Thursday, November 18, 2010

Disability, Rental Housing, Registry Programs Inadequate



A November 17th media release from the Auditor General of Nova Scotia:
The Auditor General found problems with government services for persons with disabilities, provincial rental housing programs and government registries, according to his latest report to the legislature released today, Nov. 17.

Jacques Lapointe's report to the House of Assembly included three performance audits that were completed this summer in two departments as well as three chapters on government financial matters.

An audit of registries operated by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations raised concerns about the security of computer systems protecting personal and business information, primarily in the land, business and joint stock registries. Weaknesses were found in the way passwords are controlled, computer accounts are set up and cancelled, and security changes are made. Disaster preparedness was also found to need strengthening.

On the other hand, the Auditor General said business processes to control the collection and recording of registry data were sound, and both business processes and IT systems in the Registry of Vital Statistics were well controlled. The report also noted that the recommended remedies require "relatively minimal resources to implement."

The audit of services for persons with disabilities at Community Services focused exclusively on the community-based options stream of the program, including family support, independent living and small options homes where three or fewer people with disabilities receive care.

The Auditor General said client-needs assessments were inconsistently completed and did not always provide adequate plans to meet identified needs. Reassessments were not always completed as required.

In addition, policies and procedures to investigate complaints about the homes or the services they offer are inadequate and there was no evidence that appropriate actions are taken to follow up and resolve complaints.

Mr. Lapointe said those weaknesses could result in persons with disabilities not receiving the level or type of services they require.

The report notes that the services for persons with disabilities program has been under review since 2002. While the department has made a number of improvements to the program as a result, many recommendations from these reviews have not yet been fully Implemented. A comprehensive plan for the future of the program has yet to be produced.

The audit of Community Services' rent supplement housing program found policies that have not been updated for 15 years, inadequate assessment and monitoring of rental units for safety and affordability, and inadequate evaluation of applications from housing developers applying for subsidies.

The department offers up to $75,000 per rental unit for new or renovated affordable housing. However, the auditors could find no evidence of a formal evaluation process for proposals received or, any evidence of how evaluations are conducted. In addition, once the units are constructed, the department does not follow up to ensure the units continue to meet program affordability requirements.

Other chapters in the report deal with government's financial reporting. One chapter provides the results of financial audits and reviews, and includes recommendations to improve financial controls.

The report also provides indicators of the province's overall financial condition, expanded this year to compare Nova Scotia with five other provinces. And a review of audit opinions of government agencies and Crown corporations highlights a need for them to pay more attention to implementing recommendations of their private sector auditors.

The full report and related documents are available online at www.oag-ns.ca.


FOR BROADCAST USE:

The Auditor General has found problems with government services for persons with disabilities, provincial rental housing programs and government registries, according to his latest report to the legislature released today (November 17th).

Jacques Lapointe's report to the House of Assembly raised concerns about the security of computer systems protecting personal and business information, primarily in the land, business and joint stock registries at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

Mr. Lapointe says weaknesses with client-needs assessments and complaint investigation for persons with disabilities at Community Services' community-based options could result in persons with disabilities not receiving the level or type of services they require.

The audit of Community Services' rent supplement housing program found policies that have not been updated for 15 years, inadequate assessment and monitoring of rental units and inadequate evaluation of subsidy applications from housing developers.

The full report and related documents are available at www.oag-ns.ca.

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Media Contact:

Jacques Lapointe
Auditor General
902-424-5907
E-mail: lapoinjr@gov.ns.ca

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