Rein in expenses at the Yukon Utilities Board

Rein in expenses at the Yukon Utilities Board Open letter to Mike Nixon, former minister of justice, and Dan Cable, policy director for the Department of Justice: Well over a year ago, the Utilities Consumers' Group wrote you a letter requesting informa

Open letter to Mike Nixon, former minister of justice, and Dan Cable, policy director for the Department of Justice:

Well over a year ago, the Utilities Consumers’ Group wrote you a letter requesting information of why a non-Yukoner was chosen as chair of the Yukon Utilities Board and what exactly are the extra costs of having someone living outside the territory on a board? In the meantime, this person still remains the chair of this board! And you have never given us a valid explanation on these questions.

Not long after this letter, our group filed an access-to-information request for the financial records of the utilities board regarding costs associated with the last Yukon Energy’s general rate application, as we had witnessed that this board’s costs are continually escalating. We received a convoluted package of all the board costs for that year!

After reviewing, classifying and auditing this package, we wrote first to the utilities board and quickly received a response shuffling the onus to the Department of Justice, stating they are the ones responsible for compiling all the costs associated with this board.

There appeared to be some serious variances in our audit of this record from what was charged to ratepayers in Board Order 2013-08:

* Payment of costs for board members to attend two conferences outside the Yukon;

* The lack of proper invoicing for the billing to the Alberta Utilities Commission staff for their wages and expenses;

* Appearance of excessive payment to legal counsel without any invoices attached;

* Excessive per diem meal costs and for rental of car by Alberta Utilities Commission staff while at hearing; and

* Extra costs of travel, accommodation and meals for members of the board to travel back and forth, one coming from outside of Whitehorse and the chair from outside the territory. (We now have a less costly method of communication with teleconferencing!)

To this date we have never received a response from the Department of Justice nor the minister.

We did suggest some redresses on controlling the costs of regulating the electrical utilities. In the longer term, we need to start developing a new means of regulation that is more cost efficient and modernized. We documented several concepts on this, in accompaniment with an attachment of our research paper on electricity regulatory reform in the Yukon.

In the short term we should look at alternatives to the high costs of the Alberta Utilities Commission contract for legal and consultants (i.e. do much more of this decision-making in-house) and hire a half-time executive secretary at our utilities board charged with not only the secretarial duties but separately tracking and documenting the financial records of board costs and assuring all costs charged to the ratepayers of electricity are open and accountable.

Maybe, just maybe this will get a response!

Roger Rondeau

Utilities Consumers’ Group

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