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CLICK HERE for video of Premier Kathy Dunderdales response to this editorial:

It is the stuff of comedy - or perhaps tragedy. An officer of the House of Assembly, whose job it is to audit the spending practices of government, is told that he is not allowed to look at the books on how $5 billion of taxpayers' money was spent, and the reason given by a government that touts itself as "transparent and accountable" is that releasing any information on how projects were picked would violate - wait for it - a section of the province's access to information act.

The government is hiding behind a section of the access act, section 18, that says information that would reveal the details of cabinet deliberations can't be released.

The auditor general is not just a person off the street asking for information. The AG has specific legislative authority to examine virtually any aspect of government spending. Here's the section of the law that gives the AG that authority: "Except as provided by another Act that expressly refers to this section, every department of government, every agency of the Crown and every Crown-controlled corporation shall furnish the auditor general with information regarding its power, duties, activities, organization, financial transactions and methods of business as the auditor general requires, and the auditor general shall be given access to all books, accounts, financial records, reports, electronic data processing records, explanations, files and all other papers, things or property belonging to or in use by the department, agency of the Crown or Crown-controlled corporation and necessary to the performance of the duties of the auditor general under this Act."

Powerful stuff - not enough to allow the AG direct access to cabinet deliberations, but certainly enough to have the right to examine where $5 billion went.

The government is taking the radical and unprecedented position that everything leading up to cabinet's decisions on the funding is necessarily secret - whether cabinet saw the documents or not - because "it is the Department (of Justice's) position that all documentation either obtained or generated by departmental officials, supporting assessments and rankings of proposed infrastructure projects whether forwarded to Budget Division/Cabinet Secretariat or not, ultimately informs cabinet deliberations and decision making as part of the budget process."

Using that logic, every piece of correspondence in government might some day "inform" cabinet deliberation, and therefore, the auditor general could look at nothing.

Think about this: the last time MHAs kicked the auditor general to the curb, it was to block the review of constituency allowances. And we know exactly how that turned out - with the AG away, the MHAs started to play. And steal.

Hardly an advertisement for the benefits of the unaudited life.

And that brings us to the whys: why does the government not want the AG to look at where the money went?

Could it be that nothing like $5 billion was ever spent, and that the massive infrastructure claims were a sham? Could it be that, like federal G8 funding, cabinet ministers had their fingers in the pie and were choosing pet projects in their own districts? Was the money some kind of political slush fund?

In the absence of answers for the actions of the government, you're left to imagination.

It comes down to one clear question: what does this faux "open and accountable" government have to hide?



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Recent comments

  • TR
    January 28, 2012 - 18:38

    I don't believe the AG is asking where the money went. He is asking how they decide where the money is going.

  • Nothing should be off limit to the Auditor General for perusal.
    January 27, 2012 - 18:59

    No information pertaining to money that is spent by Government Members should be off limit for the perusal of the Auditor General.

  • William Daniels
    January 27, 2012 - 17:40

    I think the Telegram has nailed it. Well said. Nalcor/CNLPOB has been operating in secrecy for to long. We are being fleeced.

  • Randy
    January 27, 2012 - 14:31

    No author? How wrote this?

    • Catherine
      January 27, 2012 - 16:06

      Congratulations on an excellent editorial about the Dunderdale government's hiding behind the Privacy Act tonot disclose where the $5 billion in infrastructure funding went. Since its inception in the early 1990's the cost-shared Infrastructure Program has been a political slush fund. If your town is not in a district which is respresented by a government M-H-A, don't expect to see a cent. Dunderdale's efforts to hide behind "Cabinet privilege" is a poor excuse. And her reaction to this editorial is proof that there is truth in the Auditor General's complaint. It is time to open the House of Assembly, Premier, and stop debating the media.

  • Ruby
    January 27, 2012 - 13:43

    The ag represents the people of the province and he should have every right to to look at the books to see where money went.

  • Political watcher
    January 27, 2012 - 12:58

    Think you struck a nerve with this one; just heard Premier's press conference

  • Albert Jacobs
    January 27, 2012 - 11:42

    After the fiasco a few years ago that saw our 'honourable' MHA's get caught stealing our tax dollars, it's difficult to imagine that the current government would dare pull such a stunt. Everybody needs to be accountable to someone; the AG exists to ensure that the highest levels of governmment are using our public funds with proper care and attention. Anything less indicates that there is something they are trying to hide. Keeping the legislature closed removes the only method of accountability other than the AG. Dunderdale's government seems to be echoing her federal counterpart in Ottawa with this 'we'll do what we want' attitude. Democracy as we knew it no longer exists in this case. Shame!

  • John Smith
    January 27, 2012 - 11:29

    Wow, I'd like to say the Telegram has stooped to a new low, but that would be wrong. This is just so incorrct and misleading. It really saddens me to see the utter verbal diarhea that appears in this editorial of late. i only hope people turn to some other media to get views and opinion that at least have some basis in fact. This is just wrong.

  • Cyril Rogers
    January 27, 2012 - 10:32

    Well, if the government needed a "piece" of legislation to work on and pass, in order for the A-G to do his job, they have one right now. What arrogance, cloaked in incompetence! This administration lurches from crisis to crisis and the silent majority sits idly by. Their long-term plans are a joke and they have no real vision for the future. They are simply an inward-looking group whose sole focus is to try and cling to power. In a period of our history when we have the fiscal capacity to be innovative, dynamic and visionary, they hoard some cash, spend when it makes them look good, and hide from any proper scrutiny. If they can't come up with a plan, I'd suggest they step aside and let a new Commission of Government handle would most certainly be as democratic in its performance as this group has been.

  • Maggy Carter
    January 27, 2012 - 09:49

    The acting AG could refer the issue to the Supreme Court for a ruling. But then acting might be the closest he gets to being the AG.