Breaking News – Niagara’s Conservation Authority Claims Ontario’s Auditor General has turned down calls to audit NPCA operations

 From Doug Draper, reporter/publisher Niagara At Large

Posted September 22nd, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – Following months of calls from growing numbers of Niagara area citizens, and a majority of local municipal councils and Provincial Members of Parliament across the Region, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority is claiming in a media release it posted late this Friday, September 22nd that Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s office has informed it that it “will not be conducting a value-for-money audit of the NPCA.”

One of a number of citizen demonstration over the past several months, calling for an independent audit of NPCA’s operations. Photo by Doug Draper

According to the NPCA media release – which might be seen as a classic case of what is called a “Friday afternoon news dump” done to make it hard for others to contact appropriate parties for confirmation until the following week due to government offices being closed through the weekend – the Conservation Authority’s board “will now turn its attention to conducting additional audits beyond their annual financial audits.”

That sounds like the NPCA will now proceed with plans to audit itself through a firm it hires to do the work – something that clashes with the independent, third-party forensic audit many area citizens and municipal and provincial representatives have been calling for since last year.

One veteran Niagara politician – Lincoln regional councillor Bill Hodgson – found himself being harshly criticized and ultimately censured this spring by the NPCA board for saying or doing something it did not like, but has never been publicly disclosed, in the wake of his call for an independent, third-party audit. As a result, Hodgson resigned from the NPCA board.

In April of this year, the board finally agreed to accept what many citizens, municipal councils and MPP wanted it to accept in the first place – an offer made by the Ontario Auditor General’s office earlier in the year to do an audit that would address a host of concerns and questions that have been raised about the NPCA’s hiring and firing practices, its awarding of contracts to private consultants and other operations paid for with millions of our tax dollars.

The media release, posted by the NPCA late this September 22nd, arguably gives an impression that the Conservation Authority’s board decided, on its own, to “engage” the services of the Auditor General, without any pressing from the public, MPPs and local municipalities, of which there was plenty pressing over a matter of several weeks this past winter and spring.

Niagara At Large will post more on this breaking news when it gets more solid information on what went down here.

In the meantime, here for your information, is the text of the NPCA media release –

Ontario’s Auditor General Declines NPCA Invitation to Conduct Audit

September 22, 2017 (WELLAND, ON) – Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) Board Chair, Sandy Annunziata today has confirmed that the office of the Auditor General of Ontario will not be conducting a value-for-money audit of the NPCA.

At a special board meeting of the NPCA Board of Directors held on April 21, 2017, the Board unanimously carried a motion to engage the Auditor General of Ontario to conduct a value-for-money audit. 

“We are disappointed the Board’s motion could not be accommodated, but we respect the Auditor General’s decision,” stated Sandy Annunziata, Chair of the NPCA Board of Directors. “We know the Auditor General does outstanding work on behalf of the residents of Ontario. We know her time is precious and we appreciate the energy and resources she has given us in consideration of the Boards Motion.”  

Sections 9 and 12 of the Auditor General Act set forth the auditing and reporting responsibilities of the Auditor General. These responsibilities encompass two types of audits:t

NPCA’s board of directos – the majority of them municipal councilors and mayors appointed by Niagara’s regional council – holding one of their monthly meetings earlier this year.

Attest audits — On an annual basis, the Auditor General attests to the accuracy of the financial statements of the province and of numerous Crown agencies. In other words, the Auditor reports whether, in his/her opinion, the government’s financial statements present fairly the financial position of the province, the results of its operations and the changes in its financial position in accordance with the accounting principles stated in the Public Accounts.

Value-for-money audits — The Auditor General examines government programs, agencies, certain public-sector organizations receiving government grants and Crown-controlled corporations to see if their administrators have spent money with due regard for economy and efficiency and have satisfactory procedures for measuring and reporting on effectiveness. In other words, she ascertains if taxpayers have received value for the tax dollars spent by the entities we audit. As part of these audits, the Auditor also checks that the management of the auditees being examined collected and spent money in the ways that the Legislature intended it to.

The NPCA receives 4% of its budget from the Province of Ontario. 

With the news of the Auditor General being unable to accommodate the Boards request, and recognizing municipal resolutions, the NPCA will now turn its attention to conducting additional audits beyond their annual financial audits. At its latest meeting, the Board selected new financial auditors; KPMG. The same firm that audits the city of Hamilton, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Conservation Ontario and many authorities across the province. 

Currently, the NPCA is undergoing an independent, third-party review of the 2014-2017 Strategic Plan. As part of this examination, recommendations will be forwarded to the Audit Committee for consideration of additional audit requirements.

A Footnote from Niagara At Large – Less than two weeks ago, Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster delivered an address in the Ontario legislature, uging provincial government action to address a host of concerns over the way the NPCA conducts business. To find out more about that and to read the text of Forster’s address to the legislature, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/09/12/breaking-news-welland-riding-mpp-uses-ontario-legislature-address-to-slam-niagara-peninsula-conservation-authority/ .

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A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

 

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5 responses to “Breaking News – Niagara’s Conservation Authority Claims Ontario’s Auditor General has turned down calls to audit NPCA operations

  1. It is difficult to understand the Chair of the NPCA statement that the Ontario Auditor General will not conduct an audit after it made an offer “to do an audit that would address a host of concerns and questions that have been raised about the NPCA’s hiring and firing practices, its awarding of contracts to private consultants and other operations paid for with millions of our tax dollars” .
    Perhaps the Chair is using the same rationale he used to justify his travel expenses to Toronto to “promote the Niagara Region”.

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  2. I believe the next best option is to follow Mayor Campion of Welland suggestion. HAVE THE NPCA AUDIT DONE BY THE ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE.

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  3. I am sickened by all that continues to occur and not occur here!
    This is spin doctoring to the nth degree. The NPCA initially refused the AG’S offer for a free audit because the NPCA said they were not ready with a focus !!!
    This is smoke and mirrors.
    Exemplary people like Bill Hodgson and Ed Smith are being prosecuted along with those highly trained and dedicated staff who have been “terminated” from the NPCA. This appears to be a dirty business that runs deep and like an insidious infection needs to be lanced immediately. How long will this continue ? Why are those with the authority to act not acting? I also have found nothing in the background of the Chair of the NPCA and others that qualifies them to be in positions in a conservation/environmental milieu.

    Conservation-noun
    1.the act of conserving; prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss; preservation: conservation of wildlife; conservation of human rights.
    2..official supervision of rivers, forests, and other natural resources in order to preserve and protect them through prudent management.
    3..a district, river, forest, etc., under such supervision.
    4.the careful utilization of a natural resource in order to prevent depletion.
    5.the restoration and preservation of works of art

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  4. ANOTHER NPCA DOG AND PONY SHOW
    Last spring after months of pressure from the residents of Niagara, NDP MPP Cindy Forster and ten area Municipalities the NPCA finally agreed to have a financial audit take place. The Auditor General of Ontario offered her services at that time but the NPCA refused as they said they weren’t ready; if you can make any sense out of that statement. The Auditor General then offered to look at the possibly of doing the audit when they felt ready but made no commitment. After refusing a free government audit the NPCA then decided to do a Request For Proposal for an independent audit. Somehow for reasons unknown to the public that became tainted, with the end result of it being dropped and board member Bill Hodgson being censured, which ended up with Mr. Hodgson stepping down from the NPCA board. Now the taxpayers of Niagara find out that the Auditor General of Ontario can’t fit the NPCA audit into her schedule so the NPCA has decided to start the Request For Proposal process all over again and the taxpayer will be on the hook for probably hundreds of thousands of dollars when and if it gets completed. Remember…… last spring the Auditor General offered an audit with no charge to the regional taxpayer and you have to ask yourself how long are we expected to fund mismanagement of this scale.
    Robert Milenkoff
    Coyle Creek

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  5. This is just stunning. I was led to believe a couple of weeks ago by one of the good guys on council that I could expect some good news soon. Not to be. I do wish all the MPPs who’ve called for action would take a stance. More than disappointing, this.

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