Lapointe saw all that he had recommended, and it was very good

I’ve been trying to figure out why Jacque LaPointe sets my teeth on edge. I’d normally expect to like an aggressive Auditor General, but lately, Lapointe has become too much of a showboat. His demeanor changed after the MLAs’ expense scandal, when he seemed to transmogrify from reasoned second opiner to God’s Gift of Good Governance.

Lapointe’s latest report to the legislature included a summary of how the 481 recommendations he made between 2005 and 2009 have fared:

The overall implementation rate of our performance audit recommendations is inadequate. Only 63% of the recommendations in our 2005 to 2009 reports were implemented…. Government’s failure to implement these recommendations constitutes poor management practices and poor accountability to the House.

Notice the unspoken assumption? One hundred percent is a perfect score; Anything less is “poor management” and “poor accountability.” Apparently, the wisdom of each and every JL recommendation is indisputable.

Auditor General Jacques Lapointe (not exactly as illustrated)

The media and the public share this view. They look upon any Auditor General as invariably right, and always beyond reproach. In fact, Lapointe’s recommendations are just that: recommendations. Talk to any longtime civil servant or candid politician, and you’ll hear examples of AG recommendations that were impractical, ill-considered, or flat-out wrong.

Try explaining this in public. Officials who attempt to will lose the argument. So they suck it up and move on—and perhaps employ a bit of passive aggression in the form of sluggish or incomplete implementation.

Lapointe exemplifies a trend that bothers me throughout government: process run amok. This man loves process, but appears by times indifferent to outcomes.

He gave the Department of Community Services, another hotbed of process lovers, the best score of any department: 85 percent “compliance.” DCS used Lapointe’s recommendations on services to people with disabilities to impose unilateral changes that made life harder and poorer for Nova Scotia’s most disadvantaged citizens. It used his recommendations on income support to claw back benefits, then promoted the changes with a repulsive PR campaign that crowed about eliminating hot tubs and gym memberships for welfare bums. Beautiful process. Crappy outcome.

So here’s an invitation to any politician, civil servant, or departmental stakeholder, current or moved on: send me examples of Lapointe recommendations whose wisdom or outcome you found less than God-like, with details and an emphasis on outcomes, actual or averted. Anonymity guaranteed.