12 June 2015

Small things and big differences #nlpoli

The Auditor General delivered his annual report on some of the provincial government’s programs and services on Wednesday.

We learned, among other things that provincial government consulting contracts have gone horrendously beyond the amount originally budgeted.  The worst case was a contract – presumably related to the Corner Brook hospital  - that wound up  being 780% beyond the original budget. 

One of the big culprits in the escalating costs were change orders.  Those are, as the name suggests, changes to the original contract required because of changes made by the government. That was the case both in capital works contracts that involved changes to construction but in service contracts as well.

Most of the contracts for consulting service weren’t let according to government’s own rules.  The Auditor General found that external “consultants were not acquired in accordance with the Guidelines Covering the Hiring of External Consultants and as a result, they were not hired competitively through an open, fair, and transparent procurement process.”

That’s a pretty damning indictment.

Final decisions on contracts like these are typically made by the minister of the department based on a list compiled by officials. The fact that so many of the contracts are way over budget and otherwise didn’t follow government’s rules suggests very strongly that the system currently in place is far more politicised than it has been. 

That ties neatly with another observation made here before:  there is a correlation between the massive increase in government spending on capital works and the massive increase in political contributions by construction companies to the provincial Conservative party.

There’s another observation by the Auditor General that goes along with this bit to show the lax management practices within the provincial government.  The AG reviewed 14 programs that give public money to private companies.  “Of the 14 programs we reviewed, 10 programs did not have performance measures in place to assess program goals and objectives.”   Half of the programs didn’t even have documented program objectives.

There’s absolutely no surprise in this.  Your humble e-scribbler has been pointing out for years that all these government “strategies” don’t have goals, objectives, targets or anything else that you could use to measure progress, let alone success.

Little things matter.

They add up to a multi-billion dollar deficit and a record amount of public debt, with a lot more on the way.