Pensions, salaries eyed as auditor general set to release OPG report
OPG boss Tom Mitchell is the top earning public servant on the 2011 Sunshine List with a $1.8-million annual salary. (Sun files)
Ontario is looking at electricity worker pensions and public executive salaries as the province’s auditor general gets set to release her annual report.
As the Toronto Sun revealed, Ontario Power Generation will be the focus of a highly critical auditor’s report that will likely focus on pensions and expenses.
On the day before its release, the Ontario government announced it has appointed Jim Leech to provide advice on making electricity sector pension plans “more affordable and sustainable,” noting these plans tend to require a lower share of contributions from employees while providing generous benefits that are eventually passed on to customers.
“The intent, of course, is to try to ensure that we have a system that’s affordable and sustainable ... protects taxpayers going forward,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa said.
OPG spokesman Jacquie Hoornweg confirmed the organization was audited but did not provide any details on the findings.
The audit goes back 10 years, well before OPG launched a business transformation initiative to restructure the company to lower costs, she said.
“We have been undergoing a lot of change in the last few years — and our commitment is to change — but we absolutely would be the first to say we are not perfect and we still have more to do and further to go,” Hoornweg said. “It takes time ... there are (historical) things that people fought for and so we have to respect collective agreements and we have to work with the unions to recognize that the world is changing.”
The public electricity generator is one of several planned value-for-money audits to be released in the first annual report by auditor general Bonnie Lysyk on Tuesday.
Other audits were planned — but not yet confirmed — for autism programs, Ministry of Energy, Land Ambulance, ServiceOntario, Ontario Parks and HealthForceOntario.
In what may be another signal of what’s in store, Liberal House Leader John Milloy announced the government will introduce legislation in the spring that will allow for a hard cap on public sector executive salaries.
According to the Sunshine list, OPG president and CEO Tom Mitchell was the highest paid civil servant at $1.7 million last year and nearly 8,000 OPG workers pulled in more than $100,000.
Hoornweg said OPG’s share of the generation pie has been shrinking with the arrival of private sector power agreements and the organization must become more efficient to reflect that change, she said.
“The structure that was in place was already not making sense in light of the decreasing revenue and is going to make even less sense as we move forward,” she said, adding OPG is cutting the number of staff by 2,330 through attrition for $1 billion in savings.
Hoornweg said expense policies — a frequent target of auditors — have been updated as part of the business transformation initiative to adhere to new provincial government standards.
Prior to the revision, OPG staff was entitled to bill alcohol for entertainment-related expenses such as dinners with stakeholders but that is no longer the case, she said.