23 February 2011

Noseworthiness, redux

Sometimes you do have to wonder if anybody – let alone Auditor General John Noseworthy himself - actually reads what his office spits out.

Take, for example, the most recent report on operations in government departments.  Page after page of the report contain sentences containing random spacing that one piece of software or another has added to text as someone cut and pasted it back and forth.

Your humble e-scribbler knows the problem all too well. There’s a huge difference, though,  between someone writing in his spare time and the province’s official accounting watchdog.

But perhaps the worst part of Noseworthy’s report is the shameless massaging of numbers to make his office look way more effective than it actually is.

No, we are not talking about a problem identified in previous reports: the AG actually made up recommendations he never originally made and then claimed departments had complied with the fake ones.

This is a case of basic math problems.

Previous reports contained a total of 193 recommendations according to Noseworthy’s most recent report.  In following up on them, he reported that 89.1% “had been acted upon”.

Nearly 90%?


That’s amazing.

Until you look at the detail.

Departments and agencies only fully accepted  79 of the 193 recommendations.

That’s 41%.

Departments only partially implemented another 79.

And they didn’t implement another 21 at all.

The remainder are less than partially implemented, whatever that means.

But think about it:  Noseworthy’s success rate is not 90% as his statement implies;  it’s really only 41%. 

Government departments either gave up implementing 60% of his recommendations fully or simply refused to implement them altogether.

So if the guy massages the numbers about his own office in order to make things look better than they actually are, what might he be doing with the other numbers?

- srbp -