On Friday, September 28, 2018, Finance Minister Scott Fielding announced that the deficit was lower than expected for 2017-18 by $145 million.
That means that the deficit now stands at $695 million. The province had predicted a deficit of $840 million in the 2017 budget.
But the numbers aren’t as straightforward as it seems and the Auditor General for the province says that he has concerns over two accounting practices that do not fall in line with accepted Canadian practices and indicate two significant errors in the financial statements.
“The result of these 2 errors is that the summary deficit is overstated by $347 million. That’s half the reported deficit,” says Auditor General Norm Ricard.
According to Ricard, an $82 million surplus within the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) should have been included in the annual statements but was not. Richard says that in his opinion the government still controls the WCB and that there have been no relevant changes to the Workers Compensation Act that would indicate a loss of that control.
“The exclusion of entities from the government reporting entity that are still controlled by government does not provide a complete picture of the financial position and results of government,” said Ricard.
The transaction should not have been recorded in 2018
The second error related to $265 million that was transferred from the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation to a trust account. This transfer took place after the end of the fiscal year but was accounted for as an expense for last year. It should have been recorded as an expense for the current fiscal year.
Had the two items been reported as the Auditor General suggests the provincial deficit would be $348 million just over half of what the finance minister stated.
Fielding says that the WCB surplus and the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation transfer was done to be transparent and that in the case of the WCB that money is not government money and government has been taking credit for it for too long.
© 2018 News 4