Almost $41 million surplus in Environmental Trust Fund while eligible projects are denied or awarded reduced funding: auditor general29 November 2022
FREDERICTON (GNB) – In his latest report tabled today in the legislative assembly, auditor general Paul Martin highlighted a lack of planning and direction with respect to the province’s Environmental Trust Fund under the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Local Government.
The audit found the department has no standardized approach to evaluating project funding requests and efforts to make evidence-based decisions continue to fall short.
“We were surprised to find projects being rejected or given less-than-requested funding while the fund has a surplus of almost $41 million,” said Martin.
The report stated that the accumulated surplus grew by more than $20 million in less than 10 years, as revenue continuously outpaced expenditures. Furthermore, Martin said the department has no clear plan for the surplus.
“The department needs to develop a transparent plan outlining how and when it will use the accumulated surplus,” said Martin.
As one of the largest trust funds in the province, Martin said he expected to see a documented strategy with long-term goals and measurable outcomes, but instead found that this has never been completed.
The audit found that the department does not effectively oversee the fund to ensure it is delivering on its mandate. For instance, Martin said, the department has not evaluated the fund’s performance or outcomes since it was established in 1990.
“The department was unable to demonstrate how 30 years of funding has positively impacted the environment in New Brunswick,” said Martin.
The report also noted that the provincial government has not provided clear strategic direction for the department regarding its oversight responsibilities for the fund.
The auditor general made nine recommendations to the Department of Environment and Local Government to address the issues with oversight authority and responsibility, planning, performance measurement and reporting of the Environmental Trust Fund.
More details on this and other chapters of Volume II of the auditor general’s 2022 report are available online.