Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Audit finds fault with both veggie board and commission

An audit has found fault with both the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers Marketing Board and the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.

Last year the commission dismissed the board’s directors and took over its operations. Now is it transitioning back to a member-governed marketing board, but under continuing close commission control because it has ongoing power to pick the chairman of the board.

The audit, prepared by the Ontario Internal Audit Division of the Treasury Board Secretariat, found that:

-       The board directors were paid about four times as much as the average Ontario marketing board member.

-       The general manager was paid $190,000 a year for four-day work weeks. He also got a company car and an American Express Credit Card and it’s not clear who benefitted from the credit-card air miles program.

-       Directors sometimes took their spouses on trips: one hotel room cost $900 a night.

-       Twelve directors collected “per diems of $88,000 and $72,000 in associated expenses which translates to about 315 days of board effort” for 2016 the report says.

-       Consultants were hired, but the auditors “could not ascertain whether the deliverables were completed and if these were reasonable to justify the monthly cost” of $7,500 for one and $1,000 for another.

-       The board donated $1,000 to the Ontario Liberal Party and $500 to the Progressive Conservative Party, despite commission advice against political contributions. The audit says other marketing boards also made political contributions, but does not name them or the amounts.

-       The board is faulted for failing to have job descriptions, governance policies and sound management practices.

-       The commission is faulted for inconsistent oversight, for not holding all marketing boards to the same standards and for simply accepting information it requires without doing a critical review to determine whether the board was actually doing a good job.

For example, the report says “oversight of marketing board effectiveness is measured based on the total number of reviews completed by the commission, not on what the reviews resulted in (i.e. level of compliance).”

For another example, the audit says “there does not appear to be any templated forms or analysis that Secretariat staff is required to complete to identify how marketing boards are meeting expectations, nor is it apparent that the key outcome of the formal review is on identifying the above.”

The audit is marked “Confidential Medium Sensitivity”

According to an appendix, it was distributed to only 11 people, including OMAF deputy minister Greg Meredith and a number of senior OMAFRA officials, Commission chairman Jim Clark and Richard C. Kennedy, chief internal auditor for assistant deputy minister for the treasury board’s internal audit division.