Universities aren’t held accountable for public funding: NS Auditor General

A Dalhousie University sign is seen in Halifax on Jan. 6, 2015. Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

HALIFAX – Universities receiving millions in provincial funding aren’t being held accountable for how the money is spent, said Auditor General Michael Pickup.

“Most funding to universities is provided without any accountability back to the province,” said Pickup in his Fall report released Wednesday.

Nova Scotia spent $314 million on the ten universities in the province in 2014-15.

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The universities don’t regularly have to report back to the province on how the money is spent.

Pickup also said the Department of Labour and Advanced Education also has no regular processes to monitor and evaluate the financial performance of the universities it funds.

In 2013 department officials asked the universities for basic financial information, however the auditor general found issues with the completeness and accuracy of that information.

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“One university did not provide any balance sheet data and other universities reported information that couldn’t be linked back to audited financial statements,” the report says.

Furthermore, the report finds that the department didn’t perform a detailed analysis of the information.

The department and universities have agreements that outline commitments to work together to reduce costs, streamline programming, and align the university with the province’s economic goal, said Pickup.

However the report finds “No overall direction to achieve accountability and sustainability for the university system.”

Department officials told the auditor general’s office that the province’s decision to no longer provide emergency funding and the new Accountability and Sustainability Act will lead to a new level of financial accountability. However, Pickup said that doesn’t necessarily address the sustainability of the university system.

The auditor general recommends the province implement a strategic direction for the universities that addresses sustainability, and the department’s said it plans to go ahead with the recommendation.

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