Letter to Canada’s Auditor General about autism funding in Canada

We have written to Canada’s Auditor General asking for answers to some questions about how autism funding decisions are being made by Canadian governmental ministries and agencies.

We are asking the Auditor General directly because after 6 months of outstanding inquiries to the agency and ministry involved, those offices have not given us answers.

As well, the usual databases that list federal contracts and RFPs do not list most of these contracts or indicate whether any bidding processes or research was involved in the decision to choose the specific providers and programs.

Who is the Auditor General?
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) “serves Parliament by providing it with information and expert advice on government programs and activities, gathered through audits” of financial activity by government agencies to make sure that things are being done fairly and openly.

Full letter: Our full letter to the OAG [names redacted] is here: Letter to the Auditor General, February 2020

Our questions: Below are the questions we submitted to the Auditor General of Canada.

AIDE Network
In October 2018, more than $10 million was announced for the Pacific Autism Family Network and the Miriam Foundation to develop the Autism-Intellectual-Developmental Disabilities National Resource and Exchange (AIDE) Network, a website that advertises the services of Canadian autism service providers.

  • How was the AIDE project tendered?
  • Where is the contract—why is it not online like other disability-related contracts?
  • How was any need for this project determined?
  • What demographic and best-practices research was this expenditure based upon, if any?
  • Since the primary beneficiaries of this program are the PAFN and related service agencies themselves, what data was collected or audits done (if any) to determine whether there could be secondary stakeholders/beneficiaries?
  • Was there research into the issue of redundancy (considering that similar databases exist); whether the similar existing databases were effective (how much and why or why not); and whether Canadians will access the AIDE database to find local services instead of using Google as they do now?

Other projects
The projects listed next were also funded with no apparent public record of RFPs or  tendering process, nor any record of research into their feasibility, reasonableness or sustainability.

Autism Nova Scotia’s Health Sexuality Research Program, $800,000; Autism Ontario’s Mental Health Matters Project, $524,431; Autism Resource Centre’s Building Block Program, $518,964; Jake’s House for Autistic “Children for The Legends Mentoring Program [sic]”, $600,000 (does not fund autistic mentoring); York University for The Autism Mental Health Promotion Project, $599,300 and; McGill University (Royal Institute for the Advancement of Learning) Caregiver Skills Training Program, $600,000.

  • Why were these projects funded without meaningful data about need or research into ROIs in other jurisdictions?
  • How does the level of due diligence for autism-related projects compare to that of other government funded disability-related expenditures?
  • If there are two sets of standards for due diligence, why is that?
  • What is the RFP and bidding process for these projects?
  • Why aren’t the bidding process, contracts and standards of measurement transparent for autism funding, as they are for other expenditures?

We hope to hear back from the Auditor General soon. We will update this post and our social media when we do.