Hydro One, Ontario Auditor, Damning report
Auditor General's first look into Hydro One not pretty - Government's response out right ugly
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter released his 2006 report and it didn’t bode well for crown corporations in the province. For the first time the auditor general had the power to open up the books at hospitals, colleges, children’s aid societies and Hydro One to conduct value for money audits. His findings at the latter: Damning.
The audit revealed $127-million charged to Hydro One credit cards without receipts. Hydro One President and CEO Tom Parkinson ran up $45,000 in personal expenses through his assistant’s corporate credit card. Not only did this avoid internal audit, Mr. Parkinson was no less approving his assistant’s expenses.
Unfortunately, expenses are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Tom Parkinson received an annual salary of $1-million and a bonus of another $500,000. Hydro One defended the salary as necessary to lure top level managers from the private sector. They obviously couldn’t find such top level talent in Canada: Parkinson, an Australian, was also given a perk package including use of the Hydro One helicopter for personal use and a round trip flight to Australia annually. First class no doubt.
Ontario Energy Minister Dwight Duncan either had no grasp of how bad the situation at Hydro One was or completely ignored it. His government downplayed the significance of Tom Parkinson’s generous salary and spending. Maybe because this is not new for them: The previous President and CEO, Eleanor Clitheroe, was dismissed for her lavish spending on vacations and exclusive club memberships. She sued the government for damages after her dismissal.
In both cases, the outgoing heads of Hydro One did not leave without a hefty parting gift. In exchange for his resignation Tom Parkinson was awarded two years salary and bonus. This adds up to $3-million Energy Minister Dwight Duncan stated “this is the least costly way of resolving the situation.”
Minister Duncan is mistaken. Firing Parkinson with cause would have saved Ontario ratepayers $3- million. It would also have sent a clear message to Ontario bureaucrats and employees at crown corporations: That treating ratepayer’s dollars like a personal piggy bank will not be tolerated. The minister also had the option of using legal channels to recoup every last cent Parkinson illicitly expensed to his assistant’s credit card.
Ratepayers shouldn’t have to stand for this nonsense. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is petitioning Premier McGuinty to not accept Mr. Parkinson’s resignation and to fire him with cause. This would cancel his lavish severance package. The petition calls for the government to conduct a full forensic audit of Hydro One – including the actions of Mr. Parkinson. To register your disgust with the appalling lack of accountability at Hydro One, visit www.taxpayer.com and sign the petition.
(Neil Desai is Ontario Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation).