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N.S. government spending outside budget process loses millions in interest: auditor

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s auditor general says the province’s spending outside the regular budget process lacks oversight and is costing the government millions of dollars in interest.

In a report released today, Kim Adair continues to criticize the province’s controversial habit of spending unexpected budget surpluses without approval from the legislature.

Adair says extra-budget spending granted 11 recipients a total of $430 million in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 fiscal years before projects were underway, rather than as expenses were incurred.

She says her audit shows that much of that money is sitting in recipients’ bank accounts, and as a result the province is foregoing about $19 million in interest annually.

The grants include $190 million to EfficiencyOne for off-oil efficiency programs and measures to address energy poverty; about $59 million for a medical school campus at Cape Breton University; and $37 million for St. Francis Xavier University’s health education buildings. 

In today’s audit Adair recommends — for the third time — that the government follow other provinces and require all spending to be subject to a vote in the legislature.

Premier Tim Houston has rejected that recommendation in the past, saying there is adequate oversight of spending and that quarterly budget updates inform the public.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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