06/11/2015 17:35 EDT | Updated 06/11/2016 01:12 EDT

Auditor general report flags external consultants, fire inspections as concerns

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador's auditor general is flagging fire inspections and external consultants in his latest report.Those concerns are among several raised in Terry Paddon's review of provincial departments.He found that about $29 million spent by Transportation and Works on external consultants often did not follow government hiring guidelines.The result was a lack of a competitive, open process over three years ending in March 2014 as more than 70 consultants worked on 16 construction projects.Paddon reviewed Transportation and Works external consultants' contracts worth more than $100,000.He said department procedures did not include getting Treasury Board approval, as required by government guidelines, for several payments that exceeded 110 per cent of original contracts or more.Finance Minister Ross Wiseman told reporters outside the legislature that there's no excuse for not following government guidelines."That's not acceptable," he said of one contract that was 4,000 per cent of the original contract, according to Paddon.Paddon also reports that long-term care homes often failed to meet nutrition standards, while personal care homes lacked adequate fire and environmental health inspections.In eight of 50 cases examined, health officials renewed licences for personal care homes "even though critical deficiencies identified in the fire and life safety inspection reports had not been corrected," Paddon found.He recommends a yearly plan to identify the number of homes that should be monitored according to related risks.His review of 54 routine inspection reports involving 30 homes found 150 "critical deficiencies" in 21 of those facilities.They included fire alarm systems in disrepair, outdated fire alarm certificates, emergency lighting system failures and broken fire doors.Service NL Minister Dan Crummell said while personal care home inspections are carried out at least once a year, operating standards and inspection programs can always be enhanced. He said the government is working to adopt the auditor general's recommendations."Personal care homes must meet the daily needs of individuals who can no longer live independently and so it is important for residents and their families to have confidence that the service is provided in an acceptable manner," said Crummell.Paddon's report includes more than 70 recommendations.