Canada Auditor General Says Ottawa Overpaid Billions In Wage Subsidies During Covid Crisis

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 07th December, 2022) Canada's Auditor General Karen Hogan said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government overpaid C$4.6 billion ($3.4 billion) in wage subsidies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Canadian government rolled out two programs, the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to help families and businesses suffering from the pandemic collateral effects, notably the forced lockdowns, handing over $154 billion between 2020-2022.

"We found that overpayments of $4.6 billion were made to ineligible individuals, and we estimated that at least $27.4 billion of payments to individuals and employers should be investigated further," the Auditor General statement reads.

The audit said the overpayment occurred because in 2020, the Federal government decided to rely on the applicants and the information provided by them.

Ottawa also limited pre-payment controls, as it wanted to expedite procedures to help affected people and employers, the statement added.

According to the audit, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) then acknowledged the risks related to limiting pre-payment controls, assured it would increase verifications but delayed the measure causing the inability of the ministry to assess all non-eligible recipients.

Hogan called the CRA to "act now" as she feels concerned about the ministry's inability to track down non-eligible payments.

"The Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada need to act now to expand their post-payment verification plans to include all recipients identified as being at risk of being ineligible for benefits," she said.

The CRA has only been able to recover around $1.7 billion worth of overpayments, mostly from voluntary returns.