A public hearing on public accounts may go ahead for the first time later this month without having received the Yukon government’s financial statements, according to a clerk of the legislative assembly.
The Yukon Legislative Assembly’s all-party standing committee on public accounts has decided to hold a public hearing on Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. to address the public accounts for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which have not been released by the Yukon government.
Finance department officials and officials from Canada’s auditor general’s office will field questions as witnesses.
The hearing allows the committee to fulfill its primary duty of scrutinizing public accounts.
When the committee met on Nov. 10, it discussed an Oct. 19 letter from auditor general Karen Hogan about having not received the consolidated financial statements at that time, according to meeting minutes. At that meeting, the committee agreed to go ahead with a public hearing on the public accounts the day after the fall sitting ends.
Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon spoke with the News in his capacity as committee chair by phone on Nov. 16. He said the committee made the decision about holding a hearing before it knew that it wouldn’t have the financial statements by the required cutoff date of Oct. 31.
Dixon said the auditor general’s office has signalled to the committee that it anticipates signing off on the audit prior to the hearing, then it’s up to the minister to table those documents in the legislative assembly.
“The committee wanted to go ahead with the public hearing, because regardless of whether or not we have the public accounts in hand, the committee is in a position to request information from the department and the auditor general,” he said. “Most notably, the information that we’re looking for is why the government wasn’t able to meet its legislative deadline.”
On the day of the deadline for publishing the financial statements and tabling them in the house, Finance Minister Sandy Silver told reporters in the cabinet office that it wasn’t the first time that public accounts were being entered late.
In the 2008-09 fiscal year, the former Yukon Party government submitted an “unconsolidated statement” without the audit, Silver said, noting it took until June to get the final confirmed numbers from the auditor general’s office.
A delay in submitting government financial statements for audit doesn’t mean that there are issues with those statements or the government’s finances, according to Silver. He blamed the delay on the complexities and the magnitude of new public sector accounting standards. He said the biggest delay this time around relates to asset retirement obligations that go back decades.
An email statement from Silver on Nov. 16 indicates the Yukon government looks forward to answering questions and providing further clarity about public accounts, as it does every year.
“The Government of Yukon remains committed to financial transparency and to demonstrating attention to detail in the presentation of its public accounts. This dedication ensures a comprehensive and accurate representation of financial information for Yukoners only once they have been fully audited by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada,” reads Silver’s statement.
Yukon NDP Leader Kate White spoke with reporters in her capacity as vice-chair of the committee in the lobby of the legislature on Nov. 16. Like the chair, White is hopeful the financial statements will be received before the hearing.
“But I think no matter when they come now, I believe there will probably be a second hearing,” she said.
The committee only started holding public hearings like this in the 34th legislative assembly, per the clerk. The 35th legislative assembly is currently underway.
The upcoming hearing will occur in the legislative assembly. It will be broadcast on 93.5 FM and the audio will be streamed live on the legislative assembly’s website. Transcripts will be available after the hearing.
The fall sitting of the legislative assembly is set to end on Nov. 23.
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com