A federal agency costing millions of dollars ‘does nothing’

If the Harper government is serious about cutting 'the waste' in Ottawa, here's a good place to start.

According to a CBC News exclusive story, a federal agency ironically created by the fiscally conservative Harper government in 2008, is costing taxpayers millions of dollars and is pretty much achieving nothing.

The Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB), which reports to Parliament through the Minister of Human Resources, was conceived to set EI premium rates, to manage EI surpluses, and to oversee a $2 billion contingency fund.

But as CBC reports, government policy has made the CEIFB redundant.

In all three years the CEIFB has been in existence, the Harper government capped EI rates in 2009 so the Board hasn't had to set EI premiums.

There have never been any EI surpluses so the Board hasn't had to do any work there.

And the government never did set-up the $2 billion cash reserve, as they promised.

The chair of the agency, Toronto lawyer David Brown, admits the organization isn't exactly overwhelmed with work.

"We haven't had to do nearly as much as our original mandate intended us to do," Brown told CBC.

"So we've slowed down on some of our development activities until it is clear that we are going to be able to do some of the things that we will be asked in the future."

CBC notes the Board spends some of its time working on internal processes such as developing HR plans and measures of corporate performance.

So ultimately, the Board does very little but costs taxpayers a lot of money.

How much money?

According to CBC's Greg Weston - $3.3 million in the past two years.

"The agency's executive director, retired senior public servant Phil Charko, is being paid about $150,000 a year to work part time," notes Weston.

"The budget provides another $200,000 to pay an investment manager if the agency ever has any money to invest. Another $300,000 is budgeted for "additional corporate services such as IT management, human resources management, and translation services."

Weston says a spokesperson for Human Resources minister Diane Finlay told him the government has no plans to scrap the agency.

It is, she says, a prudent use of taxpayers money that will someday be fully operational.

In response to the CBC story, the NDP released a statement, Thursday lambasting the government for this "$3.3 million boondoggle."

"According to documents obtained by the Globe and Mail, in October 2011 there were 360,481 people waiting for EI," the release stated.

"Once again the Conservatives make their priorities plain: leave out-of-work Canadians waiting while Ottawa insiders and their well connected friends get all the breaks."