(Vancouver) A report published today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows that BC ranks 8th among Canadian provinces on per capita funding for the Auditor General’s Office, and 6th out of eight provinces that have stand-alone Information and Privacy Offices.*
In addition to BC’s poor inter-provincial ranking, the report finds that:
- In the last five years, the ability of both the Auditor General and Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner to do their work has been undermined by budget cuts and inadequate resources for new and expanded mandates.
- Funding for both offices is lower today in real terms (after inflation) than it was in 2001. (In absolute dollars, funding for the Auditor General’s Office only regained 2001/02 levels in 2005/06; funding for the Information and Privacy Commissioner only regained 2001/02 levels in 2006/07.)
- The independence of the Auditor General has been undermined by use of a legislative loophole that allowed him to be appointed by the government, instead of the legislature.
“Citizens have a right to know what our governments are doing and why, how they are spending tax dollars, and how they are collecting and protecting personal information about us,” says Keith Reynolds, author of the report. Reynolds is a CCPA research associate and a researcher with CUPE. “BC can’t have open and accountable government — much less lead the country on this front — without adequately funding the work of our Auditor General and Information and Privacy Commissioner.”
Among the report’s recommendations:
- Funding for both offices should be increased immediately to make up for past cuts, reflect new responsibilities and raise BC’s per capita spending to the middle of the pack nationally. This would mean increasing the Auditor General’s funding from $10.5 million to $17 million, and the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s from $2.5 million to $3.4 million.
- The Auditor General should be appointed with the consent of the full legislature, as intended under current legislation.
- Ensure that the Auditor General’s Office has the resources needed to monitor the trend toward shifting government activities to the private sector (such as P3s and “Alternative Service Delivery”) and to end fee-for-service auditing.
* In Manitoba and New Brunswick this work is carried out under the Office of the Ombudsman.
How Does BC Rank on Openness and Accountability? The Government’s Approach to the Auditor General and Access to Information is available at www.policyalternatives.ca. To arrange an interview, call Shannon Daub at 604-801-5121 x226.