NWT Income Security Programs: Standing Committee on Government Operations Challenges Department to Act on the Recommendations of the Auditor-General
(YELLOWKNIFE) Wednesday, April 24, 2013 – The Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Government Operations (SCOGO) is challenging the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) to act on the recommendations of the Auditor General of Canada to improve delivery of four Northwest Territories income security programs.
Government Operations is the committee mandated to review reports of the Auditor General of Canada to the NWT Legislative Assembly. The Committee examined the Auditor General’s report during public meetings with senior officials from the Office of the Auditor General and the Department of ECE on April 16 and 17 in Yellowknife.
Committee Chair Michael Nadli (MLA Deh Cho) said “We’ve heard from constituents about all the hoops they have to go through to get income assistance, with delays in payments, lost documents, and rude staff. Now we’ve heard from the Auditor General that the Department isn’t managing its client files according to program requirements. We need to know the $30 million we spend on these programs is reaching the people who really need it.”
“It’s encouraging that the Minister accepted all of the Auditor General’s recommendations. Officials listened closely during our meetings, and they said they’ve started to act. We challenge ECE to finalize a comprehensive response, to act on all the recommendations and to report regularly on results to Members and the public over the next two years.”
The audit identified systemic problems with the delivery of Income Assistance, Student Financial Assistance, Senior’s Home Heating Subsidy, and the Childcare User Subsidy. A majority of files in the review sample didn’t comply with key legal and policy requirements - 90% in the case of the Income Assistance Program - and the errors were considered significant.
Wendy Bisaro (MLA Frame Lake), Deputy Chair of SCOGO, added, “Behind the statistics are real people who need our help and our respect - income security program workers and their clients. It’s indicative that the Department has a 50% annual turnover rate for Client Service Officers. We expect the Department to support their staff with the necessary tools to become truly client-focused and we will be watching to make sure they do it.”
The Auditor General’s report underlines the fact that many Client Service Officers (CSOs) are struggling with vague guidelines, lack of monitoring and supervision, and inadequate training. The Auditor General also called attention to CSO caseloads, which in some cases may be higher than 100 per month, overworked managers, and employees’ safety concerns.
The Standing Committee on Government Operations will report on its review during the May-June Session of the Legislative Assembly.
The Committee consists of MLAs Michael Nadli (Deh Cho), Wendy Bisaro (Frame Lake), Alfred Moses (Inuvik Boot Lake), Daryl Dolynny (Range Lake), and Norman Yakeleya (Sahtu).
For more information, contact:
Michael Nadli, Chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations
MLA Deh Cho
Legislative Assembly of the NWT