Government’s fiscal audit could be kept private

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Manitoba's finance minister says certain findings of a much-ballyhooed "value for money" audit the Tory government intends to carry out on provincial government programs may be kept from the public.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/06/2016 (2440 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s finance minister says certain findings of a much-ballyhooed “value for money” audit the Tory government intends to carry out on provincial government programs may be kept from the public.

Cameron Friesen made the admission Wednesday after the Opposition NDP accused the government of undertaking a confidential process.

Last month, the Progressive Conservative government issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the fiscal performance review. The PCs are counting on the audit to identify waste and inefficiency in government and recommend ways of improving service delivery.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Finance Minister Cameron Friesen

The contract has yet to be awarded.

Friesen said Wednesday while much information from the review will be released publicly, “some of what will be collected will be for the confidence of cabinet.”

“This is a multi-stepped process. We want to be sure that we don’t prejudice our activities with the release of information that would somehow jeopardize the real results,” he said.

During the election campaign, the Progressive Conservatives claimed the promised value for money review would produce government savings of more than $50 million. It is one of three reviews the new government is launching; the others being a review of the health-care system and one on reducing red tape.

According to the RFP published May 16, the government is seeking proposals from “qualified management consultants” to conduct the review. It also specifies that the winning bid “provide confidential advice and recommendations to the Minister of Finance for consideration during the development of the next provincial budget.”

The RFP further states the project will be divided into two phases with a final completion date of Dec. 31, 2016.

NDP finance critic James Allum said the audit, in contrast to what Friesen and Premier Brian Pallister have led the public to believe, “will not be open and transparent.”

The NDP has accused the new government of having a cost-cutting agenda that could undermine important government services.

“We’re really concerned in the long term that the other shoe is going to drop and it will come to a very secretive backdoor process that’s going to hurt Manitoba families,” Allum said of the audit.

Friesen said he is considering the Opposition’s request for more information.

“I can commit to you that Manitobans will have a good deal of information as we move forward,” he told reporters after question period.

The government is proceeding on a tight timeline, the minister said. A contract will be awarded in a matter of weeks and the review will begin this summer.

“We want to make sure that we’re both protecting cabinet confidence while giving Manitobans real assurances that they will have good information about the process,” Friesen said. “We want Manitobans to be involved. We believe in transparency.”

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

 

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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