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2022 Reports 9 and 10 of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada: The federal government quickly delivered COVID-19 benefits to Canadians, but post-payment verification work is falling short

Press Release

Ottawa, 6 December 2022—A report from Auditor General Karen Hogan tabled today in the House of Commons concludes that the Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada effectively delivered COVID‑19 emergency programs to provide relief to individuals and employers affected by the pandemic and help the economy rebound. However, the agency and department have not followed through on the need to undertake comprehensive post-payment verification work.

“In 2020, the government decided to rely on information provided by applicants and limit pre‑payment controls to expedite helping people and employers affected by the pandemic,” said Ms. Hogan. “In doing so, it recognized that there was a risk that some payments would go to ineligible recipients. We found that overpayments of $4.6 billion were made to ineligible individuals, and we estimated that at least $27.4 billion of payments to individuals and employers should be investigated further.”

The audit found that the Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada’s post-payment verification plans did not include verifying payments made to all identified recipients at risk of being ineligible for COVID‑19 benefit programs. As the COVID‑19 pandemic evolved, the department and agency delayed their plans for post‑payment verifications. This means that the government may be running out of time to identify and recover amounts owing because of legislated time frames to verify recipients’ eligibility. For example, unless the department or agency suspect that a recipient misrepresented information, the time frame to verify whether a recipient is eligible for the payment is 36 months for most COVID‑19 benefit programs for individuals.

The audit also found that efforts to collect amounts owing have been limited to date. For example, the Canada Revenue Agency’s collection activities on benefit programs for individuals were limited to responding to calls received from recipients wanting to repay or make payment arrangements for COVID‑19 benefit amounts owed. Approximately $2.3 billion in overpayments had been recovered through voluntary repayments as of summer 2022.

“I am concerned about the lack of rigour on post-payment verifications and collection activities,” said Ms. Hogan. “The Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada need to act now to expand their post-payment verification plans to include all recipients identified as being at risk of being ineligible for benefits, then the department and agency need to carry out their plans and recover COVID-19 benefit amounts owed.”

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The 2022 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada, Report 10—Specific COVID‑19 Benefits, is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada website.

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