I do not think so, because the amount of work which would be put before a body of men who had not had the initiation of the expenditures before them, in other words, had not in any way the atmosphere of the various departments, would leave them like travellers in an unknown country. They would have to understand its layout before they could get at the bottom of the information which would really be necessary for them to have in their examination if they were to come to any useful conclusion. And if you put that work off still later, until the Estimates are laid on the table of the House, then they would have all the less time to do this. I do not believe we are going to get the desired improvement by a committee of that kind. But that there is an imperative need for some different methods, and different methods from those we have followed in the past, I believe is absolutely certain, and in some way or other I hope that the Government and the House will be able to get down to an examination of the matter with a view to finding those inproved (methods.
Now, there are some means of accomplishing that purpose, and in two or three minutes I will give the view which I have in reference *to it. I think one of the weak points in the administration and control of our finances is that every team drives its own way-each department sees its peculiar needs and gets its Estimates fashioned on the basis of those needs, and those are their Estimates. Those Estimates have to come before the Minister of Finance and later before the Cabinet. And why? In order that there may be correlation of all the expenses in regard to the amount which it is useful to expend as a whole, and consequently the relationship between the expenditures of the different department must be taken into account. One thing that happens is this: After those Estimates are reviewed and appropriations are made every department drives on for the rest of the year entirely by itself; there is no financial supervision as a whole. But there ought to be. To my mind the Minister of Finance, who is to see that proper Estimates are made, must by some method or other follow the expenditures in every department by the year, so that when the time comes for him to use his judgment as to the relative amounts of these expen-
ditures he may have the atmosphere of the different departments and experience of their workings. So that some way or other we ought to have financial control over the expenditures of all the departments. I do not mean despotic control although sometimes it might be despotic.
What I mean is the control of consultation and advice:-how are you getting along with this expenditure-is it possible to retrench in this respect or the other?- as you find it now, is it necessary that such an expenditure should be carried to its fulfilment? The idea would be to have some permanently constituted body, always on the watch, always supervising, always storing up the experience of the year to be applied in the consideration of proposed expenditures in each of the departments during the succeeding year. That correlating supervisory power is something which I think we need, and I am sure no one feels the need of it more than the Finance Minister himself. No individual person can do that by himself. He, the minister, must have the machinery with which it may be carried on, himself as the controlling power.
I agree with my hon. friend the Finance Minister (Sir Henry Drayton) that while we make a great deal of fuss about what our auditor does, about the Auditor General's report and things like that, our audit falls down because it is not a preaudit. After the whole thing has been completed, after advances or expenditures have been made, the matter comes before the Auditor General. You cannot have the needed amount of caution and of care on the part of an expending officer if he feels that he can get the expenditure through before the Auditor General gets his hands upon it. The audit ought to be there before the amount is paid out, and it is quite possible to do that. It will require some work, some organization, some help, but it can be done; and there, I believe, is one of the very best checks we can possibly have -a sound and thorough pre-audit system.
The next bit of machinery for the keeping down of expenses and the production of economy is the Committee of the Whole House in Supply. As all who have studied the question know, the last body in the world to take hold of the finances of the country is a House of Commons divided on party lines, sweating out the later days of its sessional existence, over millions upon millions of expenditure, an insight into which the members cannot possibly have.
Any man can take up a particular item, work it out and become master of it, but it is a different matter to get a grasp of the whole expenditure, a knowledge of how one item of expenditure relates to the other and how it all works out in the aggregate. Our fifty-odd years of experience in parliamentary life has proved to us that that cannot be done in Committee of Supply.
Now, I have added to the difficulties and have not done much in the way of throwing light on the subject. I do not want to take up the time of the House at any greater length. What my hon. friend has in view is absolutely a correct thing to have in view, though he will scarcely attain his object through the means of the suggested committee. There are methods, I believe, which we could arrive at if we could settle ourselves down to calm investigation- maybe it would be the method of a committee of some kind-with a view to establishing what is needed now more than ever before, the very Closest supervision, first upon the estimating itself,-then upon the revision of the Estimates, then continuously upon the expenditures even after Parliament has given vitality to the Estimates and made them effective. My hon. friend will not feel that I am opposing his view. I am in entire accord with the views that have been expressed in this committee today. I feel that what little we have said about it this afternoon has accomplished already a good purpose and will have fruit in the future, but I am scarcely of the opinion that the committee which my hon. friend has proposed would in the end be productive of very much good.
Subtopic: COMMITTEE ON ESTIMATES