Provincial auditor looks back on influencing change ahead of retirement

Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson tables a report in the Saskatchewan Legislature on Dec. 5, 2019. -- Troy Fleece / Regina Leader-Post

Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson is looking back at her time in the position with fondness as she prepares to retire this year.

Volume 1 of the 2021 audits, released Tuesday, will be Ferguson’s last. It was announced in February that Ferguson would be stepping down this summer. She’s led the auditor’s office since 2013.

She called the job “very rewarding

“We have a critical role to play. Our job is not to hold the government to account. We can’t do that. We’re a conveyor of information hopefully, that people find valuable, about higher risk areas of the government and different operations of the government,” she said.

“(We) shed a light on them, and through that, move practice forward or let people know how other governments are doing in particular areas.”

Since taking on the role in 2013, Ferguson said, the office has seen lots of change, including influencing how the government reports its financials. She also cited “lots of great work” in the health sector.

‘We’ve shone lots of lights in that area. We are seeing movement, though there’s much more to do.”

The auditors, Ferguson said, don’t just highlight what government bodies are doing poorly. They also highlight practices government agencies and Crown corporations have that are effective and should be emulated elsewhere.

“We realize that, as an audit office, we can impact the public’s confidence in the government. I think it would be inappropriate for us to only tell the public what goes wrong,” she said.

“I think it’s important to know that there are some things that the government gets right, and also that they’re willing to make changes and improvements.”

Those changes and improvements can have impacts across different agencies, she said. One of the most rewarding pieces of her job, Ferguson, is that when her office does audits, agencies that are getting examined will reach out to others who have been audited before, or who have demonstrated best practices, to learn from them.

Ferguson, when asked, also gave the Herald a quick assessment of what she thought her office does well, and where it could stand to improve.

“We have to move along and change as we go,” she said.

Ferguson specifically mentioned improving public engagement as an area the auditor’s office should focus on.

“We recognize that the format of our report doesn’t lend itself to the average person’s reading,” she said.

“We need to be a bit more visual, and perhaps even use more audio clips and (multimedia elements) that make a better use of the social media aspect.”

The latest volume of the auditor’s report is over 300 pages long, and other than charts contains few graphics.

“We’ve only just really started taking baby steps in that (public engagement) regard,” Ferguson.

“We’ve got lots of room to grow. We’re like everybody else — we’ll continue to look at what we do seriously, critique it and try to move it forward.”