The Ontario government’s inability to oversee its own agencies has created a monster that’s wreaked havoc on its creators — a systemic failure that must be immediately addressed, the province’s ombudsman said Thursday.
Agencies, boards and commissions, commonly referred to as ABCs, may seem “tame and dull,” Andre Marin said during a lunchtime speech at the Economic Club of Canada.
“But they begin life just as Frankenstein’s monster did, as a volatile combination of parts that don’t always work together, and sometimes if governments aren’t careful their creations can rise up and wreak untold havoc.”
In the wake of scandals at eHealth Ontario and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., the government must take a more holistic, proactive approach and learn from mistakes to avoid further costs to taxpayers and erosion of services, Marin said.
“When malformed or mutated agencies, boards and commissions start running our governments, destroying the quality of service and sending costs spiralling, we are all in trouble,” he said.
“The OLG’s fall from grace is a cautionary tale that should be mandatory reading for all.”
The Liberal government has ordered a sweeping review to root out spending abuses at government agencies following revelations of unacceptable expenses at the OLG.
It’s also dealing with a scathing report into the months-long scandal at eHealth, an agency set up to bring health records online that sent millions of dollars out the door in untendered contracts.
Marin said the government deserves credit for trying to deal with the problems, but suggests they should have been setting safeguards before the scandals.
“The risk right now is that we fall into a finger-in-the-dyke approach. We rush from one scandal to the next,” he said.