Auditor general decries government inaction on key issues
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Manitoba’s auditor general says the provincial government has acted on only 10 per cent of his office’s recommendations in recent years.
Only 20 — roughly 10 per cent — of the 209 recommendations made in seven reports from November 2019 to October 2020, had been implemented as of Sept. 30, 2022, Tyson Shtykalo said Tuesday.
“We strive to promote government accountability and public administration excellence for Manitobans,” he said in a release Tuesday.
“The primary way we do this is through our audit work and recommendations. It’s important that audited entities be held accountable for implementing these recommendations.”
The auditor general looked at commercial vehicle safety oversight in 2019 and found it lacking. Just 29 per cent of those recommendations have been implemented.
The Provincial Oversight of Drinking Water Safety report in September 2020 had a 32 per cent implementation rate for its recommendations. The 2022 Foster Home Management report to determine the adequacy of the systems and processes for funding foster home services and ensuring compliance with foster home standards made 112 recommendations but just four have been implemented, the report said.
“You’re talking about a whole bunch of issues where people’s lives are at risk, whether it’s drinking water, foster homes or commercial vehicle safety,” Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont said. “These need to be major priorities for this government. They just haven’t been,” he said.
The NDP said the Progressive Conservative government is distracted by internal politics.
“It’s no wonder the province has ignored recommendations and fallen behind on tracking,” NDP finance critic Adrien Sala said. “Government mismanagement and delays are a byproduct of the fact nearly half the PC caucus is quitting and there’s a lot of turnover in the premier’s office,” he said on a day when Dauphin MLA Brad Michaleski announced he will not seek re-election.
The auditor general said the legislative assembly’s public accounts committee should call the responsible entities to a committee meeting to discuss the lack of progress.
“If our recommendations are not implemented, our work is not having the desired and needed impact,” Shtykalo said. While acknowledging challenges during pandemic, “I did expect to see more progress implementing our recommendations.”
The government said it respects the independent authority, transparency and recommendations of the auditor general. “We will review the recent report in-depth and will work to address the highlighted concerns.”
None of the recommendations in two auditor general reports: Quarry Rehabilitation Program Investigation (released May 2020) and Oversight of Post-Secondary Institutions (released October 2020) have been implemented.
A member of the union for faculty members at the University of Manitoba said the PC government is mostly responsible for none of the post-secondary institutions report recommendations being acted upon.
The auditor general found the government did not have an overall strategy for the post-secondary system, and monitoring of post-secondary institutions was weak. The audit also found that communication between government and the institutions’ governing boards needs to be improved.
Karine Levasseur, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association representative to the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations, said the government was focused on tying performance-based metrics to funding. “It creates more bureaucracy than meaningful outcomes,” she said.
The professor of public administration said hauling bureaucrats and public-sector managers before the public accounts committee to explain the delays is a bad idea.
Up until this past year, government austerity has depleted the ranks of the civil service, and blaming government workers for inaction doesn’t seem fair or helpful, Levasseur said.
“I have real concerns about using the public accounts committee to publicly shame bureaucrats at a time when they’re not being supported in the first place.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.