OTTAWA — The public service's top bureaucrat is taking issue with Auditor General Michael Ferguson's spring report which criticizes the culture in the public service.
Ferguson's message in his report on culture in the public service is an "opinion piece," Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick said Tuesday.
Wernick was called before the House of Commons Public Accounts committee to address comments Ferguson made about culture in the public service in his latest report.
In Ferguson's spring report, he wrote that the public service has an obedient culture that "fears mistakes and risk" and has to change.
"This culture causes the incomprehensible failures it is trying to avoid," he said, referring to the Pheonix pay system.
Wernick said the public service isn't perfect but he won't accept Ferguson's findings and called them "sweeping generalizations."
Wernick also said he does not agree with Ferguson's characterization of the Phoenix pay system as an 'incomprehensible failure.'
"It's entirely comprehensible, it was avoidable ... it's reparable," he said.
NDP MP David Christopherson said the committee needs to decide where they land on the two opposing views of the culture in the public service.
"Either we have a deputy of the Privy Council who has his head buried in the sand and is in complete denial with what the cultural problems are or we've got an auditor general that's off the rails," said Christopherson.
The committee later decided it would invite Ferguson back to testify before the House rises for the summer so he can respond to Wernick's comments.
Wernick reiterated that there are problems in the public service, but not across every department.
"I don't think we have a broken culture," he insisted.
Wernick also told members of the committee that they should create a culture where it's possible to disagree with the auditor general.
He said it should be OK to challenge the auditor general's analysis and hopes he's not in too much trouble for disagreeing with his findings.
Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press