08/03/2017 10:24 EDT | Updated 08/03/2017 10:40 EDT

Child and spousal support enforcement program needs scrutiny: B.C. auditor

VICTORIA — British Columbia's auditor general says the province isn't getting the best value for taxpayer dollars from its contract for a program that enforces child and spousal support.

Carol Bellringer's report says the Ministry of Justice didn't follow good procurement practices and couldn't demonstrate that it achieved the best value when it agreed to the latest contract in 2006.

The government paid $18 million to the contractor in 2015-2016 for the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, which processed $210 million in support payments to families that year.

Bellringer's report says the same company has had the contract for almost 30 years and the ministry failed to generate competition during the latest contracting-out phase.

The audit also says the ministry has been attempting to negotiate a new contract with the company for the last 10 years and increasing program costs have resulted in the contractor regularly asking for and receiving additional funding.

The ministry responded in the report, saying it has already implemented two of the recommendations, but it disputes the value for money comment, noting the audit didn't look at the quality of services that were delivered.

"The (program) has successfully provided an essential service to B.C. families for nearly 30 years. It is part of the core family justice services of the ministry," it said.

Bellringer says in the report that the audit focused on the management of the program by the Ministry of Justice, not the quality of service being provided, and "we made no findings in those respects."