TORONTO, Dec. 12, 2012 /CNW/ - In difficult economic times, one of the
biggest challenges governments face is to find more efficient and
cost-effective ways of doing things while continuing to offer the
public the best possible service for the money, Auditor General Jim
McCarter said today on the release of his 2012 Annual Report.
"This Report comes at a time when the industrialized world is struggling
with the twin challenges of an economic slowdown and high debt, issues
that also confront Ontario," McCarter said. "So in a number of this
year's value-for-money audits, we paid particular attention to areas
where efficiencies and cost savings in government operations may be
Examples in the 2012 Annual Report include:
The number of Crown attorneys has more than doubled over the last two
decades, but the total number of criminal charges Crown attorneys
handle in a year has barely changed at all. The Ministry of the
Attorney General says that cases today require more time, but it has
little available data to assess Crown attorneys' relative workloads or
the way cases are being handled across the province.
Total OPP expenditures net of recoveries from municipalities rose 27%
over the last five years, but crime rates across Canada over the last
two decades have dropped more than 40% and calls to the OPP for service
have remained about the same since 2005. The OPP needs to pay more
attention to improving its staff deployment practices and better
controlling costs such as overtime.
Total expenditures of the Youth Justice Services Program of the Ministry
of Children and Youth Services increased by more than 25% in the five
years to 2010/11—even though the number of youths served increased by
just 4% over the same period. The number of staff at Ministry-operated
secure detention facilities has increased by 50%, yet the average youth
population in these facilities has decreased by 37%, indicating that
some efficiencies in these areas may be possible.
Ontario's $741-million diabetes strategy has had mixed results. While
availability of care for people with diabetes has definitely improved,
many services were underused and others duplicated. We also found that
just 3% of funding was allocated to prevention, despite the fact that
the most prevalent form of diabetes is largely preventable through
There are about 800 privately owned independent health facilities that
primarily provide diagnostic services such as x-rays, ultrasounds and
CT scans, and send the bill to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term
Care. The Ministry should review these billings for unusual patterns
and ensure the fees it pays out correspond to the actual costs of
providing the services. As well, the Ministry and the Canadian
Association of Radiologists estimate that as many as 20% to 30% of
diagnostic tests being done may provide little useful information or be
Many people are in hospital longer than necessary while they wait for a
long-term-care bed—even though this is detrimental to their health,
more expensive than community-based alternatives such as home care or
placement in a long-term-care home, and limits the availability of
hospital beds for other patients with more complex health-care needs.
However, one in five people waiting in hospital for a long-term-care
bed had applied to only one long-term-care home, even though their
selected home may have a long wait list.
Controlling the costs of several multi-million-dollar projects that are
part of Metrolinx's Regional Transportation Plan, including the Presto
fare-card system, has proven difficult. We found that by the time
Metrolinx's Presto fare card is fully developed, it will be among the
more expensive fare-card systems in the world, with a potential total
cost of more than $700 million. And a one-fare integrated transit
system within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area—a key reason for
developing the card—is still not in place.
The Ministry of Finance's Collections Branch, responsible for collecting
unpaid tax, estimated that as of last March, it may need to write off
about $1.4 billion of the $2.4 billion in outstanding taxes. We found
that more timely and aggressive collection action must be taken.
It is crucial for government to ensure that public services are being
delivered as cost effectively as possible. But getting the best
possible level of services for the money that is spent is equally
important. Examples in the 2012 Annual Report relating to this issue include:
Cancer Care Ontario, the provincial agency responsible for co-ordinating
and overseeing cancer screening services, established three good
programs for breast, colorectal and cervical cancers. However, the
number of people undergoing screening, especially among people
considered to be at higher risk for cancer, needs to be increased.
Drive Clean, the mandatory vehicle-emissions testing program, was
launched in 1999. Since then, however, vehicle emissions have declined
considerably and are no longer among the major domestic contributors to
smog in Ontario. And cleaner fuels and improved vehicle
emissions-control systems have had a greater impact on this decline
than Drive Clean has.
The Ministry of Education has not adequately overseen its six-year-old
plan to close the gap between the percentage of the general Ontario
population who graduate from high school and the percentage of
Aboriginal people who do so. The most recent data suggests that 45% of
Aboriginal students in grade 10 are on track to graduate, compared to
74% for the general population.
We found that Ontario universities generally had good processes in place
to allow undergraduate students to evaluate their professors and
courses. But the three universities we visited need to make better use
of this good information to assess the overall quality of undergraduate
teaching and should make more of this information available to students
to help them in their course selections.
The Estimates hearings process that the Legislature uses to review the
government's $120-billion-a-year spending plans could be improved.
However, the hearings do enhance accountability by offering MPPs the
only real opportunity outside of Question Period to ask ministers about
the policies and expenditures of their ministries.
SOURCE: Office of the Auditor General of Ontario
For further information:
For more information and to view the full 2012 Annual Report, please visit www.auditor.on.ca