Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

December 13, 2011

Auditor General's Report 90 Days Too Late

It's Monday, December 5th, 2011 and the legislature is bustling with activity. It's the last week of sitting before the Christmas break. The lobby and grand staircase leading up to the Chamber has not one, but six Christmas trees brightly lit and decorated giving a warm glow to this otherwise formal setting of the seat of Ontario's government.

This festive mood is about to be interrupted by an annual event on the legislative calendar that can have a chilling effect on the government of the day. The event? The highly anticipated ....

Annual Report of the Auditor General of Ontario.

What is it about this report that causes such a stir and who is the Auditor General that he commands such attention from both the government and the opposition parties?

The Auditor General is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly appointed under the Auditor General Act. He maintains an arm's length distance from the government and the political parties and fulfills his role without political pressure. His role is to scrutinize the use of government resources, examine the government's financial accounts and transactions and report his findings to the Legislature.

An important part of the Auditor General's mandate is to conduct "value-for-money" audits. He has access to government ministries, crown agencies and public sector organizations that receive government grants, and because these are mandated responsibilities, government ministries and agencies are compelled to cooperate with his investigations.

The result is often an embarrassing exposure of mismanagement on the part of government ministries, agencies, boards and commissions, accompanied by a well-deserved chastising of the government in power. 

The 2011 Report of the Auditor General proved to be a scathing indictment of the McGuinty Government.

This year's edition amounts to 460 pages of indictment of the government for its mismanagement, waste and lack of oversight. 

Following are some excerpts from the report:

Lack of Reliable Information

"There are numerous instances in this, my ninth Annual Report, where we noted that meaningful and reliable information was not being obtained or properly used to enhance the operation of government programs."

Reckless Implementation of the Green Energy Policy

"The Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 gave the Minister of Energy authority to expedite the development of wind and solar power without many of the traditional planning and regulatory oversight processes".

"No comprehensive evaluation was done on the impact of the billion-dollar commitment to renewable energy on such things as future electricity prices, net job creation or losses across the province, and greenhouse gas emissions."

"A 2011 study conducted in the United Kingdom (after the FIT program was launched in Ontario) reported that about four jobs were lost elsewhere in the economy for every one new job in the renewable energy sector, primarily because of higher electricity prices."

Highest Auto Insurance Rates In Canada

"Auto insurance premiums are significantly higher in Ontario than anywhere else in Canada, and these high premium levels are driven primarily by high claims costs. However, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario does not get enough information to know whether insurance companies are handling claims judiciously and paying out the proper amounts."

"Industry estimates peg the value of auto insurance fraud in Ontario at between 10 % and 15 % of the value of 2010 premiums, or as much as $1.3 billion. Unlike many other provinces and American states, Ontario does not have significant measures in place to combat fraud."

Lack of Accountability for Health Care Spending

"While overall payments to specialists have increased significantly, as with family physicians, the Ministry has conducted little formal analysis to assess whether the expected benefits, including improved access to specialists by patients, have been achieved."

No Reliable Information on Level of Services for People with Disabilities

"The Ministry of Community and Social Services' Supportive Services program spent $571 million providing services to help people with developmental disabilities live at home and work in their communities. However, although the program relies on community agencies to deliver most of the services, the Ministry does not know whether the agencies are providing the appropriate level of service in return for the funding received; nor does it have reliable information on the level of unmet needs in each community across the province."

This from an Aurora resident after seeing the Auditor General's Report:

"This report is 90 days too late. We should have had the benefit of this report before the election. The results would have been different! "

For those interested, the complete 2011 Annual Report of the Auditor General can be found at www.auditor.on.ca

As always, I invite your comments and advice. Please feel free to contact me through my website at www.frankklees.com or by calling 905 750 0019.