Auditor General Of Ontario’s Special Audit Recommendations Initiated By NPCA
A News Release from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, following a Foreword by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted May 3rd, 2019 on Niagara At Large
A Brief Foreword from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –
At a time when there is more than enough bad news out there in the world today, here is what I think many of us can embrace as a bit of good news.
After five or six years of what I would describe as ‘a long, dark journey into night’ for a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) that this veteran environment writer long viewed as one of this region’s best and most important public agencies, I see it finally making a comeback at a time when we need an agency like this the most.
I believe that I have been witnessing the re-birth of this agency for at a few months now, but it was particularly apparent this May 3rd when members of the NPCA’s board of directors and senior staff held a special meeting at the Meridian Community Centre in Pelham to hear directly from Ontario’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, outline the findings and recommendations of what turned out to be a very scorching audit she and her team completed on the NPCA’s operations over the past six or so years – an audit her office released while the agency was still in the ice cold grip of managers and board members who are mercifully not there anymore.
I am not saying here that I agree with everything that the new board has done over the past four or five months or that I believe they have accomplished enough – not yet anyway – to get to the bottom of all of the questionable activity that occurred at the NPCA over the past number of years with respect to the treatment of the staff working on the ground, the corruption of the agency’s conservation and environmental protection mandate, and the spending of millions of public tax dollars.
There is far more to be done in those areas and more to get this agency fully back on track and Niagara At Large will continue to be there to report on the hits and misses.
However, you would have to have been on another planet over the past five or six years not to notice the dramatic improvements that have taken place right up to and including the morale of the staff and the more open and accountable culture that has taken hold with a change in membership on the board and management.
Following the Auditor General’s presentation this May 3rd (Niagara At Large will have more commentary on that in the coming week – stay tuned), the NPCA’s now interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Gayle Wood, whose early career as a conservationist began at the NPCA before she went to ultimately serve as CAO with distinction at three other Conservation Authorities in the province, outlined the progress the agency has made in addressing Lysyk’s recommendations and the work that still needs to be done.
Then she concluded with some welcome words for staff of the NPCA who have weathered the worst of times at the agency.
“They are the ones that have been there through trying times,” Wood said. “They have lifted their heads up and they got the job done (and) I am so proud of this group of people and the work that they have done to date.”
Indeed, we should all wish the staff, and whoever is holding positions on the board and in management at the NPCA now and in the future, the very best because at a time when we face so many environmental challenges in this region and this world, we need a Conservation Authority that is dedicated to doing its best to address those challenges more than we possibly ever have before.
Again, Niagara At Large will post more news and commentary coming out of this May 3rd meeting of the NPCA in the days ahead. Stay Tuned.
For now, here is a media release the NPCA circulated following the Friday, May 3rd session with Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk –
Pelham, Ontario – At today’s (Friday, May 3rd) Full Authority Meeting, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) welcomed Auditor General of Ontario, Bonnie Lysyk, to review her recommendations with the Interim Board of Directors.
Ms. Lysyk’s office was engaged to perform a Special Audit of the NPCA, requested by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts under Section 17 of the Auditor General Act. The audit began in October 2017 and concluded in July 2018, resulting in 24 recommendations.
“We were pleased to update the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario, the Board of Directors, and members of the public, on the progress made by the NPCA,” said Interim CAO, Gayle Wood.
“In response to the recommendations, all have been initiated and the majority will be completed by the end of the year.”
- Recommendation #6:The Governance Committee reviewed and clarified per diems in February 2019. Per diem and honorarium policies have been updated and outlined in Administrative By-Law. Board members will receive one per diem per day, if attending an NPCA meeting, despite the number of meetings attended.
- Recommendation #7:The NPCA has completed flood plain mapping for 42 per cent of the watershed. Mapping is currently underway for the Welland River, nine watercourses in Grimsby and Lincoln, and two in St. Catharines. A five-year capital forecast for the remaining 58 per cent of mapping to be completed will be placed in the 2020 budget.
- Recommendation #9:The NPCA Policy for the Administration of Ontario Regulation 155/06 and The Planning Act document was updated and became effective in November 2018. NPCA policies are consistent with Section 3. 1 of the Provincial Policy Statement.
- Recommendation #10: An organizational review was completed and approved by the Board on April 17, 2019. Staff alignments follow the NPCA’s Strategic Plan 2018-2021 and a staffing/skills analysis will be completed as part of a Human Resources Plan. Staffing gaps identified in the review will be considered in relation to 2020 funding requests.
- Recommendation #11:A Supervisor of Permits and Compliance was hired in March 2019. This Supervisor has three staff members addressing both regulatory and forestry violations. Three of four compliance staff have received Level 1 Conservation Ontario Compliance training.
- Recommendation #13:A re-vitalized Restoration Program was approved by the Board of Directors on April 17, 2019. The new program includes a vision, principles, goals, and is based on the Conservation Authorities Act mandate and the NPCA Strategic Plan.
- Recommendation #17:HR Policy and Recruitment Procedures are scheduled for refinement. This will include outlining steps and documentation process to support hiring decisions, promotion policies, and outlining what constitutes a conflict of interest.
Out of the 24 recommendations, six rest the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The NPCA will work with its umbrella organization, Conservation Ontario, to have an input into the Ministry’s review to modernize conservation authority operations and focus conservation authority’s development permits on the protection of people and property.
“A very important task was undertaken by the previous Board of Directors, to work with the Auditor General on her Special Audit of the NPCA,” added Board Chair, Dave Bylsma. “With 16 of the 18 members being new to this term, it was beneficial to not only have the opportunity to hear about the progress that has been made, but also chart and plot a vision for the remainder of our term.”
For more information about the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, please visit www.npca.ca.
The NPCA manages the impact of human activities, urban growth, and rural activities on the Niagara Peninsula watershed with programs and services that help keep people and their property safe from flooding and erosion, while retaining the safety of our drinking water.
NPCA manages 41 Conservation Areas, including Ball’s Falls, Binbrook, Long Beach and Chippawa Creek. These lands are held in public trust for recreation, heritage preservation, conservation, and education. NPCA’s Conservation Areas marry nature, culture and adventure to create limitless opportunities for discovery.
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