B.C.'s Auditor General is an institution our province can be proud of. The auditor is appointed by a vote of the entire legislature following a unanimous recommendation from an all-party committee.
This seemingly bulletproof appointment method was intended to keep party politics out of the business of accounting for public spending.
But the people who designed this institution in the 1970s knew nothing about Christy Clark. And in those days, BC Rail was a Crown corporation that no one thought would ever be sold, let alone be sold in a way that produced mystery, controversy, and criminal charges.
Auditor General John Doyle has done an excellent job, and to its credit, the Liberal government has accepted many of his recommendations. But he no doubt bothered some in high places by taking the government to court over documents pertaining to the $6 million of public money paid out to halt the BC Rail trial.
Further, Doyle called Speaker Bill Barisoff and the Liberal-dominated committee that runs the legislature inept in their handling of assembly expenses.
In 2008, a review of the Liberal government's Industry Training Authority found unsatisfactory results, and in 2011, a review of their environmental assessment bureau also found gaps in effectiveness.
A 2008 review of forest land removals found that the government effectively gave away $150 million in public assets. The response from then Forests Minister Pat Bell was to attack the auditor's work as "unprofessional and lacking in integrity."
Can anyone not on the government's payroll honestly doubt where the real lack of integrity lies?
Perhaps most importantly, Doyle's latest report differed with the Liberal government's interpretation of the province's finances. Doyle concluded that accurate accounting in the 2011/12 Summary Financial Statements would involve a deficit some half a billion dollars larger than that reported by Finance Minister Mike de Jong.
Now the unanimity rule, intended to protect the appointment process, has been stood on its head. It has become the means by which a party in power, angered by a dogged auditor, can retaliate by declining reappointment. Three Liberal members of the five-member committee, two of whom have already said they will not be facing the voters in the May 14 provincial election, refused to grant John Doyle a second term.
Hopefully, the public can apply sufficient pressure on Liberal MLAs, such as Maple Ridge-Mission's Marc Dalton, that this regrettable piece of political trickery will be remedied. Either the three Liberals on the selection Committee - John Les, Blair Lekstrom, and Eric Foster - will reverse themselves and agree to re-appoint John Doyle, or at least they will leave this matter for a new selection committee to deal with after a wall-to-wall house-cleaning in the B.C. election.
If the party in power cannot bring itself to reappoint Doyle, then let the voters flush the system first, and a new legislature can choose an auditor general for the next six years.
D. Rodney Smelser, Maple Ridge
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