NS Auditor General 20130522

Nova Scotia's Auditor General Jacques Lapointe has announced he will be retiring in the new year. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Jacques Lapointe, the man best known for exposing questionable expense claims by members of the Nova Scotia legislature, is retiring from his position as the province's auditor general in the new year.

Lapointe, who has served as the province's auditor general since March 2006, announced Thursday he will leave his position as of Jan. 31.

Many Nova Scotians first heard of Lapointe three years ago, when he released a report in February 2010 slamming the province's expense system and revealing several politicians had filed "excessive and unreasonable" claims, in part because of inadequate spending controls.

His 142-page report and a subsequent investigation by the RCMP led to criminal charges against four provincial politicians, who later pleaded guilty to fraud and other charges.

Premier Stephen McNeil said Thursday the report helped bring Lapointe's work into the public spotlight, but the auditor general will also be remembered for holding departments and cabinet ministers accountable.

"People will best remember him probably for the MLA expense stuff because that's where he would have been seen in the public more, but I think he's done lots of work other than just that in terms of leaving in place protocols that will hold the province well into the future," McNeil told reporters.

"The followup he's been doing on a consistent basis, with what they've done with those recommendations, has caused departments to take those recommendations much more seriously than they were in the past and making sure the changes are being implemented."

As the auditor general, Lapointe has been a frequent critic of government departments and the premier's office for not following through on his recommendations.

He has also raised numerous concerns about safety and health risks, as well as being critical of the way politicians have spent taxpayers' money.

Prior to his current post, Lapointe served as assistant deputy minister and chief internal auditor for the Ontario government.

McNeil said the country-wide search for a new auditor general will begin shortly and it's hoped the government will be close to filling the position by the time Lapointe retires.

"I think it's important holding the elected body to account but also holding the entire system of government to account," McNeil said.

"Ensuring that we're providing the best possible services to Nova Scotians and of course we would want the very best person available to make sure that that continues to happen."

With files from The Canadian Press