British Columbia’s best-known forensic accountant says the provincial government’s Auditor General’s office should play a more active, direct and skeptical role in assessing whether taxpayers are getting value for money from $10 billion worth of government-mandated privatization schemes.
Ron Parks studied the way the Auditor General’s office reviewed three major public private partnerships (P3s): the Abbotsford Hospital, the Sea-to-Sky Highway and the Canada Line. In his report, Parks concludes that methods and results do not “provide assurances that there are going to be real cost savings for the public.”
In all three reviews, the Auditor General did not prepare a direct audit, relying on its own independent resources. Instead, the Auditor General relied upon reports prepared by other organizations. Worse, those organizations had interests in managing or promoting privatization.
Partnerships BC, the government agency mandated to advance P3s in the province, prepared the Abbotsford Hospital and Sea-to-Sky Highway reports. The Canada Line report was prepared by Canada Line Rapid Transit Inc., the Translink subsidiary responsible for implementing the project.
Parks also criticized the Auditor General’s office for accepting a fee to conduct one of the reviews, saying it should end the practice to protect the public’s trust in the office and maintain its independence.
Parks suggests the Auditor General’s office prepare its own direct reports on P3s “to distinguish his information and conclusions from those who have a vested interest in demonstrating the value for money of the P3 model.”
Parks also issued a warning to legislators, provincial ministries and the B.C. government: “Exercise restraint in adopting conclusions that the Auditor General has not reached or set out in his reports.”