Auditor General Jim McCarter’s latest report shows a government that is entrenched in providing overblown profits to private contractors while at the same time has cut its own staff to the point where front-line workers can’t regulate the work being performed.
The report says that billions of dollars are being wasted through fraud and lack of oversight by a reduced number of public sector staff who do not have the resources to protect Ontario taxpayer money.
“This report should be a wake up call to the government, but Queen’s Park has its collective hand on the snooze button,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “Almost every section of the report says the same thing: the public service is so cut back that the government cannot protect our safety or our money.”
Alarming points raised in the report include:
Lack of staffing in long-term care facilities leading to improper infection control
Bridge inspections that are not carried out or properly supervised
Contractors who provide assistive devices for Ontarians with disabilities are regularly defrauding the government and inflating profits
Not enough staff to track or recover over $660 million in social assistance overpayments
Little or no follow up to consumer inspection complaints due to lack of inspectors, forcing the government to rely on the self-regulating practices of the industries themselves
User fees that are not properly defined or governed, which could lead to $500 million of those fees being declared unlawful
“Whether it’s contractors charging $1,400 for $250 computer monitors, or falsifying bridge inspection reports, or having four inspectors to protect consumers across the province, it all boils down to not enough government enforcement,” Thomas said. “From Walkerton, to the Sunrise Propane explosion to eHealth Ontario, everyone agrees that the government’s role is to protect our safety and our money.”
Roxanne Barnes, chair of OPSEU’s Central labour relations committee for Ontario Public Service employees, says that the McGuinty government must act immediately to reverse the current trend. “Contracting out work without proper enforcement is not only expensive, but can be extremely dangerous. We must have the staffing and the tools to do our jobs. How many more examples does the government need before they wake up and take action?”