Government programs for those in need are poorly managed, says Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick in his report made public today. The Report outlines significant shortcomings in the management of the Government’s social assistance programs.
“We found that no one is in charge of ensuring that these programmes achieve value for the money spent,” said Mr. Swarbrick. “No one in Government knows the extent to which the money spent assists the people it should be helping.”
The audit looked at the 12 programs that provide for temporary poor relief, permanent poor relief, medical care and seamen’s benefits. These programs account for $50 million in annual spending, or 10% of the Government’s total core spending.
The audit found a lack of formal measures to ensure that the programmes serve the people they were designed to help. They operate without clear objectives and with no measurement of the programmes’ results. This has led to poor decision making and the significant possibility that those in real need are not getting the help they should be getting. In addition, many of the programs operate without proper legislative authority.
The audit also found significant deficiencies in the way Government officials determine eligibility criteria for many of the social assistance programmes, leaving many people unable to obtain the assistance they need. Where criteria are used, such as minimum income thresholds, there is little information available to determine if they are appropriate.
Recent internal audits and the Government’s own studies have highlighted many of the same concerns. However, Mr. Swarbrick’s team found that the Government has not taken action to fix some very fundamental problems.
“The Government could utilize public funds more effectively and provide greater assistance to those in need if it actively managed these important government programmes,” said the Auditor General. “Officials need to act expeditiously on my recommendations.”
On a positive note, the audit found a significant decline in the number of staff decisions overturned by ministerial direction. The audit found that there were 37 unlawful interventions in 2012, 14 in 2013 and only two 2014.