Taxation & Stewardship: Ontario and New Brunswick 2017 Provincial Audit Reports

It is necessary that governments collect taxes, and apply them toward projects that are in the common interest.  Because tax money is being collected from people who may or may not agree with the uses to which they are to be put, however, it is incumbent upon governments to bear in mind at all times their responsibility to collect and spend tax money wisely, fairly, and efficiently.  After all, those who are required to pay the taxes might have been able to put the money to their own good uses.  And governments all levels must in every case be scrupulously correct in accounting for their use of other people’s money.

The Auditors General of New Brunswick and Ontario have recently released final annual reports of provincial finances and expenditures prior to next year’s provincial elections.  In both cases, encouraging work has been noted.  However, in both cases significant discrepancies have been noted as well.

Indeed, in each case some strong criticisms are made.  For example:

  • In Ontario, the Auditor General found that “there was one overarching theme this year that was common in varying degrees to almost all of the VFM audits: the need to improve planning that supports timely and informed decision-making and oversight—or even to just have a plan of action with ongoing monitoring of the results being achieved—to ensure efficient and cost-effective public services.” Morever, the Auditor, reported, the Province continued to report billions of dollars of assets as its own, and available for public use, when, for example, those assets belong to the Teachers’s Pension Plan.  Such practices in mis-reporting funds can significantly distort pictures of spending efficiency.
  • In New Brunswick, the Auditor reported “very troubling disregard for procurement practices,” specifically in the Department of Social Development, with deficiencies in contract management and lack of oversight. In at least one case, the Auditor reported, a “consultant was highly and inappropriately favored by the Department.”   As a more hopeful example, the report acknowledges that provincial greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2001 and have declined since, with efforts apparently on track to meet 2020 targets.  Still, the report concludes, “meeting the 2030 and 2050 targets will require significant [additional] action from provincial and Federal initiatives.”

Whether provinces are, overall, collecting and spending money fairly is an assessment that each voter should make before voting in next year’s elections.  The Reports are publicly available, and easy to read:

The New Brunswick Report is at:
http://www.agnb-vgnb.ca/content/agnb-vgnb/en/publications/reports.html#2017V2=Page5&2017v1=Page1

The Ontario Report is at:
http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/annualreports/arbyyear/ar2017.html