Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Why is Province Sitting on PDD Report?

Accountability and Transparency Alert:  The Alberta Liberals in a News Release yesterday have drawn attention to the fact that the Stelmach government is sitting on the KPMG administrative review study on services to Persons with Developmental Disabilities.  

This study was ordered by Seniors and Community Supports department and apparently the Minister has had the report since September 15, 2010 but it is not released publically.  Full disclosure, I worked as an advisor and registered as a lobbyist for the ACDS on the funding and policy development in this area.  My work was completed I am no longer retained on the file but personally concerned about the provincial government approach in the entire area.

The Alberta government is very aware that business dislikes uncertainty but does not seem to appreciate the same impact of uncertainty on the not-for profit community based organizations that are all over Alberta serving vulnerable and disabled Albertans and fulfilling the legal obligations of the government to provide for these citizens.

I call this delay in disclosure of the report results Accountability and Transparency Alert because Albertans should be very concerned as to why the report is being sat on and the department is silent on the findings and recommendations.  I can speculate based on my knowledge of the background and facts I know about the lack of political will to do the right thing in this area.  These are two of the most important value Albertans expect of their government and evaluate their government.  The other key evaluation values used by citizens are honesty and integrity.  Delay of the report release, disclosure and response for pure political reasons discredits the provincial government in the eyes of the voters on all counts.

I will look at the politics of the matter at this time because that is what is likely behind the delay in release.  The provincial government political attitude about the PD Dares seems to be they are suspicious about getting value for money from the system.   At the community level they are.  Staff are overworked, underpaid, spread thin and in highly stressed especially with clients with multiple disabilities.  The province fudges the numbers in reporting costs and in comparisons but I will leave that analysis for after we see what KPMG says.

I harbour suspicions about the mandate given to KPMG in doing this report.  Don’t get me wrong they do quality work but if the scope of the work is limited or who they talk to is dictated, the integrity of the results and the usefulness of the report have to be questioned.  I hear that KPMG were told which service provider agencies they should talk to in gathering information.  If that is the case the process seems to be more political than policy based and the honesty and integrity of the process and findings have to be viewed with suspicion.

There are many wonderful people working in difficult and uncertain circumstances trying to do the right thing for developmentally disabled Albertans and their families.  The province seems to be on a path to discredit the local community agencies in their efforts.  If this is the motivation behind the review and the political pressure of the province I can only surmise that the real reason behind this intimidation of these not-for-profit volunteer and community based service providers is political.  I wonder if the real motivation  of the province to try and replace the community supported not-for profit service providers with private sector marketplace driven businesses to drive down costs, reduce services and  “save” money. 

There are a few very good for profit service providers in the PDD area now.  They are integrated and collaborate with the community based agencies.  In the past there were allegations and fraud charges laid against some private sector service providers but the province lost those court cases partly because, as I understand, the contractual arrangements with the private sector providers were less than clear so abuses were unpunished. 

So let’s not make those mistakes again.  Let’s not continue to make the current foolhardy political mistakes by sitting on the report.  Let’s keep an open mind on what the report says but let’s not be patient and compliant with any further delay in its release.  Let’s insist on a full disclosure and a public response from the provincial government on the process, findings and recommendations.  Integrity, honest, accountability, transparency and a fiscally responsible government would release and respond right away.