The NDP has misrepresented B.C.’s provincial finances by under-reporting revenue by $6 billion, the provincial auditor general reported Oct. 26.
However, stressed Auditor General Michael Pickup, the finding does not necessarily mean money is unacccounted for or has somehow been misused.
“It would be nice if the government acted on this and fixed this accounting issue,” Pickup said.
The finding is part of the Office of the Auditor General’s qualified audit opinion on the government's summary financial statements.
What a qualification means is that the office disagrees with the government's presentation of its financial accounts. That disagreement is around the office’s report that those statements are not presented using public sector generally accepted accounting principles, Pickup said.
"It is important for government to record revenue according to these principles to create consistency in financial reporting and allow the financial statements of the province to be more easily compared with most other Canadian jurisdictions. By under-reporting revenues by $6 billion, the government's summary financial statements do not give a clear picture of the province's financial position."
The audits cover 160 organizations including ministries, Crown organizations, post-secondary institutions, school districts and health authorities – the biggest audit in the province.
The report also noted $550 million in accounting errors that need to be corrected by government.
“Simply put, this means that without the audit, there would have been errors significantly affecting the financial statements,” the office said in a news release.
Pickup said B.C’s government spent $10.08 billion on the COVID-19 pandemic in fiscal year 2020-21 over several benefit programs. He said he was pleased to hear those programs would be audited.
Those programs include the BC Emergency Benefit for Workers program, BC Recovery Benefit for families and individuals and the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant.
The audit also resulted in management letters covering areas where auditors identified programs that could strengthen or streamline their internal controls and business practices.
Insights into key audit matters – the issues of most significance to the audit – include consideration of which organizations should be included in government's summary financial statements, personal income tax revenue estimates and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the summary financial statements.
The report also discusses the $850 million sale of Vancouver’s St. Paul's Hospital, a $66 million write-off for personal protective equipment and the government's executive salary freeze directive for Crown organizations.
B.C.’s government combines the financial information of all the entities within its control and produces a consolidated set of financial statements, called the summary financial statements, at the end of every fiscal year.