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BC job program review finds billing problems

Some 12 percent of the money the British Columbia government gave to welfare-to-work contractors was paid without sufficient documentation, a review of the B.C. Employment Program found.

The accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers reviewed a sample of 364 charges to the government, the B.C. Employment Program Review said.

“We noted payments where the documentation requirements were not met in approximately 7.1 percent, based on the overall billing profile of billing records, representing approximately 12 percent of billing value,” it said.

The BCEP program, launched in 2006 to help people receiving welfare find jobs, is worth about $35 million a year. Based on the PwC report, the housing and social development ministry would have paid some $4.2 million a year in situations where the contractors did not meet the documentation requirements.

PwC completed the BCEP review in December 2008. The Tyee obtained it recently through a freedom of information request. Access was at first denied due to confusion with a similar report, also titled B.C. Employment Review Plan. The second report was withheld under the FOI act because it was prepared for treasury board, a cabinet committee, and still has not been released.

Of the 364 billings PwC examined, 20 were paid without proper documentation. In some cases a service was likely provided but not documented, the authors said. “However, as we are unable to determine what services were performed, the possibility remains that some portion of this amount may relate to services billed but not provided.”

The BCEP replaced the Job Placement Program, which the government ended three years ahead of schedule, but kept the main contractors. The Tyee reported in May that a 2006 audit showed the government had issued overpayments of between $1 million and $6.5 million during the second phase of the JPP.

The PwC review looked at payments to the three main BCEP contractors, WCG International, GT Hiring Solutions (2005) Inc. and the B.C. Society of Training for Health and Employment. WCG, now owned by Providence Service Corporation, runs the JobWave program while GT Hiring runs Destinations.

The authors recommended the ministry review its quality assurance program. “Frequent recurring reviews would help to reinforce the importance of billing integrity to the contractors,” it said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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