Hearing runs smoothly, but turbulence could be ahead

James McLeod
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Public Accounts Committee bullish on Western Health response to AG

On Wednesday morning, politicians in the House of Assembly proved that when everything is going right, their job is pretty boring to watch.

Members of the Public Accounts Committee were holding a hearing on findings from the auditor general about accounting irregularities at Western Health, but MHAs from all three parties seemed to spend a fair bit of time congratulating health authority officials on a job well done.

Committee chairman Jim Bennett said Western Health has responded so well to the auditor general’s findings that the committee really didn’t need to hold the hearings.

“They’ve done everything right, in my view, to make us unnecessary,” Bennett said. “The thing is, we don’t know that we’re unnecessary until they come here.”

It’s been about a year and a half since the Public Accounts Committee was reconstituted after years of being moribund.

Its job is to scrutinize the findings of the auditor general and call officials into the House of Assembly when necessary.

Recently, the committee has settled into a rhythm of holding public hearings about once a month when the House of Assembly isn’t in session.

On Tuesday, the committee held a hearing looking at the Centre for Health Information and the auditor general’s findings that the Crown corporation improperly hired people without proper job competitions, and gave big raises to top executives using taxpayers’ dollars.

The back-and-forth between MHAs and centre officials was occasionally testy, with the politicians demanding answers.

Wednesday was much more collegial. The hearings ran all morning, but it mostly seemed as if the politicians were checking up on the health authority, seeing if protocols on cellphones, vehicles, overtime and whatnot were up to snuff.

Bennett said not all issues are so easy, though.

“You wouldn’t want all hearings to be like that, because I think that would mean some indicator of complacency,” he said.

Today it will likely be back to the testy back-and-forth, as MHAs look into the Forest Industry Diversification Program, and millions of dollars that were given to companies, despite government officials questioning the long-term viability of the projects.



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Organizations: Public Accounts Committee, Centre

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