There are 41,000 people that Canada wants to deport but cannot find, Auditor-General Sheila Fraser announced Tuesday in her latest report on the efficiency of government operations.
"Due in part to a lack of exit controls, there is a growing number of individuals whose whereabouts are unknown and who might remain in Canada illegally, thereby jeopardizing the integrity of the program," said the Auditor-General's office in the report.
The inability of the Canada Border Services agency to keep a tight rein on people who are in Canada illegally was just one of several deficiencies highlighted by the auditor in the wide-ranging document that covered seven investigations and an overview of examinations of Crown corporations.
"If people can come into the country and stay here illegally, why would they go through what was a very long and complicated process to become a resident in Canada?" Ms. Fraser said during a news conference.
Among other things, the auditor found that the Public Health Agency does not receive the information from the provinces and territories that it needs to effectively monitor the spread of deadly diseases.
A data-sharing agreement was recently signed between Ontario and the federal government but the Public Health Agency has yet to make similar arrangements with other provinces, says the report. Instead, the Agency must rely on the goodwill of the provinces and territories.
"The 2003 SARS crisis demonstrated why such arrangements were needed," says the report. Until these arrangements are in place, it may be more difficult for the agency to obtain the information needed to prevent and respond to a disease outbreak."
On air safety, Ms. Fraser found that Transport Canada did not assess the risks as it shifted away from conducting its own inspections and audits to a system in which it assesses the aviation companies' own plans for managing safety. Nor has the department determined how many inspectors and engineers it will need during and after the transition - or what their qualifications should be.
The Auditor-General also came down hard on the federal government for its handling of child welfare programs on Canada's native reserves. Auditors visited nearly a dozen native reserves and reported back with staggering findings. In communities ravaged by substance abuse, auditors found the number of babies born addicted to drugs is increasing.
Federal user fees for everything from passports to camping lots also come under the auditors' watch in the report. "Based on our calculations, we concluded that the Department has overstated costs of the consular services," states the report. "Consequently, adult passport holders are, in effect, helping to cover the costs of activities that are outside the scope of what they would receive for the fee."
Foreign Affairs vehemently disagrees. In its response, it points to the costs incurred to evacuate passport holders from Lebanon in 2006-07 and a series of planned improvements to consular services for Canadians abroad.
On the topic of Afghanistan, the report says that Canada's ability to supply its war effort is at risk of being jeopardized by problems with shipping delays, parts shortages and lost equipment. "Unless the problems we found can be resolved, the Canadian Forces could have increasing difficulty supporting the mission," wrote the auditor.
Ms. Fraser's office flagged problems in shipping parts and equipment to the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, where 2,500 Canadian soldiers are fighting the Taliban, saying a shortage of parts is delaying repairs there for combat equipment.
"For example, shortages of spare parts from the manufacturer contributed to the armoured wheeled vehicle known as the Nyala being sent back to Canada," the Auditor-General's Office said.
And, on a more amusing note, Ms. Fraser found that Canada's official residences are in a bad states of repair - particularly the Prime Minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive where the electricity is 50 years old, the air conditioning is limited, the plumbing is deficient, there is asbestos but no fire sprinklers and the windows are and do not keep in the heat.
Ms. Fraser says the Prime Minister and his family may have to vacate the building for 12 to 15 months - as long as nothing new turns up - to allow the repairs to be completed.
But it was the section of the report on the vanishing refugee claimants that was one of the most hard-hitting.
The auditor found that the federal government has failed to fulfill its 2004 commitment to introduce a new "Global Case Management System" for tracking would-be immigrants slated for deportation, her office said.
While the number of deportees on the lam has risen nearly 14 per cent, the Canada Border Services Agency has improved its ability to boot people out. The number of would-be immigrants deported rose to 12,600 in 2006-2007 from 8,700 in 2002-2003.
Ms. Fraser's office carried out a follow-up audit on Canada's deportation system after a request from the Commons Public Accounts committee that it revisit its 2003 findings.
With a report from Canadian Press