06/06/2012 11:44 EDT | Updated 08/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia's auditor general says province has done poor job on recommendations

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's auditor general says government departments have done a poor job of implementing his office's recommendations and need a better system to track compliance.

Jacques Lapointe reiterated his concerns contained in his annual report released last week in an appearance Wednesday before the legislature's public accounts committee.

The report says 63 per cent of 481 recommendations made between 2005 and 2009 have been implemented.

Lapointe said that is inadequate and indicates a lack of commitment from senior management in government departments.

"The management of these organizations, once they are aware of these deficiencies, then have a responsibility as management to correct the deficiencies," said Lapointe. "That's really the issue."

The report said compliance varied across departments, ranging from a high of 85 per cent at the Community Services Department to a low of 13 per cent at the Education Department.

"Perhaps some management groups perceive that responsibility and perhaps some do not," Lapointe said.

He also said information used to track the status of 16 per cent of the recommendations made in the past three years was either incomplete or inaccurate — an error rate he said was high.

Lapointe suggested that either the cabinet or the Treasury Board had to take on more of the responsibility of ensuring that departments act on his recommendations.

He said his office expects up to 90 per cent of all of its recommendations should be implemented within two years if they are "taken seriously."

Liberal committee member Andrew Younger said someone in the government has to take responsibility for ensuring audited deficiencies are dealt with by bureaucrats.

"It's about priorities and so (bureaucrats) will choose their own priorities if there's not somebody in government assigned to ensure there's compliance and the delivery of things on a certain timeline," said Younger.

Progressive Conservative Chris d'Entremont said it may be time for some sort of legislation to ensure the government properly tracks its progress.

But he added that financial constraints can play a role in the implementation of auditor general recommendations.

"A lot of the time the recommendations come with a price tag and you have to weigh the price tag against other responsibilities of government," said d'Entremont, a cabinet minister in the previous government.

When asked about the auditor general's complaints last week, NDP Premier Darrell Dexter said the government has improved its record of compliance since coming to power in 2009.

Lapointe said while there had been some recent improvements, particularly with the Health Department, there were other areas where no progress has been made "whatsoever."