Ottawa Overpaid $32 Billion In COVID-19 Benefits: Audit

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau overpaid as much as $32 billion in COVID-19 benefits during the pandemic, according to a new report by the Auditor General.

The taxpayer spending watchdog found that, of the roughly $211 billion in COVID-19 benefit payments made by the federal government, $4.6 billion was sent to ineligible recipients and an additional $27.4 billion should be investigated further.

Auditor General Karen Hogan criticized the government for a lack of post-payment verification that led to billions of dollars being misallocated.

To date, only $2.3 billion of overpayments and misspent money has been recovered by the federal government in Ottawa, and there is no indication that the remaining amount will be collected, said the Auditor General.

In a news release, Hogan said: “I am concerned about the lack of rigor on post-payment verifications and collection activities.”

National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier refuted the audit of the federal government’s pandemic spending, saying there is a higher level of compliance than the report estimates.

The Auditor General’s report concludes that Ottawa rolled out its pandemic benefit programs too quickly without the proper controls and verification processes in place, a situation that led to massive overpayments to individuals and businesses across the country.

The Auditor General also issued a review of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement program, finding that Ottawa ran up an enormous surplus of vaccines that may now be wasted.

The vaccine audit found that at the end of May, Canada had 32.5 million doses in inventory with an estimated value of $1 billion, the majority of which will expire by the end of December this year (2022).

Already, 13.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in Canada have expired before they could be used, noted the Auditor General.