Newfoundland and Labrador's acting auditor general is criticizing the provincial government and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board for not sharing information with his office.
Acting Auditor General Wayne Loveys released his 2011 Annual Report focusing on the province's $5-billion infrastructure strategy and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, among other items.
"We contacted the five [provincial government] departments which had the largest budgeted expenditures related to infrastructure for the 2010-2011 fiscal year ... Transportation and Works; Health and Community Services; Education; Municipal Affairs; and Justice," wrote Loveys in his report.
"It soon became apparent that we would not be receiving all the information required to complete our review. In particular the department of Health and the Department of Justice expressed significant concern with providing the requested information."
Loveys has filed a formal complaint with the house of assembly citing a "denial of access" to information.
The government told Loveys that the documents he wanted to see were exempt from audit because they would disclose cabinet deliberations.
Loveys disputes that, saying the government is applying a much broader definition of cabinet secrecy "than has been seen in recent memory."
Liberal Opposition Leader Dwight Ball responded Wednesday that it’s outrageous that the provincial government has refused to give the auditor general information about its infrastructure strategy.
"The auditor general has discovered that the government has no formal strategy, and to make matters worse, they have refused to release any information on the issue," said Ball in a news release.
He said the provincial government is setting a dangerous precedent by denying the auditor general access to information.
"This government has proven that they are the most secretive administration in the history of our province," said Ball. "To deny access by the auditor general is a direct insult to democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador. Not only has the Premier closed the house of assembly, shutting out the people’s voice, she is now removing any checks and balances by the auditor general on her government."
The provincial finance minister also responded to the auditor general's report Wednesday afternoon.
"We appreciate the work that the Auditor General does on behalf of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in providing insight on how well the government is managing the resources available to us," said Minister Tom Marshall in a news release.
"We will carefully review all the recommendations contained in this report. Using the public’s tax dollars as effectively as possible has always been a top priority for us and will remain as a key focus in the future."
C-NLOPB refusal of access
Loveys report said he was refused access to information from the C-NLOPB, a federal-provincial body that regulates the province's offshore oil industry.
Lovey said he tried to continue the work former Auditor General John Noseworty began in 2008, when he notified the C-NLOPB that he was planning a review of the operations of the board.
"This has been a lengthy and often frustrating process," said Loveys.
Loveys said he has now abandon plans to review the C-NLOPB.
"I cannot accept the C-NLOPB's condition that they will provide unrestricted access to what they deem to be privileged information, only if I agree not to report any findings related to that information ... I have, therefore, decided not to proceed with the planned review."