Canada’s auditor general has said outdated technology, staffing issues, and a chronic lack of funding are making it difficult for his office to fulfill its mandate.
Speaking at a meeting of the country’s Public Accounts committee on Thursday, Sylvain Ricard bemoaned the fact that his office was forced to rely on antiquated computer systems that pose a security threat.
Ricard, who took up the auditor general position in March 2019, told the committee: “Our main IT system is running on DOS. That creates all sorts of issues for us, both in a security perspective and an operational perspective because they’re not supported anymore.”
DOS, or disk operation system, was a smash hit when it was introduced in the late 1970s, but the technology was essentially retired in the mid-1990s. Today, the beyond retro system is considered obsolete.
Ricard said that failure to upgrade to newer technology has left the office of the auditor general (OAG) isolated and vulnerable.
“You can’t turn to a supplier and get updates, because they don’t exist. That’s our reality,” said Ricard.
Canadian members of Parliament were stunned to learn that Ricard and his team were trying to perform audits with technology that went out of fashion back when Brad Pitt was dating a cigarette-smoking Gwyneth Paltrow.
Upon learning that the country’s auditor general was forced to work with a DOS system put in place in the late 1980s, a flabbergasted NDP MP Matthew Green said: “That’s wild.”
Reliance on last century’s technology has made attracting a new generation of auditors and analysts an uphill struggle for the OAG. Recruits who do accept a job offer from the office quickly find that they are not able to use many of the tools they learned in school.
“You cannot interest young people these days with old technologies. That’s a major challenge for us. Our direct competitors are companies like Deloitte (and) our technology is in the way,” said Ricard.
Painting a generous picture of how outdated the OAG’s technology really is, Ricard said: “The new staff we hire arrive with modern skills, but they aren’t able to use them because they’re in a workplace that is behind by 10 years.”
Ricard said that to bring the office’s technology up to date, an extra $10.8m was needed on top of the office’s current $88m annual budget.
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