Special Update: Ontario Auditor General 2017 Annual Report – Dec 6, 2017

Ontario’s Auditor General  Bonnie Lysyk released her annual report earlier today which includes 14 value-for-money audits, as well as chapters on government accountability, public accounts and government advertising.  It also includes follow-up reports on previous value-for-money audits from the 2015 Annual Report. Further it contains follow-up on special reports on Community Care Access Centres and reports issued by the all-party Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

The report acknowledged the need for better government planning as the means to avoid many of issues identified through the audits. “Good planning supports timely and informed decision-making and oversight” said Lysyk. Concerns over cancer care, education, electricity rates, emergency management, services for newcomers and social housing were some of the pressing issues addressed.

Click here to access the Auditor General of Ontario’s full 2017 Annual Report.

VOLUME 1

Please click on each title for a very brief summary on each audit.

Value-for-Money Audits

  1. Assessment Review Board and Ontario Municipal Board
  2. Cancer Treatment Services
  3. Community Health Centres
  4. Emergency Management in Ontario
  5. Farm Support Programs
  6. Independent Electricity System Operator—Market Oversight and Cybersecurity
  7. Laboratory Services in the Health Sector
  8. Ministry Funding and Oversight of School Boards
  9. Ontario Public Drug Programs
  10. Public Health: Chronic Disease Prevention
  11. Real Estate Services
  12. School Boards’ Management of Financial and Human Resources
  13. Settlement and Integration Services for Newcomers
  14. Social and Affordable Housing

Better Accountability

  1. Quality of Annual Reporting

Here are some of the major takeaways from the report:

  • The annual deficit is understated by $1.444 billion and the net debt and accumulated deficit are understated by $12.429 billion while Other Assets and Other Liabilities are overstated by $1.652 billion
  • Decade-long abuse of an Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) program has resulted in nine companies overcharging ratepayers to the tune of $260 million
  • Limited capacity for stem cell has forced the province to send patients to the U.S at an average cost of $660,000 which is five times the average cost in Ontario
  • Majority of cancer drugs now being developed are oral drugs that can be taken at home, but the full cost of cancer drugs is not covered unless they are administered in a hospital
  • Ontario’s 75 Community Health Centres (CHCs), which provide health-care services to vulnerable populations, lack sufficient oversight by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Ontario’s 14 Local Health Integration Networks
  • Generic drug prices in Ontario have dropped significantly in the last 10 years, but the Province continues to pay significantly more than foreign countries – for example, Ontario paid $100 million (70 per cent) more for the same drugs as New Zealand
  • The Province does not know whether Ontario’s 36 public health units are making progress in the fight against preventable chronic diseases as there is no overarching chronic disease prevention strategy
  • Salary costs paid to teachers while they were off sick increased by 32% from $32.3 million to $42.7 million over five years while average sick days taken during this period ranged from 8.4 days to 13.4 days
  • Municipalities are concerned that the Ontario Municipal Board exceeded its jurisdiction by overturning sections of the municipalities’ Official Plans after municipalities spent millions of taxpayer dollars to defend their Official Plans
  • Oversight committee of emergency management has not met for several years and the current provincial emergency management program has not considered emergencies that occurred after 2009 or the latest information on the effects of climate change, cyberattacks and terrorism
  • Only one of Ontario’s four main farm-support programs, the Production Insurance Program, sufficiently helps farmers manage losses
  • Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and the federal government have duplicate services for newcomers – for example, $30 million in Ontario funded newcomer services were provided to individuals also eligible for similar services funded by the federal government
  • Ontario has the largest social-housing wait list in the country, with 185,000 households, representing about 481,000 people, or 3.4% of the province’s total population in comparison with 168,000 households actually in social housing
  • Ontario spent almost $19 million last year to operate and maintain 812 vacant buildings across the province out of which 600 had been vacant for an average of almost eight years
  • Only two of 30 government and broader-public-sector organizations met all the mandated provincial criteria in their 2015/16 annual reports
  • Government spending on advertising is at a 10‑year high with $58 million in spending last year

Some areas where things are reported to be working well are:

  • Most cancer patients are generally receiving treatment in a reliable manner
  • Accurate and timely lab results are being delivered to health-care professionals
  • Ontario Public Drug Programs have provided timely access for eligible recipients when their prescribed drugs are listed on the Formulary
  • Ministry of Housing implemented the portable housing subsidy in 2017 that could help service managers better meet the legislated standard of providing about 187,000 subsidies
  • IESO has strong processes for compliance with the appropriate cyber security standards

VOLUME 2

Overall the Auditor General found that 71% of audit recommendations made in the 2015 Annual Report value-for-money audits have been acted on by Government ministries and agencies. However, the Auditor General found that only 33% of them have been fully implemented in comparison to last year’s implementation rate of 40%.

Areas where progress has been made on the 2015 recommendations include:

  • full or ongoing implementation by the Ministry of Community and Social Services of 100% of recommendations to improve a key IT system to better provide accurate and timely social-assistance payments to those in need
  • implementation of 66% of recommendations, with work ongoing on another 17%, by a variety of ministries with respect to management of environmentally contaminated sites across the province
  • significant or some progress by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on 95% of recommendations to improve performance of the province’s Local Health Integration Networks

Areas where progress has been lacking from the 2015 recommendations include:

  • little progress by the Education and Transportation ministries on close to 40% of recommended actions with respect to the safe transportation of students to and from schools
  • implementation by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines of just 32% of recommendations relating to inspections of abandoned mines at a high risk of posing a threat to human health and safety, or to the environment

If you require more information on any of these items or the Auditor General’s 2017 Annual Report, our team of consultants is available to provide further detail.