BURNABY—In response to a report released by Ontario’s auditor general that finds taxpayers paid a high premium for a public-private partnership (P3) hospital in Brampton, CUPE BC has renewed its call for B.C.’s auditor general to take a stronger role in reviewing, recommending and reporting on P3 projects.
The Ontario review finds that the government of the day imposed the P3 process. The Ontario auditor general strongly questions the amount of risk transfer used to justify the Brampton P3 and finds that had the project been done publicly, Ontario taxpayers would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars.
“This is not a surprise. We have seen some of the same questions raised here in B.C., and already have some solid recommendations in the B.C. context from forensic auditor Ron Parks,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.
A 2006 report, commissioned by HEU and CUPE, Parks recommended that B.C.`s auditor general prepare independent reports on P3s and “adopt a greater degree of skepticism” and involvement on P3 projects.
In his 2006 report, Parks was responding to former auditor general Wayne Strelioff’s attachment of a “review engagement” letter to the Partnerships BC value-for-money report on the Abbotsford hospital and other P3 projects which he said did “not provide assurances that there are going to be real cost savings for the public.” Parks recommended that the auditor general take a more investigative approach and develop independent reports on projects rather than relying on Partnerships BC. Parks also said the auditor general should be involved in “real time” allowing, him to actually influence decisions while projects are being planned and implemented.
O’Neill says that CUPE BC will be joining the HEU in requesting that B.C. auditor general John Doyle launch an investigation into the costs of building the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre as a privately-financed P3.
“We think that, given the large amount of public money involved and the importance of the services, greater independent oversight of Partnerships BC is past due for all projects,” says O’Neill. “And as a start the B.C. legislature should revisit the previously denied request for adequate resources to allow the auditor general to fulfill this oversight role.”