Re­verse over­pay­ment re­quests: MHA

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

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

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