Auditor general “disappointed” with government response to 16 audits

Watchdog group blames pre-election bureaucratic “malaise”
B.C. auditor general John Doyle: “cumulative” progress noted

BC Auditor General (AG) John Doyle’s “disappointment” with government follow up on 16 recent government audits may point to pre-election bureaucrat apathy, according to a government watchdog.

“Election cycles, especially ones where the bureaucracy senses that there might be a change in direction after May, create a little bit of gridlock in government,” said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“Ministers are busy, they’re out doing more politicking than they’re governing, and it just kind of starts to slow the gears down and everything goes into this maintenance mode.”

Earlier this month, Doyle released a report looking at 16 self-assessments by government organizations responding to 86 AG recommendations.

The report found that of the 86 recommendations:

•27 (31%) were fully or substantially implemented;

•54 (63%) were partially addressed; and

•five (6%) had not been addressed at all.

Doyle said that although he’s seen “cumulative” progress in government’s response to AG recommendations since 2008, progress on the most recent set of recommendations was “less than … expected.”

“Frankly, I am disappointed,” he stated in a news release.

Unlike in the most recent report, Doyle’s previous two followup reports on government self-assessments in March 2012 and October 2011 did not identify any recommendations that hadn’t been acted upon.

Bateman said that aside from the election cycle impact on bureaucratic responsiveness to AG recommendations, government staff might be taking its cue from politicians.

“The B.C. government has had some pretty high-profile scraps with the auditor general in recent weeks, and it does make you wonder if perhaps that discomfort with the auditor general is starting to filter down into the bureaucracy.”

But Bateman added that, overall, he’s not “terribly concerned” with the report.

“It would be unrealistic to expect 100% compliance with everything the auditor general said.”

Bateman pointed out that the auditor general provides “an important opinion” but isn’t “the ultimate authority on everything.So I don’t think taxpayers should be up at night worried about this. But at the same time, the trend is going in a direction that we should probably keep an eye on.” 

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