Auditor General’s Report: $ 30 million in unapproved Green Fund spending in 2018

Tens of millions of dollars from the Green Fund have been spent in violation of the law by departments under the guise of “administrative costs”, laments the Auditor General in her most recent report.

The volume that Auditor General Guylaine Leclerc presented on Wednesday adds to the well-stocked library of reports, analyzes and investigations that describe the problems of the Green Fund, Quebec’s main tool in the fight against climate change.

VG’s sustainable development commissioner Paul Lanoie now conducts an annual watch of the fund because of its failures. The Legault government recently passed a bill reforming the Green Fund, now the Electrification and Climate Change Fund. But the changes cannot be assessed for the next few years, Lanoie said. And the government’s new strategy will not be implemented until 2022.

He notes today that, for the year 2017-2018, $ 41.2 million from the Green Fund was “charged to administrative costs” and that, of this amount, $ 30 million was “without having been formally approved by the Green Fund’s management board ”. This constitutes “non-compliance with the law”.

An old problem

The issue of management fees is not new: the AG has said since 2014 that these are a problem. But he did a monk’s job here to calculate them. To determine what sums were spent on “management costs” which do not contribute in any way to the reduction of greenhouse gases, he had to “accumulate data from more than a hundred documents to obtain a portrait of the situation. “.

The reason is simple: the Ministry of the Environment did not include it “in the accounts of the Green Fund or in the reports of the action plan to combat climate change”.

Worse, since September 2019, under the direction of Minister Benoit Charette, “the amounts budgeted for administrative costs are no longer presented, neither in the monitoring sheets nor elsewhere”. These administrative costs still exist, but they are now invisible.

The Ministry of the Environment takes advantage

It should be noted that the Ministry of the Environment is the main beneficiary of these management fees ($ 20 million).

He had authorized himself, for example, to pay the remuneration of civil servants who must “develop policies, expertise and relations with partners in climate change”, as well as “GHG declarations and management of the carbon market” .

The Environment Ministry also concealed a cost overrun of more than 100% for the measure. It was impossible for anyone but the AG and his investigative power to “see that a budget overrun of $ 2.3 million occurred in 2017-18 [budget de 1,6 million de dollars et dépenses réelles de 3,9 M$, soit plus du double du budget]”.

No fair portrait

The other old problems of the Green Fund are also still present. The absence of documents or their poor quality does not make it possible to “draw a fair picture of the progress of the implementation of measures” of the Government of Quebec Action Plan 2013-2020 to reduce Quebec’s GHG emissions.

Almost all of the financial assistance (96% of $ 160 million) from the Ministère des Transports [MTQ] in 2018 is “paid to beneficiaries without them having determined a GHG emission reduction target for their project”.

The Ministry of the Environment and the MTQ do not take into account the cost / benefit ratio linked to GHGs when choosing which projects to fund. The cost per tonne of GHG reduction ranges from $ 1 to over $ 350.

The Green Fund has garnered $ 6 billion in revenue since its inception. In 2013, the government of Quebec estimated that it would reduce Quebec’s emissions by 6 million tonnes of GHGs. This target has been revised down considerably: it is now close to 2 million tonnes.

Quebec will also miss the 2020 target, which was an international commitment.

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