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For the third time since 1998, Ontario’s provincial auditor has sharply criticized the government’s dealings with Accenture (formerly known as Andersen Consulting). Auditor Erik Peters called the firm’s social assistance system seriously flawed and a bad deal for taxpayers. The contract has cost more than $400 million and counting. The original cost was supposed to be capped at $180 million. Peters called payments to Accenture questionable because savings on which the payments were based were exaggerated.

Peters also found staff expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the consultant’s redesign of the province’s social assistance system, calling the system a step back that was inadequately tested and essentially still a work in progress rather than a finished product. Accenture hasn’t delivered on its promise to train ministry employees to run the new system a failing that has earned the corporation another $38 million contract to do just that.

Peters also criticized the government’s use of high-priced consultants in other areas. And he returned to the now-tarnished CCPPP award winner, a provincial land registration system run by Teranet Land Information Services Inc. The project was over budget and more than a decade behind schedule when the auditor examined it in 2000. In this latest checkup, he found a scaled-back version of the project is now slated for completion in 2007, at a cost of $680 million. The original delivery date was 1999, at a cost of $275 million