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Independent audit report on the performance of the duties and functions of election officials – 42nd General Election

2. Focus of the audit

2.1 Objective and scope

The objective of the audit, as set out in our contract with EC, was to report on:

  • whether DROs, PCs and REGOs have, for the 42nd Canadian General Election, on all days of advance polling and on polling day, properly exercised the powers conferred on them, and properly performed the duties and functions imposed on them, under the relevant sections of the Act
  • the degree to which the administrative controls established by EC, including manuals and training material, support election officials in the exercise of their powers and performance of their duties and functions in accordance with section 164.1 of the Act

Collectively, these objectives represent the subject matter for our audit. The CEO is the official who is responsible for the subject matter.

We performed our audit in accordance with the Canadian Standards on Assurance Engagements 3001: Direct Engagements (CSAE 3001).

2.1.1 Limitations

We did not:

  • assess election results
  • assess whether election officials other than DROs, PCs and REGOs performed their specific legislative duties
  • assess performance of legislative duties that are not specifically referred to in S.164.1 of the CEA
  • assess the administrative controls of EC beyond those implemented for purposes of supporting election officials in the conduct of their duties under S.164.1 of the CEA

Our audit process is discussed in some detail below; however, it is important to recognize that there are certain inherent limitations of the auditing process. For example, audits are generally based on the concept of selective testing of the data being examined and are, therefore, subject to the limitation that material errors, material or significant weaknesses in internal controls, or fraud or other illegal acts having a direct and material impact on the subject matter, if they exist, may not be detected, simply because they did not occur in the transactions we observed or at the polling stations that we attended. In addition, because of the characteristics of fraud, particularly those involving concealment through collusion and falsified documentation (including forgery), an audit may not detect a material fraud.

2.2 Auditor's responsibility

Our responsibility is to provide reasonable assuranceFootnote 4 that there were no significant deviations in the exercise of powers and performance of the duties and functions of election officials from the requirements set out in the subject matter described above.

2.3 Management's responsibility

EC is responsible for establishing and maintaining administrative controls (key and secondary) to ensure election officials have the training, tools and guidance necessary to allow them to carry out their duties and functions in accordance with the Act.

2.4 Criteria

CSAE 3001 also requires us to describe in our report the criteria that we used to come to our conclusion. The criteria are the benchmarks we use to measure or evaluate the underlying subject matter. We identify the criteria before we start our work. These requirements are reflected in our audit criteria as outlined in Appendix B to this report.

For this audit, the principal criteria and therefore our audit mandate are specifically prescribed in the relevant sections of the Act described above. For the purpose of this audit, we needed to decide what would represent a significant deviation in the exercise of powers and the performance of the duties and functions of election officials. Working with EC officials as well as their Audit External Panel, we agreed on two levels of controls and procedures as well as acceptable tolerance levels. Key controls and procedures are those performed by election officials which establish a person's qualification and entitlement to vote. Secondary controls are those which support/reinforce the elector's established qualification/entitlement to vote and are typically more record-keeping in nature.

The establishment of thresholds for reporting purposes was critical during the planning of the audit. The reporting thresholds were agreed with management and the External Audit Panel and reflected the relative importance of the control. For key controls, a deviation of 5% or more was considered a major finding. For those same key controls, a deviation of 2%–4.9% was considered as other observations. For secondary controls, a deviation of 11% or more was considered as other observations.

These thresholds were established in the context of the Supreme Court of Canada Judgement (Opitz v. Wrzesnewskyj, 2012 SCC 55) which noted inter alia that "Given the complexity of administering a federal election, the tens of thousands of election workers involved, many of whom have no on-the-job experience, and the short timeframe for hiring and training them, it is inevitable that administrative mistakes will be made".

CSAE 3001 requires us to describe the quality control standards for our audit and whether we complied with relevant independence and ethical standards of our profession.

  • In conducting our audit, we applied the Canadian Standards on Quality Control 1 issued by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. This standard requires that our work be adequately planned and conducted while adhering to performance, reporting and quality control standards throughout the duration of the audit.
  • To the best of our knowledge, throughout the engagement, we complied with all relevant independence and ethical requirements.

Footnote 4 CSAE 3001 defines reasonable assurance as follows: Reasonable Assurance Engagement – An assurance engagement in which the practitioner reduces engagement risk to an acceptably low level in the circumstances of the engagement as the basis for the practitioner's conclusion. The practitioner's conclusion is expressed in a form that conveys the practitioner's opinion on the outcome of the measurement or evaluation of the underlying subject matter against criteria. A reasonable assurance engagement may be referred to as an audit engagement.