TORONTO — Ontario's auditor general released her annual report of value-for-money audits Wednesday, covering a range of issues. Here are some of the key findings:
- More than $210 million in Ontario Small Business Grants intended for businesses that had to close due to the pandemic was paid to ineligible recipients. The province also gave $16M in property tax and energy rebates for businesses to more than 3,000 ineligible recipients.
- The Economic Development Ministry did not identify two perceived conflicts of interest with the Ontario Together Fund, intended for businesses to develop products to help Ontario's emergency response. In one case, the CEO of a company that received $2.5 million was part of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force.
- More than 80 per cent of the province’s emergency stockpile of PPE had expired by 2017 and the Ministry of Health had begun destroying expired PPE without replacing it.
- The province issued 44 Ministers’ Zoning Orders between March 2019 and March 2021, when previously about one was issued per year. The land-planning tool gives the municipal affairs minister power to fast-track development in a given area.
- Medical leave taken by Ontario Provincial Police officers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder significantly contributes to increasing front-line vacancies at detachments across the province and many municipalities are getting less service than they should.
- The Ontario Securities Commission imposed $525 million in fines between 2011-12 and 2020-21, but collected only 28 per cent of that.
- The government gave $9.8 million to the Ontario Centre for Innovation for small- and medium-sized businesses to use a 5G network test platform and create or retain 3,000 jobs, but participants only created or retained 320 jobs.
- Wait times for outpatient surgeries vary across the province. For example, in 2019-20 patients waited 98 days for total knee joint replacement surgery in the Toronto region, but they waited 322 days in the Western region.
- The government spent $389 million on assisted living services for more than 23,000 Ontarians last year, but it’s often unaware of how many hours service agencies are providing and doesn’t effectively monitor programs.
- The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation doesn’t have sufficient age verification controls to prevent minors from buying cannabis online or receiving deliveries.
- Of a sample of private career colleges the auditor looked at, 33 per cent of them were charging students higher fees than they told the government.
- There are three times the number of international students at Ontario’s public colleges compared to almost a decade ago. The auditor said those institutions are relying on the foreign tuition for their financial health, which is risky.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021.
The Canadian Press