December 10, 2013 6:50 pm

OPG salaries, pensions, bonuses push up electricity rates: auditor

TORONTO – Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced Tuesday that three top Ontario Power Generation (OPG) executives will be fired in the wake of the auditor’s report.

Salaries, pensions and bonuses at OPG are “significantly more generous” than for comparable positions in the civil service, and have a financial impact on the cost of electricity, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk reported Tuesday.

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OPG has cut staff by 8.5 per cent, but increased the size of “its highly paid executive and senior management group” by almost 60 per cent since 2005, creating “a top heavy organization,” Lysyk said in her annual report.

“Earnings and benefits were significantly more generous at OPG than for comparable positions in the Ontario Public Service, and many of OPG’s senior executives earned more than most deputy ministers,” she reported.

Incentive awards for OPG’s non-unionized staff can be up to $1.3 million, and their top five executives will be eligible for pensions ranging from $180,000 to $760,000 a year.

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OPG has contributed “disproportionately more” to its pension plan that its employees have, said Lysyk.

“The employer-employee contributions ratio at OPG has been around 4:1 or 5:1, significantly higher than that 1:1 ratio” in the public service, she said. “OPG is also solely responsible for financing its pension deficit, about $555 million in its latest actuarial valuation.”

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In her annual report. the auditor general also found it could cost the government up to $820 million or even more to divest itself of the Ontario Northland Transportation Corporation, which the Liberals listed on the books as savings of $265.9 million.

“The (government) did not include a number of other significant revenues and expenses that would need to be considered in determining any net savings resulting from the divestment of the ONTC,” said Lysyk. “The $265.9 million … optimistically assumed that the ONTC’s operations would be fully divested within one year of the 2012 budget announcement.”

Lysyk also found school cafeteria sales plummeted up to 45 per cent since boards implemented healthier food choices, and the boards aren’t making sure that the new items are indeed healthier.

“None of the three school boards we visited had reviewed the food and beverages sold in their cafeterias to ensure that the items met nutrition standards,” She said. “We identified a number of instances where the products did not comply.”

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The auditor also found there is no formal monitoring to ensure students in grades 1-though-8 get the required 20 minutes of daily physical activity.

She also reported the Ministry of Education provides “only limited oversight” of 1,000 private schools, which are not required to hire certified teachers, obtain criminal background checks on staff or follow the Ontario curriculum.

“Education officers conduct a brief visit to validate newly registered schools, but there is no process in place to ever visit these schools again,” said Lysyk. “The ministry does not evaluate the curriculum for quality or content, nor does it check for health and safety issues.”

The auditor also found there are still 3.1 million of the old red-and-white health cards in circulation, abut 23 per cent of the total number, 18 years after the government announced they would be eliminated to help reduce fraud.

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Lysyk also reported Ontario quadrupled autism funding over the last decade but there are still more children waiting for government-funded services than there are children receiving them.

The audit found the long waiting lists mean “Ontario children do not typically start Intensive Behaviour Intervention therapy until almost age seven, when research has shown that children who start IBI before age four have better outcomes than those who start later.”

She also found there is little to no enforcement of regulations on hunting and fishing in provincial parks or on prohibited activities such as commercial timber harvesting and mining.

“Park staff say that illegal hunting, boundary encroachment by landowners, waste dumping and the cutting and removal of trees occur with regularity,” said Lysyk. “Assets within provincial parks such as buildings, roads, bridges, drinking water systems and septic systems listed as being in poor or defective condition require more than $590 million to replace.”

 

© The Canadian Press, 2013

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