Next performance audits to target health, housing and NBCC

GN revamps FANS in step with AG report


Government of Nunavut officials will revamp their student financial assistance program in response to a new type of audit done by the Auditor General of Canada, the deputy minister of education, Kathy Okpik, told an MLAs' committee last week.

"It's been a learning experience for us all," Okpik said, telling MLAs her staff have already started work on a plan to fix the FANS, or Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students system.

Called a "performance audit," this most recent report is the first of a series of narrowly-focused probes in which the Office of the Auditor General will study selected GN agencies to see how well they work.

This fall, the Auditor General will release another performance audit, on the Nunavut Business Credit Corp., followed in 2008 by a report on the Nunavut Housing Corp., and in late 2008 or early 2009 by a report on the Department of Health and Social Services.

Andrew Lennox, the assistant auditor general, said that as part of this work, his office will encourage GN officials to prepare corrective action plans when problems are revealed.

That way, the numerous governance and financial problems that auditors usually find within the GN can be dealt with early, some before the final audit report is even made public.

The auditor general's office gave the GN a draft version of its student financial assistance audit this past February.

So when Sheila Fraser, the auditor general, arrived in Iqaluit June 12 to explain her report, the GN's action plan was set to go.

"We have shared this workplan with the Office of the Auditor General and are now in the process of implementing the work contained in that plan," Okpik told MLAs.

Keith Peterson, MLA for Cambridge Bay and a member of the operations committee, said he likes this new approach.

"You come with a plan. That is a commendable action in itself," Peterson said June 14 at the end of the committee session.

Hunter Tootoo, the MLA for Iqaluit Centre and chair of the operations committee, is normally a harsh critic of GN practices.

But even Tootoo praised the government for its response to the audit, which revealed a long list of administrative screw-ups within the financial assistance program.

"As a result of the review and audit, I'm confident that the problems of the past are going to be rectified," Tootoo said.

Fraser found that the FANS program does one thing right: it now delivers cheques to students in a "timely manner."

But she found many other administrative problems, along with an absence of clear targets and objectives, and now way of measuring whether the program's success.

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