Health-care services escape Manitoba audit

Brian Pallister speaks at The Canadian Museum of Human Rights after being sworn in as Manitoba premier on Tuesday.
Brian Pallister speaks at The Canadian Museum of Human Rights after being sworn in as Manitoba premier on Tuesday. Mike Sudoma / The Canadian Press / File

WINNIPEG — A highly touted province-wide audit designed to cut $50 million in Manitoba government spending won’t include front-line health care services.

The new Conservative government put out a tender Monday seeking someone to conduct the audit for no more than $750,000. The tender, which outlines the government’s expectations, said “to keep the scope manageable,” the delivery of health-care services will not be included in the probe.

At about $5.6 billion, health care makes up just over 40 per cent of government spending.

The tender said all other government spending should be assessed based on whether the costs are reasonable, give the most bang for the buck and achieve intended goals.

The audit is the first step to gain “better control over the growth in government spending,” the tender said.

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“Core government spending has risen at a rate of 5.1 per cent annually over the past 10 years while core government revenues have grown at 3.8 per cent,” the tender reads.

“Of particular concern is the degree to which actual spending growth exceeds planned growth. Actual expenditures for core government have exceeded budgets every year for the past 10 years.”

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The tender said the government wants recommendations on where to cut by October “including, but not limited to, eliminating waste, eliminating duplication or overlap and improving management controls.”

The whole audit should be wrapped up by the end of the year, it added. Whoever conducts the audit should also leave departments with “the tools they need to objectively assess their program expenditures on an ongoing basis,” the tender said.

Finance Minister Cameron Friesen was not immediately available to comment on the scope of the audit.

The new Conservative government made the review a centrepiece of its successful election campaign in which the party swept to power for the first time since 1999.

Premier Brian Pallister declared the first day of the campaign that “there are no sacred cows” when it comes to cutting government spending, adding health-care workers had plenty of good ideas on how to save money.

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In Monday’s throne speech, the government reaffirmed the promise to rein in spending by conducting a “value-for-money review across government as a first step toward restoring prudent financial management.”

Pallister has said spending cuts will be made without jeopardizing front-line services.

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