Auditor General brings down 2012 Annual Report

Bill Mauro Kenora Queen's Park - NAN Sarah Campbell

Queen's Park News UpdateTHUNDER BAY -The Auditor General has brought down the 2012 Annual Report. “In difficult economic times, one of the biggest challenges governments face is to find more efficient and cost-effective ways of doing things while continuing to offer the public the best possible service for the money,” stated Auditor General Jim McCarter. “This Report comes at a time when the industrialized world is struggling with the twin challenges of an economic slowdown and high debt, issues that also confront Ontario. So in a number of this year’s value-for-money audits, we paid particular attention to areas where efficiencies and cost savings in government operations may be possible.”

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath says the Auditor General’s Annual Report paints a picture of an arrogant and out-of-touch government that’s ignoring the challenges facing families in tough times.

“Today’s report has shown that the McGuinty Liberals are wasting hundreds of millions of precious public dollars when families are being asked to sacrifice more,” said Horwath.

Our New Deal for the Public Sector argues that just because government runs something, doesn’t mean it’s going to be run well,” Wilson said. “Again this year, the Auditor General offers proof that we’re right.”

Evidence of mismanagement includes three especially troubling examples, Wilson noted: “First, the government wasted $24 million on a diabetes registry that wouldn’t work and was scrapped.

Second, at a potential cost of $700 million, the Presto transit card will be among the most costly in the world. But there is still no integrated transit fare system – which is what Presto is for.”

Third, Wilson said, is the Drive Clean program, which took $30 million from the pockets of motorists last year, while contributing little to recent reductions in vehicle emissions.

Examples in the 2012 Annual Report include:

• The number of Crown attorneys has more than doubled over the last two decades, but the total number of criminal charges Crown attorneys handle in a year has barely changed at all. The Ministry of
the Attorney General says that cases today require more time, but it has little available data to assess Crown attorneys’ relative workloads or the way cases are being handled across the province.

• Total OPP expenditures net of recoveries from municipalities rose 27% over the last five years, but crime rates across Canada over the last two decades have dropped more than 40% and calls to the
OPP for service have remained about the same since 2005. The OPP needs to pay more attention to improving its staff deployment practices and better controlling costs such as overtime.

• Total expenditures of the Youth Justice Services Program of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services increased by more than 25% in the five years to 2010/11—even though the number of youths served increased by just 4% over the same period. The number of staff at Ministry-operated secure detention facilities has increased by 50%, yet the average youth population in these facilities
has decreased by 37%, indicating that some efficiencies in these areas may be possible.

• Ontario’s $741-million diabetes strategy has had mixed results. While availability of care for people with diabetes has definitely improved, many services were underused and others duplicated. We also found that just 3% of funding was allocated to prevention, despite the fact that the most prevalent form of diabetes is largely preventable through lifestyle changes.

• There are about 800 privately owned independent health facilities that primarily provide diagnostic services such as x-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans, and send the bill to the Ministry of Health and
Long-Term Care. The Ministry should review these billings for unusual patterns and ensure the fees it pays out correspond to the actual costs of providing the services. As well, the Ministry and the
Canadian Association of Radiologists estimate that as many as 20% to 30% of diagnostic tests being done may provide little useful information or be unnecessary.