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Provincial watchdog to step down from job

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Manitoba's auditor general has tendered her resignation.

Carol Bellringer, who was appointed to a 10-year term in 2006, is leaving the office effective the end of next March, the conclusion of the government's current fiscal year.

Bellringer, 56, said in an interview Friday she is resigning for "purely personal reasons."

"There are no hidden stories, hidden agendas, secret reasons, particular frustrations that I am blaming it on. Not at all," she said with a chuckle.

She also said she's not even going to give a thought to her future until April, adding that she has much left to do between now and then. "I'm not taking my foot off the pedal until the end of March."

Bellringer, one of several officers of the legislative assembly who reports directly to MLAs -- not to government, said she's thoroughly enjoyed her job and is leaving before the end of her term to give herself an opportunity to take on a new challenge before retirement. She said that preferably, it won't be as demanding as her current job.

"I want to have more time. This job is all-consuming. It is seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day. It never leaves you," she said. "Even when you're on vacation, you spend the whole vacation just recovering enough to come back to it."

The auditor general and her staff audit the province's books and undertake numerous investigations to ensure government departments and agencies are performing in compliance with their mandates.

In the past year, she has questioned the adequacy of Manitoba Child and Family Services' computer system (in testimony before the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry), recommended the province "assess the reasonability" of wages paid to senior executives at the corporation that operates The Forks and found the government failed to properly monitor the success of the provincial nominee program for business, just as a few examples.

She was also asked by the Selinger government to examine the books of the Office of the Fire Commissioner after questionable expense accounts by a few of its former leaders came to light. She discovered at least $300,000 in inappropriate expenses had been paid.

Bellringer, a native of Montreal, said she plans to remain in Winnipeg after she leaves the job next March. She also worked in the provincial auditor's office from the late 1980s until 1996, starting as director of training and technology and rising through the ranks to the top job by the time she left.

Premier Greg Selinger said Friday that Bellringer has done "a superb job" and she will be missed. "She's always done her job with a high degree of professionalism and integrity."

Bellringer, who is married with three grown children, said she gave notice now because she wants to provide the standing committee on legislative affairs with sufficient time to name a successor.

She noted the bipartisan committee has yet to formally replace Richard Balasko, who retired as the province's chief electoral officer three years ago. Deputy chief electoral officer Shipra Verma has acted in his place ever since, managing the last provincial election.

Neither has the committee named a permanent replacement for Irene Hamilton, who resigned as Manitoba's ombudsman in January of 2012 to take a government job.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 4, 2013 A9

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