OTTAWA — The minister in charge of the federal purse strings says not spending every dollar budgeted by the government isn’t a bad thing.

Controversy has swirled in recent weeks over billions in taxpayer dollars going unspent on everything from veterans’ services to foreign aid at a time of deep departmental cuts.

But Treasury Board President Tony Clement says the fact departments are given a set amount of money each year for specific programs doesn’t mean they have to spend it.

And he says if the public policy goals set by the government are met and there are extra funds, they should be returned.

Critics have accused the government of using lapsed funding to get the federal books back into black and generate a budget surplus.

But Clement says balancing a budget isn’t financial trickery and takes a lot more than simply not spending the cash.