Diane Francis: Liberal incompetence delays full accounting of CERB fraud

Breadcrumb Trail Links Diane Francis The pandemic relief system is an example of federal malpractice

The pandemic relief system is an example of federal malpractice

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is not only incompetent, it’s derelict. The House finance committee heard testimony this week that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) likely included many fraudulent payments, but the auditor general won’t be able to look into the situation for another year because the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has not begun verifying whether recipients met eligibility requirements.


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“Federal tax collectors have yet to audit multi-billion dollar Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments though the Canada Revenue Agency has known of suspected fraud since June 2020,” wrote Blacklock’s Reporter on Dec. 13.

When asked by MPs about this lapse, the the CRA’s Marc Lemieux said post-payment verification won’t start until sometime in 2022: “We haven’t started the post-verification work on these programs and we don’t have an estimation of the fraud on those programs. We will be doing that work over the coming years.”

The CERB giveaway began in March 2020, and the program, which handed out $2,000 to those who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, was marred from the beginning. It was budgeted to cost $24 billion and ended up costing $81.6 billion.


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By July 2020, Employment and Social Development Canada knew of at least $442 million in double payments sent to 221,320 people. And on Dec. 8, the federal money laundering agency, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC), testified that it started to receive reports of fraudulent transactions as early as June 2020.

According to a 2020 FINTRAC report that was made public last month, the CERB program was “knowingly and actively defrauded” by scammers and organized crime, and payments were made to people engaged in “illegal or suspicious financial activity.”


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Despite knowing all this, the CRA has still not gotten around to verifying the payments it sent out. Auditor General Karen Hogan can therefore not start her own audit — which she says is “critical” given all the allegations of fraud — until 2023 at the earliest.

“We have been informed by the Canada Revenue Agency it has deferred or delayed its work and it is highly unlikely a significant amount of post-payment work will be completed by 2023,” said Hogan . “I am very concerned they have this decision to delay their work or defer it and I will continue to be in constant dialogue with them.”

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the delay was unacceptable. “We now know that some of that went to criminals, scammers, people not living in Canada,” he said. “Almost two years after the CERB program began, and you’re rewarding them by not beginning your audit.”

The pandemic relief system is an example of federal malpractice. The failure of the civil service and the Liberal government to investigate misappropriations and fraud compounds the incompetence.

Financial Post

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