FREDERICTON (GNB) - For the first time in 17 years the Auditor General of New Brunswick has not issued a clean opinion on the province’s audited financial statements.

The March 31, 2015 financial statements released by the Minister of Finance on Sept. 30 reported a deficit of $388.6 million. However, Auditor General Kim MacPherson cited major concerns with the financial statements by cautioning that the numbers may be misleading and do not accurately present the province’s fiscal situation on March 31, 2015.

The Auditor General’s reservations are important for the legislative assembly and the public to note.

“This is more than a disagreement among accountants,” said MacPherson. “This means that readers of the financial statements, such as the public, elected officials and credit rating agencies, cannot fully assess the fiscal situation using the province’s financial statements. It brings into question the credibility of the numbers.”

The Auditor General’s concerns are specific to the government’s accounting for Shared Risk Pension Plans. In her audit opinion she explains the accounting for Shared Risk Pension Plans does not comply with Canadian Public Sector Accounting standards. The reservations occurred in this year’s audit due to changes in the province’s accounting for these plans.

“The deficit of $388.6 million would have been significantly different if the shared risk pension plans were accounted for following accepted standards,” noted MacPherson. “However, this difference cannot be determined.”

MacPherson added it was not possible to determine the exact difference as sufficient information was not provided by the province. She also indicated this reservation on the financial statements is likely to continue in the years ahead unless the accounting for Shared Risk Pension Plans is changed.

More information is available online in a document called Clean Audit Opinions are Important.