Boreal

Shooting the Messenger

10 - Foreign Affairs Beckons

John MacArthur was as good as his word. When the Auditor General returned and reported that he was satisfied with the progress made with fixing the problems at the CRU he sent me, at government expense and on full salary, for three months to Ottawa's Algonquin College to complete a three years college diploma in accounting.

When I returned to work I received the promised promotion. I was now a full-fledged Financial Officer second grade; it was time I was indoctrinated into the ins-and-outs of the Financial Administration Act (FAA).

The FAA according to Treasury Board is “the cornerstone of the legal framework for general financial management and accountability of public service organizations and Crown corporations. It sets out a series of fundamental principles on the manner in which government spending may be approved, expenditures can be made, revenues obtained, and funds borrowed.”

Indoctrination is not too strong a word to use for the course I attended on the Financial Administration Act. It was a good type of indoctrination; an indoctrination that emphasized that Financial Officers had an "almost" sacred duty to safeguard the Public Purse.

After returning from my training into the duties and responsibilities of a Financial Officer, I now spent more and more time at the headquarters of the Surveys and Mapping Branch down by Dows Lake, a small man-made lake on the Rideau Canal (the surrounding park is the site of most of the flower displays of Ottawa’s annual tulip festival).

My mind was no longer on my job. I was a goal-oriented type of guy. I found day-to-day financial administration a bore. Part of me wanted to return to British Columbia, beautiful British Columbia.

I still aspired to becoming a writer. Maybe it was as good a time as any to pursue that dream by returning to university and completing a degree in English literature. My Simon Fraser prof who had introduced me to Jane Austen and Jonathan Swift had encouraged me in that direction as a means of improving my writing, which he saw as promising.

 I was still unsure about what I wanted to do next when I read about a job opening. It was a Financial Systems Analyst position with the prestigious Department of Foreign Affairs. The successful candidate would have a good understanding of business and government accounting practices and computer-based accounting systems. That was me!

Foreign Affairs had a reputation for hiring only the best and the brightest. There was bound to be an army of candidates, but I applied anyway.

I was the last one to join the team that had been put together to overhaul the way the department tracked and accounted for expenditures made by diplomats and their staff.

The Auditor General suspected that la crème-de-la-crème of the Canadian Public Service, the Foreign Service, had sticky fingers. It would be my misfortune to confirm the Auditor General’s suspicions.