Auditor General recommends changes to help Ontario farmers



    TORONTO, July 15 /CNW/ - Auditor General Jim McCarter today delivered a
special report requested by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural
Affairs on AgriCorp and its delivery of farm support programs.
    "Over the past few years, AgriCorp has had difficulty coping with the
substantial increase in the number of farm support programs and a doubling of
the total payments made to farmers," McCarter said. "This has affected
AgriCorp's ability to deliver farm support programs in an efficient, effective
and transparent manner."
    The audit focused on the largest support program, the Canadian
Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program. The audit found that farmers
have difficulty estimating potential payments and understanding how AgriCorp
calculates payments. Also, AgriCorp's turnaround time for processing payments
is too long, in part because its computer system is inadequate. There is also
little assurance that overpayments are being appropriately recovered, and
AgriCorp's own verification process is detecting a significant number of
errors in previous years' payments.
    McCarter made a number of operational recommendations including the need
for AgriCorp and the ministry to assess whether farm support programs are
achieving their intended purpose.
    The Minister also asked for advice on whether AgriCorp should continue to
deliver the CAIS program or transfer administration to the federal government.
    "Although AgriCorp has challenges to overcome, allowing it to continue to
deliver the CAIS program does have two main benefits - potentially lower
administrative costs and a greater flexibility to respond to the unique needs
of Ontario farmers," McCarter said.
    Created in 1996, AgriCorp is a Crown Agency under the Ministry of
Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs responsible for delivering farm support
programs. Last fiscal year, AgriCorp paid out $468 million to Ontario farmers
under various farm-related support programs. These include federal-provincial
programs and other Ontario-only initiatives.

    The Office of the Auditor General of Ontario is independent of government
and its administration. It provides information and advice that assists the
Legislative Assembly in holding the government accountable for its spending of
public funds.
    To read the special report and for more information on the Office of the
Auditor General, visit www.auditor.on.ca.
    Copies of the report are available by calling (416) 327-2381.





For further information:

For further information: Tiina Randoja, Communications, (416) 327-2351;
Jim McCarter, Auditor General, (416) 327-1326


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