Ont. says agencies can no longer approve expenses
Provincial agencies in Ontario will no longer have carte-blanche when it comes to approving expense claims.
The province's integrity commissioner must now approve any expense claim filed by members of Ontario's agencies, boards and commissions, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Tuesday.
The changes were made in a bid to restore public confidence after Monday's revelation of a spending scandal at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.
The Liberal government announced yesterday it had fired the organization's CEO and had accepted the resignation of the entire board of directors after officials discovered questionable spending by senior staff.
McGuinty said at a news conference Tuesday that he was sending a clear message to all those who work for the province's 600-plus organizations.
"Just because you operate at an arms length from our government doesn't give you the right to straight-arm taxpayers," he said. "You have a responsibility to be held accountable. Our job is to make sure that happens and that's what we'll continue to do."
He also said the leaders of these organizations should pay special attention to the example being made of the OLG.
"If you fail to abide by the rules, there will be consequences," the premier said.
The OLG acknowledged Monday that the spending was unacceptable for a public agency. McGuinty said in the future, people will be asked to reimburse the costs of unwarranted expense claims.
The Liberals publicly released two years worth of expenses that were filed by OLG board members. They include:
- gym memberships worth $250
- Weight Watchers memberships
- club link golf fees
- a $1,500 bar tab at a $3,700 dinner for 38 people
- a $500 nanny fee so that a vice-president member could attend meetings, an amount since repaid
It was also revealed that the OLG had been issuing untendered contracts.
Such contracts were a major part of the controversy surround eHealth Ontario, the provincial electronic health records agency that also saw its CEO and board chair depart after revelations of excessive spending and the issuing of sole-source contracts.
Opposition MPPs say the reason the government is acting now is because Monday was the deadline for releasing the results of Freedom of Information requests made by them months ago.
The gaming corporation has been scrutinized for the last two years after questionable insider wins, malfunctioning slot machines, spoiled scratch-and-win tickets and a controversial decision to purchase foreign cars as lottery prizes at a time when the Ontario government agreed to a financial bailout for its struggling auto industry.
An audit of the OLG was completed in February. The corporation had until September to report to the ombudsman about changes it had made to improve accountability.
The shake-up comes just weeks ahead of a provincial byelection in the midtown Toronto riding of St. Paul's, which has been a Liberal seat since 1999.