Ontario Tories wasting hundreds of millions: audit
By DARREN YOURK
Globe and Mail Update
The Ontario government is wasting hundreds of millions of tax
payers dollars on high-priced
consultants, the Provincial Auditor of Ontario reported Tuesday.
In his annual report for the year 2002, Auditor Erik Peters points
to numerous accounting
blunders, including a case in which 40 employees of the Public Safety Ministry left their jobs
and were rehired as consultants within days at more than double their salaries.
Even the Management Board, a body that oversees government spending,
allowed one consultant's
daily fee to rise from $725 in April, 2000, to $2,600 within six months without any documented
rationale, the audit found.
The Auditor also the Community Services Ministry paid almost
$250-million for what turned out
to be a failed attempt to upgrade its computer systems.
A contract with the consulting firm Accenture - previously Andersen
Consulting - resulted in a
"seriously flawed" system that users considered to be a step backwards from what they had, Mr.
"I consider the ministry's involvement with Accenture to have
been a very expensive lesson in
how not to implement a new (information technology)-based service-delivery system," the report
says. "Making the system work properly may well take much more time and will certainly take
many more taxpayers' dollars."
Mr. Peters also reported that Hydro's "stranded" debt has increased
by $700-million to
$20.1-billion, since restructuring of the sector began in 1999.
"In my view, there is an increasing risk that the stranded debt
of the electricity sector,
which is to be recovered from electricity ratepayers, may ultimately become, in part or
completely, a liability of Ontario's taxpayers," Mr. Peters writes in his report.
The Ontario government was also taken to task for not properly
monitoring violent criminals
and sex offenders who have been paroled in the province.
Mr. Peters says he found a "number of deficiencies" that "hindered
the effective supervision
of offenders in the community."
"Correctional programs for offenders with addiction problems,
personality disorder, and sexual deviance were often not available in their local communities,"
the report says.
Of the more than 3,000 sex offenders being supervised by the province
in the community, less
than 600 were receiving rehabilitation treatment, Mr. Peters said.
Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday that the report
shows the Tory government
is threatening both the financial well-being and the safety of Ontario's communities.
"The verdict of the Auditor is clear. Eves is threatening our
wallets and our safety," Mr.
McGuinty said. "We need to make our communities safer so that Ontario families are safer. Ernie
Eves doesnt seem to understand this. He is endangering peoples lives by allowing thousands of
dangerous offenders to go free."
The Auditor also reported that two dozen threatened species in
Ontario are at risk of
extinction because of poor management of provincial parks.
"There is a significant risk that the ministry may not be maintaining
provincial parks for the
benefit of future generations as required by the Provincial Parks Act," Mr. Peters said in his