Yukon government chastised over building safety

The Auditor General's office says Yukon Highways and Public Works needs to improve some of its practices. It said the management and inspection of government buildings has been unsatisfactory.

Auditor General finds only 36 of 485 territorial buildings have been inspected

The Auditor General’s office has told the Yukon Highways and Public Works Department to tighten up some of its operations.

It said the management of government buildings has been unsatisfactory.

The Auditor General's report is part of a routine look at government operations. The latest report went back to look at how many past recommendations have been implemented over the past 10 years.

Five years ago, the territory promised to inspect all its buildings by this year, but the report found that only 36 of 485 government buildings had actually been inspected.

"They've inspected about 7.7 per cent of 485 buildings and at that rate it will take about 12 years to complete the inspections, and that's a long time not to know the condition of your buildings. So it's important, it needs to be done, and we've recommended that they do so," said Jerome Berthelette, the Assistant Auditor General.

The report says health and safety concerns require more action.

The territorial government is also still signing short-term leases for many of its buildings. The report said the territory would almost certainly save money if it moved to long-term leases.

The report also notes that those leases are all awarded without competition. The leader of Yukon's official opposition, Liz Hanson, said that's an example of careless spending.

"When you just simply renew three-year leases with the same landlords, you know it would be interesting to find out who are these landlords. Those are all public information that should be made readily available, so there's work to be done there, the taxpayer deserves assurance our money is being spent in the most effective way," said Hanson.

The government is promising to address those shortcomings.

"We have looked at some of the inspection practices and they need to be updated and we need to develop new processes. And as well when we're looking at shorter to long term leases, moving government employees around, we have a very significant impact on the community as a whole so we're developing a strategy for that," said  Cynthia Tucker, the assistant deputy minister for the Department of Highways and Public Works.

Tucker said the department has been overseeing the government's biggest construction boom ever, preventing it from dealing with some of the concerns raised in the report.

On a positive note, the Auditor General’s report gave the government mostly passing grades on a number of other improvements it has recommended over the past 10 years. The report says many problems at the Worker’s Compensation Board have been or are in the midst of being fixed.

The Department of Highways and Public Works is being praised for its work on improving management of highways and bridges.