Auditor general’s report targets oversights, lauds improvements

The auditor general's office has told the Yukon government that it isn't doing enough when it comes to building safety.

The auditor general’s office has told the Yukon government that it isn’t doing enough when it comes to building safety.

A report released yesterday indicated that the Yukon Highways and Public Works department has only inspected 36 of 485 government-owned buildings since a 2007 audit recommended that it collect up-to-date information on the condition of all properties.

It took the government about a year to complete those 36 inspections. At that rate it would take 12 years to inspect all government-owned buildings, which include schools, office complexes and warehouses.

“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, assistant auditor general.

Furthermore, the buildings that were inspected required a considerable amount of investment in repairs, including some relating to health and safety issues.

The inspections on 29 education buildings, of which 27 were schools, identified $28.4 million dollars in repairs. The reports called for $7.4 million for immediate and mandatory repairs, including for issues relating to health and safety.

Seventeen of those education buildings were found in good condition, 11 in fair condition and one in poor condition.

The government has responded to the concerns and recommendations brought forward by the report, and agrees that health and safety is a priority.

According to the report, “The Department is committed to proactively addressing health and safety concerns in government facilities and to promptly attending to high-priority repairs identified in inspections.”

A second concern brought forward by the attorney general’s report was that the government continues to rely on short-term leases, which are relatively costly compared with long-term leases or ownership.

The audit found that all the leases entered into between April 2010 and May 2011 were for a term of three years or less.

An additional issue with short-term leases is that they are not reviewed by the management board, and therefore are not subject to the same oversight as long-term leases, said Berthelette.

Furthermore, the audit chastised the government for sole-sourcing the rental agreements in almost all cases, meaning that the search for rental property was not opened up to a competitive bid.

The audit concluded the government is likely overpaying for leased office space.

“Yukon taxpayers deserve better. They deserve to see their money spent in a fair, fiscally responsible, accountable, open and competitive manner,” responded Lois Moorcroft, NDP critic for Highways and Public Works.

The department agreed with the recommendations put forward by the audit regarding the leasing of office space.

Despite these areas for improvement, the auditor general was satisfied, overall, with progress made by the Department of Highways and Public Works since 2007.

The report noted more highway construction projects are being completed on time, on budget, and at a competitive cost. It also noted improvements to the condition of highways and bridges.

The auditor general’s office, which also examined progress within the Worker’s Compensation, Health and Safety Board and the Executive Council Office, was pleased with progress made by the government on the whole.

“I think it shows that the public servants have applied their minds to the recommendations, and have put considerable effort into dealing with these recommendations,” said Berthelette.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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