FREDERICTON (GNB) – In her latest report tabled today in the legislative assembly, auditor general Kim MacPherson identified multiple concerns around the funding provided by the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour to the province’s four publicly funded universities and the Maritime College of Forest Technology.

Over the last decade, the universities and the college have received over $2 billion in operating grants.

“The department is not holding universities and the Maritime College of Forest Technology accountable for funding provided,” said MacPherson.

The province and the universities signed memorandums of understanding for funding from 2017-18 to 2020-21.

“The memorandums of understanding included a number of accountability requirements, which we viewed as a good starting point on which to build an accountability framework,” said MacPherson. “It would allow universities to report on the progress and outcomes achieved with provincial funding.”

However, the audit identified only one of three of these requirements had been met.

The audit identified a lack of monitoring by the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour of the annual operating grant of roughly $210 million.

“As well, even when there was monitoring of certain specific funding agreements, we found the department failed to take corrective action when performance targets were not met,” said MacPherson.

This was the case for the agreement intended to expand the nursing programs at the University of New Brunswick and Université de Moncton.

MacPherson found the department paid close to $100 million to the universities under the program, yet the number of seats in the programs at the time the agreement expired was less than it was in 2005-06, the first year of the agreement.

“The department was monitoring the enrolment and aware the targets were not being met for a number of years, but did not take corrective action,” said MacPherson.

The audit also points out the funding formula, which is supposed to be used to allocate funds to the universities, has not been used for several years.

“The funding formula is important because it provides an objective allocation of the funds,” said MacPherson. “When the formula is not used, factors like enrolment and the cost of programs offered aren’t taken into account.”

The auditor general found indications it is time to re-examine the 40-year-old funding formula and its components.

Overall, MacPherson made 11 recommendations to improve accountability, monitoring and the funding formula.

The Provincial Funding to Universities and Maritime College of Forest Technology chapter can be found in Volume II of the 2019 Auditor General Report. Volume II contains performance audit chapters. Volume III, also released today, focuses on matters arising from the annual financial audit of the province and Crown agencies. These volumes and one-page summaries for select chapters are available online.