Recommendations on Systemic Issues
TopicCF Policy on Remission of Debts
Case number2011-093 (F&R Date: 2011-11-30)
Since its inception, the Board has seen a considerable number of grievances relating to overpayment of both pay and benefits. The debt, in some of these cases, might qualify for and be deserving of remission, yet, through misunderstanding and misinterpretation, this avenue of redress appears not to be available to Canadian Forces (CF) members. It is of some significance that, in 2004, in two grievance cases concerning overpayments, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) of the day concluded that seeking remission of the debt in question was the appropriate remedy and directed that the appropriate CF department explore the feasibility of a submission to Governor in Council with the recommendation of Treasury Board (TB) to seek remission of the overpayment. The CDS went on to further issue direction to explore the feasibility of amending the National Defence Act (NDA) and the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act to adopt a standardized and comprehensive approach to the recovery of overpayments.
Although the two cases were in fact submitted to the TB for consideration, TB staff did not support the requests based on the fact that the members in the two cases did not meet the "stringent criteria" required for remission; however, when personnel at the Board questioned TB staff on the authority for the criteria used to deny the requests for remission, no clear response was given. It remains the Board's view that the remission criteria are applied on a case by case basis by the TB Ministers and it is not for the staff to make a decision given by statute to Ministers.
In the Board's view, a long-term solution for debt forgiveness would be to amend the NDA to allow the Minister of National Defence (MND) to forgive debts owing the Crown, along the lines of the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act allowing for the full or partial relief of a debt under certain circumstances. In the meantime, since the DND/CF does not have published criteria or guidelines for the consideration of debts for remission, the CF should consider developing such a policy; guidelines or policies from other government departments could serve as templates.
The Board recommended that the CDS direct that a DND/CF policy on remission be formulated and publicized.