New Brunswick

Auditor general says lack of funding impedes her work, independence

New Brunswick's auditor general says a lack of funding for her office is curtailing her ability to fulfil her mandate and eroding her office's independence.

Kim MacPherson says process designed to protect taxpayers is failing

Auditor General Kim MacPherson told reporters she has a long to-do list of audits, including the Medavie extramural contract and Cannabis NB, but is 'not even touching the tip of the iceberg' because she doesn't have enough staff. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

New Brunswick's auditor general says a lack of funding for her office is curtailing her ability to fulfil her mandate and eroding her office's independence.

Kim MacPherson says underfunding has been a "chronic" issue but has now reached a "critical point," given "constant" government expansions.

"I just want New Brunswickers to know if there's an expectation that we are doing the job we should be in terms of holding the government accountable and reporting on how they are managing the public resources, we're barely scratching the surface," she said Tuesday, when she released Volume 1 of her report.

MacPherson's budget of $2.3 million for 2018-19 is $125,000 more than the previous year, but still the smallest of any auditor general's office in Canada, except for P.E.I.

She said she needs at least $1 million more to equalize the New Brunswick budget for the auditor general to those of other provinces and is seeking a $250,000 increase in each of the next four years.

The process that is supposed to protect the interests of taxpayers and hold government to account for management of public resources is failing.- Kim MacPherson, auditor general

As it stands, only $2.80 per resident goes to fund the auditor general's office in New Brunswick. By comparison, Nova Scotians contribute $4.06 to theirs, and in Newfoundland, residents pay $7.36.

"I'm hopeful in what I've tabled today, in the fall, after the election, it's going to equate to an increase in my office," she said, noting her counterpart in Nova Scotia just received an eight per cent increase of $300,000.

'Many' audits not getting done

MacPherson stressed her office is the only one with the authority and access to examine government, outside the justice system.

But because the government has effective control of her budget, it also limits how much work her office can do.

"The process that is supposed to protect the interests of taxpayers and hold government to account for management of public resources is failing," a summary of the report states.

"Many" departments and Crown corporations have not had any performance audits for the past five years, said MacPherson.

In addition, new Crown corporations and new third-party contracts to provide government services, such as Cannabis NB and Medavie's extramural services, are not getting audited.

MacPherson said she can't afford to hire experts, such as lawyers, either.

"When we get into issues of access of things that could be deemed cabinet privilege or solicitor client privilege, I don't have the resources to get into those in any depth unlike my auditor general colleagues across the country, many of which have lawyers on staff," she said.

"Whenever we have a legal issue, it's me against the Department of Justice. That's just some of my world and I need it to be fixed."

With files from Robert Jones

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