Politicians on all sides of the provincial House are busy campaigning for the May 14 election, even though the official election period does not begin until late this month.
Meanwhile, over in Victoria, at least one office hasn’t turned out the lights while waiting for voters’ decision. The office of the auditor-general, which until late May is under the auspices of outgoing auditor-general John Doyle, is working harder than ever to let B.C. residents know how well or poorly government agencies have been spending their tax dollars.
In recent weeks, Doyle has issued reports on carbon credits, the process used to select SkyTrain for the Evergreen Line transit extension, governance of school districts, the air ambulance service and financial management within the legislature.
His office has also done a follow-up report, looking at a number of past audits and seeing how various organizations are doing in meeting auditor-general recommendations. One of these is School District 35, which became involved with the auditor-general after it reported a $13 million accumulated debt which arose from poor financial management in a number of areas.
Doyle’s office is doing so much right now because he wants to have outstanding matters cleared off his desk, as he returns to his native Australia to take a similar job in Victoria. However, his look at so many areas of government spending is commendable, for it highlights a very important part of governance that is frequently ignored by politicians, commentators and the public.
Politicians promise new programs, and certain groups and individuals apply pressure for these programs. But when they are put in place, is the money used to run them spent wisely? In the case of Pacific Carbon Trust, it seems almost certain that is not the case. The carbon trust has skimmed operating money from schools and hospitals for no good purpose.
We all pay a lot of taxes. Many of the programs which government runs are reasonably efficient, but others are not, and there is insufficient accountability in the spending of tax dollars. Thankfully, the auditor-general is still asking hard questions, checking over the books and issuing tough and controversial reports.
He’s looking out for taxpayers. Whether anyone else is remains to be seen.