Posts Tagged ‘G8

About that Summit spending

- June 10th, 2011
g20

Photo taken on the Friday of the G20 Summit. Toronto's University Avenue at 5:30pm. Rush hour and a ghost town. PHOTO: Brian Lilley

Believe it or not there is good and bad Auditor General’s report into spending on the G8 and G20 Summits in Muskoka and Toronto last year.

On the good news side, the summits cost a heck of a lot less than expected. More on that in a moment. On the downside, some of the money appears to have been sued as a slush fund.

There can be no denying that Tony Clement and John Baird didn’t follow the right protocols, didn’t fill out proper paperwork, did not give Canadians the transparency they promised.

The $50 million legacy fund for the G8 funded project handpicked by Clement and approved by Baird. The Tories could claim, and in fact John Baird did claim, that “not a penny went missing.” We won’t know however because there is no way to check, no paperwork.

Tony Clement and John Baird could have actually run the cleanest G8 legacy fund the world will ever see and we still won’t know. There isn’t enough paperwork to know.

This is unacceptable and not what Canadians expect from the man, Baird, who helped develop the Federal Accountability Act in response to the sponsorship scandal. Canadians deserve better and should demand better.

Strangely, this poor handling handling of public money could have been a major election issue. Now retired Auditor General Sheila Fraser was supposed to release this report quite a while ago now but that was put off due to the election. Audits are tabled with Parliament and can only be released when Parliament is sitting.

While the Conservatives has spent far too much over the last five years the opposition parties have been nearly absent on holding the government to account on spending. They seem to view their job as getting elected rather than guarding the public purse.

Now as for saving the public money, these summits were supposed to have cost more than $1.1 billion. The actual cost is $664 million.

That’s right, the summits cost hundreds of millions of dollars less than expected. You won’t find that in The Toronto Star’s main story on the issue and CBC barely mentions it in passing.

It doesn’t excuse the huge problems with the $50 million fund but in a system where governments are over budget on just about everything, don’t you think saving hundreds of millions deserves at least as much coverage as having a dodgy record on how $50 million was spent?

I’d say so.

Bryn Weese nails it for Sun. He leads with the problems with the legacy fund but then also details why the government didn’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars they were expected to.

As for the summit funding, seven different requests were made to Parliament over two years from 14 different departments, and since the plans kept changing, it meant department estimates were rarely accurate.

In fact, although Parliament ultimately approved $1.1 billion for the two summits, it appears the true costs will be closer to $664 million, or slightly more than half.
“Because of the short timeframe to prepare for the summits, departments had to prepare budgets quickly, often with limited information,” Wiersema said in the statement.

“As a result, the funding requests significantly overestimated the amounts needed.”

For example, the RCMP missed the mark by $25 million on how much their hotel rooms in Toronto would cost. Instead of $600 per night, they were $200. Likewise, the budgeted $14 million in hotel rooms for the RCMP in Huntsville were never booked because of a change in plans. Originally, the RCMP budgeted $16 million to buy portable radios, but they actually only cost $5 million.

Likewise, National Defence budgeted for $11 million to use commercial aircraft, but were able to use their own planes most of the time, and used virtually none of the $11 million.

But, when it came to the summit spending, the auditor general found the money was spent on the intended purposes, despite Parliament being “poorly informed” about how much money was being requested and for what.