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Three OPG execs fired in wake of auditor general report

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk. (Toronto Sun files)

Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk. (Toronto Sun files)

TORONTO - 

Three senior Ontario Power Generation executives were fired following a scathing auditor’s report that uncovered “very generous” pensions, salaries and perks.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced OPG had terminated its chief financial officer, executive vice-president for strategic initiatives and vice-president for internal audit.

“The auditor’s findings indicate that Ontarians can and should expect better,” he said. “(OPG) understands that these findings are not acceptable.”

Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s first annual report Tuesday revealed a number of areas where citizens are not getting value for their hard-earned dollars.

Health cards and driver’s licences issued to dead people. Four-year waits for autism treatment. Fifteen thousand women turned away from emergency shelters. A supposedly money-saving Ontario Northland sell-off that could cost taxpayers $820 million — or even more .

An audit of OPG compensation offered one shock after another.

“Generous, very generous” is how the understated Lysyk described it, adding all of the costs will be passed on to ratepayers who face a 42% jump in hydro bills over the next five years.

The company’s generous moving allowance was outed, including a $392,000 payment to one employee in housing assistance and moving expenses.

One OPG employee was handed more than $80,000 for moving 10 kilometres from Toronto to Pickering, which was actually farther away from his work.

Pensions, particularly for OPG brass, are unlike those found in the regular public service, the auditor says.

Hydro ratepayers put in four to five dollars for every one dollar from an OPG employee.

“Executives, who contribute only 7% of their earnings up to a maximum of $17,254 annually while OPG contributes 18.1%, are eligible for particularly generous pensions,” the report says. “For example, the top five executives at OPG will be eligible to receive annual pensions ranging from $180,000 to $760,000 when they reach age 65.”

And the pension fund is short $555 million, which is OPG’s responsibility.

One OPG employee took his pension in a “significant lump payment,” then returned to work a month after retirement as a three-day-a-week employee making $328,000 a year which included a $147,000 bonus.

The bonus system is another eyepopper with senior executives eligible for up to 150% of their base salary.

One employee fired for ineffective performance and inappropriate behaviour got a severance of $450,000, and in the previous four years, received $760,000 in performance bonuses.

OPG is owned by taxpayers and its costs generally go onto hydro bills.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said OPG is handing out big paychecks to senior staff at a time when vulnerable children in need of autism services wait years for treatment.

“These are public sector jobs,” Horwath said. “If you want to be a millionaire, you don’t go into the public sector.”

PC Leader Tim Hudak said the auditor’s findings point to a lack of leadership by the Ontario Liberal government.

OPG Chair Jake Epp said the senior executives were fired for failure to be as active as they should on the audit file.

The OPG board continues to have full confidence in President Tom Mitchell, but will be taking other steps to control costs such as cutting bonuses.

The audit covers almost a decade of OPG’s history, and the organization has begun streamlining staff and overall expenses in the past two years.

The auditors also turned their sights on the province’s autism service and found that, as long complained by parents, it was not coming close to meeting the needs of affected children.

Between 2008 and 2012, more kids were waiting for Intensive Behaviour Intervention (IBI) than actually received the program, in part because the number of spots available did not increase to keep pace with demand.

Tots diagnosed with autism, usually at three years old, were waiting about 3.9 years.

The sell-off of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) which the Ontario government touted as generating nearly $266 million in savings, could end up costing taxpayers up to $820 million.

The audit found there are more than 15,000 health cards and 1,400 driver’s licences circulating in the names of people who were reported to ServiceOntario as dead.

Lysyk also found that the government had no information on whether its investments in violence against women programs as meeting needs, noting shelters were reporting that they were forced to turn large numbers of women away.



AUDITOR GENERAL REVEALS WHERE AGENCIES COME UP SHORT:


SERVICEONTARIO


Audit reveals 43% of centres have significant processing errors
Online service goals not met
Eighteen years after announcing end of red and white health cards, still 3.1 million out there
About 1,500 people issued duplicate health cards
There are 15,000 active health cards and driver’s licences issued to dead people

AUTISM

More children waiting for treatment than receiving it.
Children wait up to four years for treatment.
Therapy not offered to children who would benefit the most.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Government has no proof taxpayer-funded programs actually helping victims.
Fifteen thousand women turned away from emergency shelters in 2011/12
Only 10% of safety and security issues, like faulty fire systems, for shelters addressed

HEALTHY SCHOOLS STRATEGY

Kids shunning healthy options in school cafeteria, opting for nearby fast food

DOCTORS

Many specialists funded and trained in Ontario do not work here, despite long wait lists
About 30% of special positions in Northern Ontario vacant.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Education Ministry doesn’t require criminal checks or certification of teachers

DEBT

Rising debt means government must continuously monitor and manage file

ONTARIO PARKS


Natural Resources Ministry stretched.
Significant portions of parks with little to no enforcement of hunting, fishing, timber, dumping rules
Almost 600 private cottage properties under lease in public parks paying $6.7 million too little

REHABILITATION

No coordination in rehab services means wide variation in service across province

LAND AMBULANCE

Last year, only 60% of 50 municipalities responded to 90% of their emergency calls within 15 minutes


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