Auditor General criticizes Public Works over environmental due diligence issues

In his Spring Report, issued today, Auditor General Michael Ferguson has criticized Public Works and Government Services Canada for weaknesses in the way it operationalizes the findings of environmental due diligence reviews in some federal government buildings. In the auditor’s words:

We analyzed the issues the Department identified through its environmental due diligence reviews in the 2012–13 fiscal year. About 40 percent of these reviews raised issues, and at least a quarter of the issues were more than a simple deficiency in documentation—for example, improper storage of hazardous materials. Furthermore, we noted that for three of the eight contracts [with building management service providers], the Department had not communicated the results of the reviews it conducted in the 2012–13 fiscal year to the service provider. It had also not completed the final national report on the results of its assessments of environmental compliance.

The Auditor General identified the PWGS Canada obligations as including:

Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements concerning environmental protection as well as health and safety in buildings where federal employees work. For the purposes of this audit, this includes the following areas, where proper management is important to minimize significant risks to occupants’ health and safety:

    • hazardous materials and hazardous waste,
    • fuel storage tanks,
    • asbestos,
    • ozone-depleting substances,
    • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
    • potable water,
    • indoor air quality, and
    • fire safety.

The AG notes that PWGS Canada is not accountable for ensuring that all these obligations are met for all buildings managed under the outsourcing contracts. However, the Department is responsible for ensuring that the service provider complies with the contracts’ terms and conditions in support of these obligations.

More details are available in Chapter 7:—Outsourcing Building Management Services—Public Works and Government Services Canada of the Auditor General of Canada’s 2014 Spring Report to be found at http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_oag_201405_07_e_39338.html#ex1

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