identify where these investments are made. Going forward, the government will undertake further efforts to increase transparency through improved and more detailed reporting of the real estate portfolio.
The government will introduce the proposed Interim Appropriation for 2013–14 Act, 2013. If approved by the legislature, this would provide the interim legal spending authority for anticipated 2013–14 spending, pending finalization of the 2013–14 Supply process.