The Defence Department decides it is the judge of the PBO's mandate - Macleans.ca

The Defence Department decides it is the judge of the PBO’s mandate

A new front in the fight over disclosure

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The Defence Department decides it won’t be handing over some documents to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Yet in a response letter dated June 25 and published on the PBO website Wednesday, the Defence Department’s top civilian, Richard Fadden, wrote that the cost estimates were secret and would not be released.

Fadden also said access to the planning documents, called a statement of requirements, “falls outside the scope of the mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer … and is therefore not being provided to your office.”

Tony Clement has previously argued that the PBO’s attempt to study the government’s budget cuts were also outside the office’s mandate.

Here, for the record, is the PBO’s mandate as set out in the Parliament of Canada Act.

The mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is to

(a) provide independent analysis to the Senate and to the House of Commons about the state of the nation’s finances, the estimates of the government and trends in the national economy;

(b) when requested to do so by any of the following committees, undertake research for that committee into the nation’s finances and economy:

(i) the Standing Committee on National Finance of the Senate or, in the event that there is not a Standing Committee on National Finance, the appropriate committee of the Senate,

(ii) the Standing Committee on Finance of the House of Commons or, in the event that there is not a Standing Committee on Finance, the appropriate committee of the House of Commons, or

(iii) the Standing Committee on Public Accounts of the House of Commons or, in the event that there is not a Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the appropriate committee of the House of Commons;

(c) when requested to do so by a committee of the Senate or of the House of Commons, or a committee of both Houses, that is mandated to consider the estimates of the government, undertake research for that committee into those estimates; and

(d) when requested to do so by a member of either House or by a committee of the Senate or of the House of Commons, or a committee of both Houses, estimate the financial cost of any proposal that relates to a matter over which Parliament has jurisdiction.

And here is what the act says about the PBO’s right to information.

(1) Except as provided by any other Act of Parliament that expressly refers to this subsection, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is entitled, by request made to the deputy head of a department within the meaning of any of paragraphs (a), (a.1) and (d) of the definition “department” in section 2 of the Financial Administration Act, or to any other person designated by that deputy head for the purpose of this section, to free and timely access to any financial or economic data in the possession of the department that are required for the performance of his or her mandate.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of any financial or economic data

(a) that are information the disclosure of which is restricted under section 19 of the Access to Information Act or any provision set out in Schedule II to that Act; or

(b) that are contained in a confidence of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada described in subsection 69(1) of that Act, unless the data are also contained in any other record, within the meaning of section 3 of that Act, and are not information referred to in paragraph (a).

Meanwhile, today is the deadline for government departments to respond to the most recent request from the PBO for data related to budget cuts.

In other news, it has been nearly four months since Kevin Page’s term ended and six weeks since three candidates for his replacement were reportedly submitted to the government.