Crime rates fall but OPP costs soar: Auditor general

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Cash, guns and drugs seized as evidence have been mishandled and misplaced by OPP officers, Auditor General Jim McCarter said Wednesday in his annual report.

In some cases, money meant for court has been transferred from one detachment to another without proper records, although McCarter did not find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Surprise inspections by senior officers are needed to make sure detachments are handling such evidence properly, McCarter said in his recommendations.

It’s just one of several problems the AG found across the justice system in this year’s report — money-wasting inefficiencies he said the debt-burdened province can ill afford as crime rates drop and and police and prosecutor budgets soar.

“We felt across the whole justice sector, Crown attorneys, youth justice, OPP — in this environment, there were opportunities for cost savings,” McCarter said.

“The OPP is one example where we really didn’t note much of an improvement over the last 10 years. We’ve raised the same issues.

“The number of OPP officers continues to increase every year but they’re not using good information, good staffing deployment models, to determine how many officers they need.”

McCarter found numerous problems with the way the OPP deploys its officers — 45% of detachment staff don’t do front-line work — salaries are third-highest in the country and overtime costs are soaring.

Youth Justice Services, too, have increased in cost by 25% since 2005-06 while the number of youths served rose just 4%.

Those are just some of the key observations McCarter made in this year’s report, which also probed the province’s performance on tax collection, cancer screening, Aboriginal education and long-term care.

McCarter found taxpayers are owed nearly $2.5 billion in uncollected taxes — 90% of that corporate and retail sales tax — but collectors rarely make face to face contact to ask for the money and typically take seven months just to get in touch by phone.

Up to $1.4 billion of the total outstanding may have to be written off and Ontario may not even have the legislative ability to pursue out-of-province tax deadbeats.

In health care, McCarter said Cancer Care Ontario has set up three good screening programs for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer but not enough of the at-risk population is taking part.

There’s also a need for greater oversight of the 800 independent health facilities offering diagnostic services.

McCarter says the Health Ministry believes up to 20% of tests done in private labs are unnecessary.

Half of all such labs are owned by doctors but the ministry hasn’t analyzed what doctors refer patients to their own facilities.

There are problems, too, with the $741-million Diabetes strategy, which McCarter said devoted just 3% of funds to prevention, despite 90% of cases being preventable.

McCarter also found that even though eHealth Ontario hasn’t paid a contractor any money after it failed to deliver on a planned diabetes registry, the agency and the health ministry still racked up $24.4 million in internal costs.