Auditor general slams Education Department

Report criticizes accounting measures

Auditor General Jacques Lapointe released his report to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly today. Photo: Jared Hochman

The auditor general had some harsh criticisms for the Education Department.

Jacques Lapointe said the department has "significant weaknesses" in ensuring student safety, how it manages contracts, and how it reports school-based funding.

The AG gave 21 recommendations, in his report released today, how the department can improve, and he found the department's response disappointing.

He said the department was defensive, and the response "all but ignores our recommendations."

"The Department of Education is failing its duty to taxpayers, as well as to large numbers of the very students it reports to serve."

Problems raised in the report

The province signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nova Scotia universities, outlining how much funding universities would get from the province from 2008-2011.

The province advanced payments from the agreement, giving universities money a year in advance.

The 2009-2010 fiscal year's payment was moved up, resulting in more than $472 million given in 2008-2009, instead of the planned $216 million. The province also included the third year of funding in the 2009-2010 budget.

Lapointe said universities have received the money they were entitled to, but the actions could potentially lead to a year with more money given than listed or confusion regarding the amount of government funding.

Lapointe also found major flaws in how the province addressed safety and contracts regarding public-private partnerships within the province's elementary and secondary school system:

  • Of the 40 school employees tested, 19 of them did not have a criminal record check done before they were hired, and three have no information of a criminal record check ever completed.As well, 25 have no record of a child abuse registry check being done, and nine more weren't checked until after being hired.
  • Some schools had contracted work out to private developers, who in turn contracted the same work back to the province - essentially getting paid to do no work.
  • Contracts in which services would be provided to the school - i.e. cleaning/repairs - Lapointe found the province would sign a contract before determining a minimum level of service.

Representatives from the Education Department did not respond for comment.

But in the report, the province said the problems the auditor general found are not, in fact, problems, just a different interpretation.

Further, it said "The Department maintains that, in fact, it simply employs an alternate and equally effective method of ensuring that standards are met."

The auditor general also highlighted other problems within the government, such as how health-care records are maintained and questionable MLA expenditures.

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