Finance Minister Karen Casey says she will wait for the results of an auditor general's investigation of the IWK Health Centre before deciding if changes need to be made to the way government agencies report CEO expenses.
Michael Pickup announced Tuesday his office would examine the books and practices of the Halifax hospital following revelations that former CEO Tracy Kitch expensed thousands of dollars in personal charges to the hospital.
A CBC News investigation also showed Kitch and CFO Stephen D'Arcy, who is now on paid leave, worked to downplay her expenses and D'Arcy withheld the release of emails about that process.
'Huge challenge' to review all reports
Government agencies and Crown corporations started being required to post CEO expenses online in January, a recommendation Pickup first made in 2015. But other than showing to Finance Department officials that the work is complete and posted on time, oversight of the process rests with the respective agencies.
Casey said the government is willing to do "whatever we can to ensure that the public has confidence in the expense of their dollars," but the Liberals will wait for Pickup to complete his work.
It would be "a huge challenge and not something we're considering at this point" to have a single government department review all the reports, said Casey.
Baillie wants more oversight
Tory Leader Jamie Baillie said the government needs to add more teeth to the reporting directive and that means an added level of oversight from the government. He said the Liberals need to find a way to give the Finance Department the tools it needs to do the work.
"Quite frankly, their size is not the issue. This is a government that has turned a blind eye to these things, that hides behind a volunteer board," Baillie said.
"What the government needs to understand is they cannot delegate accountability for taxpayers' money to someone else. They have to stay on top of these things. It's not enough to just know that a report got filed. They need to make sure the report is accurate."
A call for spot audits
NDP Leader Gary Burrill agreed there should be some deeper level of oversight from the Finance Department.
It might not be realistic to look at every single report that's coming in, he said, but regular and random spot audits would be a good way of letting agencies know the government is watching, while also helping to preserve public confidence.
That's how it's done with food services and workplace safety, Burrill noted.
"Where they find some evidence of a little smoke, go make sure there's no fire."
Faith in board members
Casey said the government believes boards are providing the necessary oversight and controls, notwithstanding the situation at the IWK.
Still, she said, the government must ensure public confidence.
"We're not closing the door to anything, but we are right now waiting for the report from the auditor general on this one specifically."