Reverse overpayment requests: MHA
Sadly seniors in our province are feeling the brunt of just the latest in a series of poor financial decisions by the PC Government. I am referring to the clerical error that resulted in 427 seniors being overpaid on their public service pensions. Government’s attempt to correct this mistake is to ask pensioners to pay back money they have received in error over many, many years.
It is the responsibility of government to protect the public purse, but it is also their responsibility to provide proper oversight and strong reasonable management. In the last several years, Dwight Ball and the official opposition have been holding the PC government to task. We have questioned the cancellation of the $19 million in bonds to Humber Valley Paving, we have been challenging government to do a better job when auditing oil royalties, collecting unpaid traffic fines, expeditiously implementing recommendations from the Auditor General and explaining write offs of taxpayers’ money for numerous businesses.
All these areas represent risks to the public purse of hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet today government is focused on recouping less than $1 million by asking 70 and 80 year olds to pony up.
They could choose to keep the public service pension plan whole by accepting accountability for the error, paying the money back, showing compassion for the pensioners and better managing payroll and benefits going forward. Instead, government is leaving pensioners worried and anxious about repaying this money at the same time that the Finance Minister now says collection will be limited.
Public sector employees should be confident in their payroll administration, and taxpayers need to know that payroll expenses are being supported by strong manage- ment systems that reduce and eliminate errors. The official opposition has asked the Auditor General to conduct a comprehensive audit of the province’s human resources management system and its processes. Plenty of questions still exist about the possible risk of future clerical errors and the action required to minimize and eliminate these errors.
As for the current government, it will be the voters who decide who should best manage public finances. For today, I’m asking the Finance Minister to alleviate the anxiety of so many pensioners in our province, reverse any requests for overpayments, and instead focus on the big risk areas of protecting the public purse.
Cathy Bennett is the MHA for Virginia Waters and the opposition MHA responsible for finance and the status of women