News release

Auditor General Issues Semi-annual Report

Failure to follow school bus safety procedures, poor protection of the environment, and questionable handling of vaccines were among the items that caught the attention of the auditor general last year and drew his critical comment in a report issued today, Feb. 27.

The semi-annual report released by Auditor General Jacques Lapointe contains findings of audits conducted in the last half of 2007 and early 2008.

The report contains 55 recommendations to correct problems and improve government operations. The recommendations relate to the South Shore Regional School Board, the departments of Environment and Labour, Health Promotion and Protection, and Finance, and government-wide computer technology practices.

Mr. Lapointe said the report also draws attention to government's inadequate response to recommendations made in 2004 and 2005. During those years, a total of 272 recommendations were made but to date, only 39 per cent have been implemented.

"The Office of the Auditor General has a primary goal: to make government work better for Nova Scotians," said Mr. Lapointe. "We do that by identifying problems in government operations, bringing those problems to light, and recommending solutions."

He said it is disappointing and disconcerting that the government's action on those recommendations falls so far short.

"I want to reiterate that this office focuses its attention on public programs and services that have a significant impact on the lives of Nova Scotians," said Mr. Lapointe. "Failure of those programs and services carries significant risk. We believe it is reasonable to expect a more timely, complete and, in some cases, a more urgent response from government to correct those deficiencies."

A number of the recommendations in the report are for the South Shore Regional School Board. An audit of practices related to the health and safety of students discovered that certain policies and practices designed to minimize risk to students are not being followed. The auditor general's office focused attention on school bus safety practices because 91 per cent of the region's 8,100 students are bused.

The report cites the failure to carry out required fire and safety drills as well as maintenance issues that required buses to be taken out of service until repairs could be made. The report also says the board does not adequately screen employees through criminal record and child abuse checks.

The audit of the Department of Health Promotion and Protection identified a number of weaknesses in the management of disease outbreaks, based largely on the experience of last year's mumps outbreak. It found that there is no effective immunization registry to track individuals' vaccination histories. Also, vaccines are not consistently monitored to ensure they are maintained at the right temperature to remain effective.

A performance audit was done for the environmental monitoring and compliance division of the Department of Environment and Labour. It found a number of improvements are needed to ensure environmental protection laws are followed with respect to industrial sites, pits and quarries, the management of dangerous goods, and other environmentally sensitive areas. There were cases where work approvals were given when they should not have been, cases of no or inadequate inspections, and poor follow-up to see that deficiencies had been corrected.

The auditor general's report also expresses concern over the control of computer operations in the government of Nova Scotia. These operations involve 480 staff and more than $88 million in annual budget. The audit left Mr. Lapointe asking the question, "Who is in charge of computer operations?"

On a positive note, the auditor general commended the Department of Finance for improving the quality and timeliness of its financial reports.

The full report is available on the auditor general's website at www.gov.ns.ca/audg or by contacting the office at (902)424-4108 or oaginfo@gov.ns.ca .

FOR BROADCAST USE:

School bus safety procedures, protection of the environment, and handling of vaccines were among the items that caught the attention of the auditor general last year and drew comment in a report issued today (February 27th).

The semi-annual report released by Auditor General Jacques Lapointe contains findings of audits conducted in the last half of 2007 and early 2008.

The report contains 55 recommendations to correct problems and improve government operations.

They relate to the South Shore Regional School Board, the departments of Environment and Labour, Health Promotion and Protection, and Finance, and government-wide computer technology practices.

Mr. Lapointe says the auditor general's primary goal is to make government work better for Nova Scotians by identifying problems in operations, bringing those problems to light, and recommending solutions.

He also expressed disappointment that government has not acted more quickly on recommendations from 2004 and 2005.

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Media Contact:

Jacques Lapointe
Auditor General 902-424-4046 E-mail: