UPDATE: Ontario auditor general says the province continues to waste taxpayer money
Ontario's auditor general reports that electricity ratepayers are paying millions for power generators' ineligible expenses, including scuba gear and raccoon traps.
Bonnie Lysyk says that nine generators claimed up to $260 million in ineligible costs between 2006 and 2015, and about two-thirds of that has been paid back.
She says that's happening under a program that pays power generators when the Independent Electricity System Operator puts them on standby to supply energy.
The Ontario Energy Board has repeatedly recommended that program be scaled back.
Lysyk also says that residential and small business ratepayers are footing the bill for large industrial companies' savings when they reduce consumption during peak demand.
The auditor's annual report targeted various other areas.
She found that teachers and other school board employees are taking more sick days _ almost 12 days each per year up from nine days five years ago.
She also says more families are waiting for social housing than are actually living in social housing, and Ontario is paying tens of millions to send cancer patients to the U.S. for stem cell treatments that don't exist here.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Nine coal and gas generators claimed as much as $260 million in ineligible expenses for items including thousands of dollars each year for raccoon traps, scuba gear, carpet cleaning and staff car washes.
- The Independent Electricity System Operator has not implemented some recommendations made by the Ontario Energy Board which could have saved ratepayers millions over the past 15 years.
- The report found long wait times for key biopsies to diagnose cancer, with only 46 per cent performed within the Ministry of Health's 14-day target.
- The government is spending millions to send cancer patients to the United States for stem cell transplants because of limited capacity to perform the procedure in Ontario. A stem cell transplant costs $660,000 to perform in the United States, compared to the $128,000 average cost in Ontario.
- A provincial target to provide radiation therapy in 48 per cent of cancer cases has not been met, with 39 per cent of patients actually receiving the treatment in 2015-2016.
- There are more households on wait lists for social housing than actual people living in social housing in Ontario. The report found there are 185,000 households on the provincial wait list and 167,000 households who on average receive social housing annually.
- Sick days are up by 29 per cent over a five-year-period at 50 of Ontario's public school boards, from nine days to 11.6 days per average employee, causing financial and resource allocation pressures.
- The increased cost of sick leave paid as a percentage of school board payroll rose from 4.2 per cent in 2011-2012 to 5.3 per cent in 2015-2016. The change came after the last collective bargaining agreement stopped allowing teachers to bank their sick days.
- The province is not prepared for a large-scale emergency, the auditor found, and has not updated its emergency preparedness plan or provincial nuclear response plan since 2008 and 2009 respectively.
- Staffing and budget cuts at the province's Emergency Management Office have limited its ability to respond to a prolonged event, with the report estimating it could not adequately respond to a disaster longer than two-weeks with current staffing levels.
- Government advertising spending was $58 million in 2016-2017, a 10-year high, with what the auditor describes as 30 per cent of the ads appearing intended to help make the government look good.