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B.C. auditor highlights COVID-19 relief program risks, budget dispute with government

Michael Pickup listens to a question as he addresses a news conference regarding his report as Nova Scotia's auditor on June 8, 2016. Pickup, who is now B.C.'s auditor general, says he has a $6-billion difference of opinion with the government on calculating the province's financial bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan. AV

British Columbia’s auditor general says he has a $6-billion difference of opinion with the government on calculating the province’s financial bottom line.

Michael Pickup says an audit of B.C.’s final budget accounting for the 2020-21 fiscal year under-reports revenues by $6 billion, which does not give a clear representation of the province’s financial position.

Read more: B.C.’s economy bouncing back from COVID-19 more quickly than expected

Finance Minister Selina Robinson said in July that B.C.’s public accounts showed a $5.5-billion budget deficit for the fiscal year, almost $3 billion lower than originally forecast.

Pickup’s audit says the difference of opinion with the government over the way it reports money it receives from other levels of governments for projects likes roads and bridges has now entered its 10th year.

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B.C.’s comptroller general Carl Fischer says in a response statement included in the auditor’s report, the government prepares its financial statements under the province’s Budget Transparency and Accountability Act.

Pickup says the audit also raises concerns about the risk of fraud in several government COVID-19 relief initiatives.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2021.

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