B.C. auditor general postpones 10 performance audits, cites pandemic

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VICTORIA — British Columbia's auditor general says COVID-19 is largely behind the postponement of 10 performance audits and potential delays to future reviews of the government's response to the pandemic.

Michael Pickup said Tuesday evolving circumstances mostly connected to the pandemic's impact on government operations have made it necessary to change the status of the audits.

He said those include the impact the pandemic is having on the workforce assigned to projects or programs being reviewed, as well as on ministry staff.

"Certainly, circumstances like the government's efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted our audit work," Pickup said at a news conference after the release of a status report by his office.

"It is to be expected that this requires an all-hands-on-deck response by ministries and staff in health care."

Pickup said an audit of B.C. Hydro's Site C dam project was postponed to allow the government to conduct its own review in order to ensure the review considers the most up-to-date information.

The government recently announced a revised cost estimate of $16 billion to complete the Site C hydroelectric dam and a one-year completion delay to 2025.

An audit of government substance use services was delayed after requests by the Ministry of Health and Vancouver Coastal Health to focus on the pandemic, Pickup said.

"Proceeding as planned could have diverted critical resources and focus away from clinical care and the COVID-19 response," he said.

Pickup said his office has planned various reports on the government's pandemic response, including the $1.5-billion economic recovery fund and the vaccine rollout program, but much depends on the availability of the government and its resources.

"Yes, at the request of government, given how busy folks are in response to the pandemic, we've been recognizing ... that we can't be getting in the way while the government works in response," he said. "Yes, there are things we have identified and more planning is to be done and more discussions are to be had."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2021.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press