Accountability

Who says no, when no needs to be said?

Buyers, when buying, love simple solutions. Sellers, when selling, are motivated oppositely because arcane arrangements can be rewarding.

If you construct a tiny shed, the cost is small and ascertainable. Build an elaborate structure and cost is less easily determined, but much higher. Which is OK, if that’s what you need.

In everyday life, we make financial decisions that focus on self-interest. The results are usually acceptable. But when various parties to a project gain by escalating its size and complexity, who manages the limits?

Who says no, when no needs to be said?

If politicians or bureaucrats hide financial details of major agreements—as governments routinely do—it may be parties to the contracts who benefit, not the public. Without restraint and independent oversight, initial budgets will expand even as we hear self-serving announcements about projects being on-time, on-budget.

Governments control the flow of information and feel little obligation for thorough public disclosures. Accountability to taxpayers ranks behind political expediency. This subject should attract focused attention of pundits employed by corporate media. In BC, inquiry is typically left to a diligent freelancer like Bob Mackin.

The publisher of theBreaker.news discussed this in a 2018 article:

So it was amusing to read ex-Christy Clark underling Maclean Kay in the Times Colonist being an apologist for both the current and former premiers, under the headline “Absolute transparency isn’t feasible in government” (March 1).

Absolutely, it is feasible.

Kay and the B.C. Liberals didn’t want it. They chose to manipulate the media and undermine the public’s right to know, because they believed that was the path to power.

Transactions worth tens of billions—LNG incentives, BC Hydro IPP commitments and the utility’s megaprojects, for example—are negotiated behind closed doors between business associates who can change jobs and flip sides, from buyer to seller.

Public officials routinely deny access to information in their records using broad exclusions allowed by legislation. Legislation that was drafted and administered by public officials.

In 2017, the BC NDP platform promised:

We’ll protect whistleblowers, strengthen conflict-of-interest legislation and improve access to information rules.

Two and half years later, the promise is unkept.

Detailed terms of provincial business often remain secret. Quasi-public agencies, crown corporations, public-private partnerships, publicly owned private companies, FOI exemptions and other facilitators of evasion are used to shield financial arrangements from public view.

Open public tenders might be suitable to buy paper clips but not when obligations worth billions are created. Instead, government frequently prefers requests-for-proposals issued to favoured parties. Complex deals get awarded without real competition. Important terms and conditions are kept secret.

Are citizens of British Columbia protected from massive financial fraud?

Frankly, we have little protection.

Decades ago, when I was learning financial systems, internal control and audit techniques, one thing was clear. If opportunities for fraud are present without likelihood of timely discovery, it will occur. It will happen when small sums are at stake; it is even more likely when huge sums are in play.

So, who are the caretakers of public interest?

MLAs cannot speak except to amplify approved party policies. The Auditor General is underfunded and government pays large sums to consultants for opinions that are sometimes predetermined. Those opinions may be compromised by the large fees involved.

Influential media commentators have been co-opted by indirect financial rewards from parties with interests in public business. News publications and broadcasters enjoy lucrative government advertising but the quid pro quo might be friendly coverage.

And, of course, the bureaucracy expands to meet needs of an expanding bureaucracy. Executives multiply and salaries escalate, explained by the need to “to attract and retain skilled leadership“. Restraints imposed on junior civil servants have not been applied at the highest pay grades.

Corruption expands to meet the needs of the corrupt.

9 replies »

  1. But, Norm, we’ve always done it this way!
    Seriously, it looks as though there are no politicians beyond corruption, political appointees follow the wishes of their political masters (or are the masters manipulating the politicians) and it looks as though there are rich veins of corruption in the bureaucracy/civil service. This has a mirror image in private enterprise.

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    • Site C could have been stopped under Horgan, if it weren’t for him and the NDPs special interest union buddies. It’s just one huge temporary job creation project. The largest now, in BC history. It’s all about keeping that relationship for the the next election. All that robbing of the public purse. For what, when we could have had legitimate permanent job creation building for sensible alternative energy. Solar, wind, and on. These politicians need to be held accountable when they commit crimes like this, robbing us blind for their union and corporate buddies, and we and our next generations of families end up getting screwed again for billions of debt to pay and high rates. This isn’t governing for the people anymore by any stretch. Do you ever notice these dirty politicians will always throw in a few goodies like getting rid of bridge tolls as an election promise to start the popularity meter right away and other projects like Burnaby Hospital reno to hopefully keep the really bad stuff they do under the radar. If i were to come up with a logo for these politicians, i think it would be Secial Interest First. The People Last.

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  2. We are spending $4.6 billion (yes BILLION) dollars to build 12.8 km of now obsolete proprietary railway, which is now called (after 6 previous name changes) Movia Automatic light metro. There is no oversight, no public input, nothing.

    In 2015 Translink’s plebiscite on their spending was defeated by 12% plus majority, yet TransLink came back without change, the same plans. This time the public were barred from the process.

    Nothing about economy or even reality.

    Then enter the slightly demented mayor of Surrey and now the project is going to cost an additional $1.6 billion because he want the obsolete MALM system extended, even though there is no funding for it.

    No oversight, no nuthin.

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    • I know the cost of things have gone up since we were young, but $4.6B to go under 13ks. forget it. use the money for things like health care, housing, education. when people get tired of commuting they may vote for a government which provides affordable housing closer to their jobs.

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      • Just a note:
        1) With every light-metro or SkyTrain Line built, hospitals and schools are forced to close, especially outside metro Vancouver. One can draw a straight line from building SkyTrain to closing schools and hospitals.
        2) Caen France, just opened a 3 line, 16 km tramway, which took 19 months to build, costs, CAD $373 million and is carrying 22,000 more passengers a day than the previous guided BRT line. Carrying over 64,000 passengers a day, it is paying its operating costs.
        http://www.railforthevalley.com/latest-news/zweisystem/caen-opens-its-new-16km-373-million-tramlrt-system/
        So, essentially, in Metro Vancouver, we are paying about 10 times more to build a transit line, which will attract much fewer passengers.
        We are an international joke.

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  3. The Alaska Highway News has an article up today regarding the almost 5K people working at Site C. they also have one regarding a N.G. plant which is going to be built north of the area.

    Site C just needs a dam good look at. Its costing a mint and why? it is understood, everything has gone up in price, but really, the prices we’re seeing these days, you wonder who is getting what.

    Back in the day, most likely the 1980s, Andy Ronney, of 60 Minutes fame came up with an idea on how to end poverty in the world: No country would purchase arms for one year and the money would be divided into providing health care, education, clean water, housing to the world’s poor. He even had a category for bribery and corruption: $5B.

    I do wonder what they could do with the money they are wasting on various things these days in this province.

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  4. e.a.f. Site C….Translink……both grossly over budget…….

    And gee whiz.
    SNC Lavalin is involved in both projects.

    Next stop.

    BC Ferries

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  5. With almost 5 thousand workers on site, I don’t think Horgan wants to crash it now. Of course they were also writing about a gas/oil thing in the area so perhaps the dam is being actually built for that or they decided to take advantage of the dam, who knows, but I’ve always thought things like education, health and housing were more important than a dam, dam.

    Where our new house is, every evening along comes around, 7 p.m. a good chunk of wind. Would be able to mount a small turbine on the roof and reduce my need for electrical energy.

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