Auditor general’s reports highlight concerns about building safety, permafrost, radon

The office of Canada’s auditor general released two audits of the Yukon government March 6, one focused on the management of government buildings and highways and the other on government transfers to societies.

The office of Canada’s auditor general released two audits of the Yukon government March 6, one focused on the management of government buildings and highways and the other on government transfers to societies.

The report on government infrastructure found that even though the Yukon government has now inspected the condition of most of its buildings, it still isn’t using that information to make decisions about upkeep.

“These assessments have identified potentially serious deficiencies, such as mould, fire hazards, and major structural concerns,” the report reads.

But because the accuracy of that data hasn’t been verified, it can’t yet be used.

Casey Thomas, principal of the auditor general’s office, said her office recommended that the Yukon government start inspecting its buildings almost 10 years ago.

“We were concerned to learn that departments were not yet using the information because the Department of Highways and Public Works had not yet verified the accuracy of the data in the assessments,” she said during a briefing March 5.

The report also found that Highways and Public Works doesn’t always spend its maintenance budget on high-priority projects. For instance, it found that a heating fuel tank was identified as high priority for replacement in 2011, but wasn’t actually replaced until 2013, by which time it was already leaking.

Thomas said $6.6 million of the $13 million spent on maintenance in 2015-16 went to projects that were not priorities.

“We did not feel that they had made the appropriate decisions,” she said.

The report also shows that the government has only investigated three of 57 buildings identified as vulnerable to permafrost melt in 2011.

It points out that the Ross River School, which was closed in January 2015 after cracks were found in the walls, had not had a structural assessment completed since 2012.

The school is “an example of the importance of monitoring buildings that have been identified as vulnerable to permafrost degradation,” the report reads.

The audit also looks at the prevalence of unacceptable levels of radon gas in government buildings, including schools and care centres.

The radioactive gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.

High levels of radon gas were found in Jack Hulland Elementary School in 2016, the report finds. The Department of Education is in the process of installing radon meters in every school.

The report also notes that the health department has “no records to show what had been done to deal with the unacceptable radon levels in two residential care facilities.”

High radon levels have also been found in a number of private child care centres and family day homes. The auditor general’s office sent a letter to the health department in July 2016 with its concerns about the situation. The department has responded by saying it “would undertake further action to address this issue,” according to the report.

The auditor general’s second report looks at government transfers to societies that provide services in areas including mental health and athletics. It focuses specifically on funding provided by the departments of Community Services, Economic Development, and Energy, Mines and Resources to 24 Yukon societies through three funding programs: the Community Development Fund, the Yukon Recreation Advisory Committee and Yukon Sport for Life.

The report found that none of the three departments had evaluated the results of the three funding programs, and that the Department of Community Services doesn’t always require assessments that show whether projects that receive funding meet their objectives.

“A corporate evaluation policy would help departments measure, evaluate and report on performance,” Thomas said. “However, we found that the Executive Council Office had not developed such a policy.”

It also found that the policies governing transfers contain contradictions and inconsistencies.

“In our opinion, this could result in inconsistent funding decisions and the inequitable treatment of societies that request funding,” Thomas said.

The report also chastises the government for reclassifying a controversial $750,000 payment to the Mountain View Golf Club as an “other expense” in 2011. It had originally been billed as a government transfer.

Thomas said there are no policy requirements for “other expenses,” meaning there was no way for her office to audit that payment.

“There was no way for us to look at what rules were in place to be followed,” she said.

“Departments need to follow rules when spending public funds, so that they manage them with appropriate accountability and control,” the report reads.

In 2011, the Yukon government bailed out the golf course to the tune of $750,000, a deal it misleadingly framed as a payment for a land transfer.

The report also found that some transfers to societies should actually have been classified as goods and services contracts, because the government benefited from the payment.

For example, one society received $5,000 to install signs and maintain government-owned pools.

“In our opinion, contracts rather than government transfers might have been the appropriate mechanism,” the report reads.

In its written responses to the reports’ recommendations, the Yukon government has promised to address many of the issues raised. A government press conference is scheduled for March 7.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Eric Schroff, executive director with the Yukon Fish and Game Association, poses for a portrait on Feb. 20. Schroff says he is puzzled as to why the Yukon government is cutting back on funding for the association. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
YG cuts Yukon Fish and Game Association funding, tried to vet outgoing communications

Yukon Fish and Game Association says 25 per cent government funding cut will impact operations

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 27, 2020

Premier Sandy Silver during a live update on the COVID-19 situation at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 27. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Total Yukon COVID case count increased to 42 cases

Premier urges patience after national meeting on vaccine roll-out

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Most Read