The House of Commons Advisory Panel on the Funding and Oversight of Officers of Parliament was established in the fall of 2005 as a two-year pilot project that, more recently, has continued on an ad hoc basis. Centrally, it provides the Treasury Board with recommendations from Parliament concerning the budget requests of officers of Parliament. The expectation was that this could make Parliament the de facto decision-maker about officers of Parliament budgets, and free the officers from concerns about budgetary retribution should their actions antagonize a government. This article provides background on the Panel, an overview of how it works, and an examination of noteworthy developments. It concludes by exploring potential issues and some relevant options.
It is the exclusive prerogative of the Crown to place recommendations for spending before Parliament. Strict adherence to this principle underlies what has remained the central formal limitation upon the independence of the officers of Parliament in Canada at the national level. With the exception of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the estimates of the officers of Parliament have been developed in the same way as those for government departments.1Increases to spending authorities (in effect, organizational budgets) are achieved by submissions to the Treasury Board, developed through a process involving scrutiny by Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) officials and discussions between them and officer of Parliament staff. Ultimately, submissions are considered by the Board along with TBS recommendations. Treasury Board decisions determine the spending estimates that are subsequently placed before Parliament by the President of the Treasury Board for approval.