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Nova Scotia auditor's report card zeroes in on NSHA for failing to implement recommendations


Nova Scotia auditor general Michael Pickup reports the province failed to fulfil 32 of 113 recommendations stemming from previous audits of 18 government departments conducted in 2015 and 2016. - Eric Wynne / File
Nova Scotia auditor general Michael Pickup reports the province failed to fulfil 32 of 113 recommendations stemming from previous audits of 18 government departments conducted in 2015 and 2016. - Eric Wynne / File

The province continues to fall short of addressing serious shortcomings in the health-care system, managing critical infrastructure and safety risks at homes for special care, says the province’s auditor general report card released Tuesday.

Auditor general Michael Pickup found the province failed to fulfil 32 of 113 recommendations stemming from previous audits of 18 government departments conducted in 2015 and 2016. Only 46 per cent of recommendations from 2016 have been completed, falling well short of Pickup’s set target completion rate of at least 80 per cent after two years.

“This falls well below what I believe is a reasonable target of 80 per cent completion, when in fact government has generally completed 100 per cent of those recommendations and has had two years to implement them,” said Pickup.

“Government made commitments to Nova Scotians to complete these recommendations to address the known risks that they represent."

NSHA, Department of Health

The report zeroed in on Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Department of Health, showing they collectively failed to deliver on 11 of 20 recommendations. The province continues to fall short in communicating to Nova Scotians about what they can expect from their health-care system, says the report.

“This includes determining and communicating which services will be delivered in hospital and in other locations, and what level of service to expect in communities across the province.”

The 34-page document said the province continues to neglect issues with QEII Health Sciences Centre and how services at the facility can be effectively provided through new or existing sites “by preparing a detailed plan for how and where services will be offered and communicating this to Nova Scotians.”

The Department of Health completed only one of four recommendations dealing with hospital capacity and looking at whether there are too many hospitals in the province for “the most efficient and effective approach to providing health care for Nova Scotians.”

The department has also failed to address several recommendations dealing with homes for special care, particularly establishing and monitoring a system to efficiently and effectively track licensing and inspections of facilities. The department has yet to establishing clear responsibilities and accountability “for service provider performance and related reporting requirements and ensure these activities are carried out,” says the report.

The departments of Health and Community Services have not followed through with a plan to address future demand for special-care homes and a process for monitoring and evaluating long-term sustainability.

EMO, education, and Aboriginal Affairs

The Emergency Management Office is also lagging on recommendations to develop and execute a strategy for implementing the National Strategy and Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure in the province, according to the report. The office has yet to ensure all critical infrastructure owned by the province is identified.

“By not completing these recommendations, there is a risk that the Emergency Management Office is not adequately identifying and mitigating risks to critical infrastructure within the province,” said the report.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development came under scrutiny for not updating its licensed family home daycare inspection policy. “This should include mechanisms for the department to verify the inspection information reported by family home day care agencies,” says the report. Chignecto-Central, Halifax and Strait regional centres for education have yet to ensure sufficient data is collected to assess student progress in both numeracy and literacy.

The auditor general also noted that the Department of Internal Services has neglected to tighten up the province’s tenders program by not requiring vendor evaluations be completed at the end of contracts for the purpose of being reviewed for future procurement decisions. The report also calls on the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture to identify specific fish diseases for monitoring and establish an appropriate reporting process from aquaculture operators.

The province isn’t doing enough for species at risk in Nova Scotia either, said the report. Department of Lands and Forestry has failed to complete all five recommendations dealing with species at risk. Those recommendations include developing and reviewing recovery and management plans for species at risk, as required under the Endangered Species Act as well as “reviewing all species listed in the Endangered Species Regulations and amend or develop appropriate practices, as guided by recovery plans, to protect their habitat.”

The auditor general also took aim at the Office of Aboriginal Affairs for failing to complete just one recommendation from the 2015 audit, calling on staff to work with First Nations Bands to see the objectives of responsible gambling are reflected in the operation of First Nations gambling venues.

“The negotiation of the new First Nations gaming agreements should include all relevant provincial government stakeholders and clearly outline a process to monitor compliance with agreement terms and conditions,” stated the report.

The report noted seven government departments completed over 80 per cent of recommendations: the Executive Council Office, Finance and Treasury Board, Housing Nova Scotia, Department of Justice, Municipal Affairs, Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

Pickup also credited the province for completing 87 percent of the recommendations from the 2015 audits, but pointed out attention needs to be given “to the fact only 46 per cent of the recommendations from 2016 have been completed. “

"This follow-up report is one tool to assist the public accounts committee, the House of Assembly, and the citizens of Nova Scotia in holding government accountable,” said Pickup. “Organizations with lower completion rates and outstanding recommendations need to be accountable to Nova Scotians to deliver on their promises to improve government.”

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