Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Auditor General targets gambling, aquaculture issues

The Nova Scotia's Auditor General's office has found a serious lack of monitoring when it comes to problem gambling in the province.

Most problem gamblers do not access provincial prevention and treatment programs

Nova Scotia's Auditor General has found the province fails to monitor how well its problem gambling strategy is doing. (Beck Diefenbach/Reuters)

The Nova Scotia's Auditor General's office has found a serious lack of monitoring when it comes to problem gambling in the province.

In a just-tabled report the Auditor General's office found "no monitoring of prevention and treatment programs meet standards Health and Wellness developed."

Few Nova Scotians are accessing government programs in place to help with problem gambling, the AG found.

"Many Nova Scotians who need help with problems related to their gambling do not reach out to provincial services. Health and Wellness needs to figure out why this is and focus on getting more of those people to look for help."

The audit noted that while Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation programs to promote responsible gambling, there is little documentation to show they reach enough people.

First Nations compliance in question

In addition, agreements between the province and First Nations bands frequently lack responsible gambling requirements. There are no systems in place to make sure gambling on reserves is in compliance with provincial laws, the report said.

The document highlighted a number of deficiencies in the gambling prevention and treatment strategy:

  • Inadequate monitoring of gambling prevention and treatment services.
  • Poor monitoring of the problem gambling help line.
  • No monitoring of outcomes in gambling prevention and treatment services.
  • Too long — three years — to complete and implement improvements in marketing the problem gambling help line.
  • First Nations Bands not required to participate in responsible gambling programming.
Auditor General Michael Pickup issued a new report Wednesday on how well the Nova Scotia government is doing on its commitments. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The report also looked at government purchasing and found, overall, the departments audited followed procurement rules but 10 per cent of purchases lacked proper approval.

But the Auditor General's office found "significant weaknesses" in monitoring procurements to ensure there is compliance with government legislation and policies.

"We also identified significant weaknesses related to professional services contracts, including important clauses missing from many contracts which increase the province's risk should disagreements arise."

Procurement risks

Among the findings are:

  • Internal Services are not adequately monitoring procurement, lack of action on noncompliance.
  • Government departments are effectively monitoring professional services contracts.
  • Departments are not evaluating vendor performance.
  • Some departments did not have signed contracts.
  • Government enters contracts without dispute resolution and payment penalty clauses.
  • Government needs to assess risks of possible employee-employer relationships with contractors.

The office also looked at aquaculture monitoring and determined improvements were needed to manage risks associated with monitoring aquaculture operations in the province.

Nova Scotia Auditor General Michael Pickup said his report tabled Wednesday that gambling prevention and treatment, as well as aquaculture monitoring, are two areas of concern.

The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture doesn't have the resources in place to adequately monitor the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia, Auditor General Michael Pickup said.

"Weaknesses in its processes and information systems impact its ability to identify risks and efficiently and effectively manage and monitor the industry," he said.

Better complaints process needed

"The department does not have appropriate processes for recording and responding to complaints related to aquaculture."

The audit's findings included: 

  • Department licenses, leases and renewals issued in compliance with legislation and policy.
  • Department has significant application processing delays.
  • Information systems do not meet management's needs.
  • Supporting documentation for approved applications sometimes incomplete.
  • Operators required to monitor but department has limited ability to enforce environmental monitoring requirements.
  • Lack of appropriate complaint recording and investigation.
  • Veterinary services are provided and response to emergencies is timely.
  • No provincial regulatory requirement for disease surveillance.

The CBC's Jean Laroche was at Province House.