Legislation blamed for holding back information
Max Ruelokke —File Photo
The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) has taken exception to recent comments made by the province’s outgoing auditor general.
Last week, John Noseworthy told The Telegram he’s disappointed he has been unable to get access to all the information he would like to do a proper audit of the CNLOPB.
He suggested the board thinks itself as being above accountability.
"(Board officials) smile and the say the right things, but when you get in to do the work, they use proprietary information and those sorts of things in order to redact information and not provide it," Noseworthy said at the time. "They use that as a way to not give us the information that we need."
But CNLOPB chairman Max Ruelokke disagrees.
He said it is inaccurate to say Noseworthy did not have access to the board.
“We invited him in. He had sent four people in, they were here for four months conducting an audit. He had full access to the board,” Ruelokke said.
But Ruelokke said Noseworthy’s staff did not have access to information provided to the board by oil companies — which the companies deem to be proprietory — and that’s because of section 119 of the Atlantic Accord Act.
The act states companies have to approve the release of the information to any third party.
“When we asked (the companies) to do so, on behalf of the auditor general, they refused to do that. So we couldn’t release it to him,” Ruelokke said.
But Ruelokke agrees the legislation needs an update as it’s 30 years old. He said the board wrote both levels of government about a year ago about amending the act “to allow us to be more in line with what current practices are in terms of increased transparency of information.”
He said it’s important the board be as transparent as possible, and noted the boards financial affairs are included in its annual report which is tabled in both the House of Commons and the House of Assembly.
The board, Ruelokke said, is pushing the envelope as far as it can with the other information, but said ExxonMobil is currently taking the board to court over the release of an audit of the company’s operations.
“They believe we ought not to have done so, so that now is proceeding through the courts,” Ruelokke said.
He said the board, therefore, has to walk a fine line.
“It’s a very competitive business. (The companies) need security of some of their information and we respect that,” Ruelokke said.
“But there is still a lot of information that belongs in the public domain, that wouldn’t impact or impair their competitiveness. But the legislation currently prohibits us from making that available, so that’s the dilemma we’re in.”
“We’re not trying to hide anything,” he added.
Ruelokke questions why the AG has yet to release a report on the four months spent at the board’s offices in 2009.
He said the board is working with both auditor generals on an agreement which would see them be able to get information from the board on the condition that no privileged information be released publically in an audit report.