14 March 2008

AG office shuts door to access request

The Office of the Auditor General has declined a request for a copy of a legal opinion cited by Auditor General John Noseworthy in support of his demand to audit the board regulating the province's offshore industry.

The official response stated that, under the Auditor General Act, "all information related to our work is confidential and cannot be released."

Under the Auditor General Act, working papers related to specific audits are confidential. Officials are also required to keep confidential information obtained in the conduct of their work.

The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) is covered by the province's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act under changes made in the Green bill. The OAG's sweeping definition of what is confidential could effectively keep the operations of the Auditor General's office from public scrutiny despite the clear intention of the House of Assembly and Chief Justice Derek Green.

Bond Papers requested a copy of the legal opinion since it is not an audit working paper but is central to a controversy over the offshore board. A second request, citing sections of the Auditor General Act and the access to information statute received the same response, namely that "all information related to our work" cannot be released.

The next step is to appeal the matter to the province's information commissioner, Ed Ring.

When he released his report claiming to have been blocked from an auditor of the offshore regulator, Noseworthy said he should be given access "in the spirit of openness, accountability, transparency."

“I’m only trying to get some information here that I think the assembly should have. And, yet, the door is shut, and I really don’t know if there’s a good reason why. Why would they not want me to come in?”