A review of New Brunswick’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is proceeding as quickly as possible, and several other audits have been postponed until it is complete, the Office of the Auditor General says.
The review, unanimously requested by the legislature in April, is currently in the “scoping phase”, spokeswoman Jolyne Roy said. She did not respond to a request for clarification.
“The office is working as quickly as possible while ensuring quality audit work,” Roy said in an emailed statement.
The timing of a final report will depend on a variety of factors, including “unforeseen complications or challenges that may arise,” she said.
According to spokeswoman Ashlyn McKinney, performance audit resources have been “substantially shifted…to meet this significant demand”.
Work on the following audits has been deferred until the COVID review is complete:
- Retirement homes
- Mental health services
- Nurse practitioners
- WorkSafeNB Claims
- Flood relief and preparedness
- Crown agency construction contracts
- SNB value proposition
- Procurement Phase II Annex B
Once the COVID review is complete, the findings and report will be made available to the public on the Auditor General’s website “as soon as possible,” Roy said.
“We can share further information on developments and progress as appropriate,” she said.
Premier Blaine Higgs has previously said he expects the review to take about a year.
‘Flawed’ findings on lockdowns fueled decision to end warrants
Earlier this month, CBC reported that the Department of Health’s March 2022 decision to end mask mandates and other COVID-19 measures was made after officials circulated an academic paper widely criticized as “fundamentally flawed”.
Among the flaws identified by critics is the newspaper’s use of the blanket term “lockdown” for a range of policies from stay-at-home orders to mask mandates.
This makes it difficult to measure the impact of individual restrictions, said Adrian Lison, a doctoral student and infectious disease researcher at ETH Zurich, who co-authored a rebuttal posted on the Social Science Research Network website.
Department spokesman Adam Bowie said a Public Health recommendation to introduce or remove any health mandate “would never be based on any study or report.”
COVID-19 claimed four more New Brunswickers the week of August 22, the last week for which figures are available, bringing the death toll from the pandemic to 466.
There were 33 people hospitalized with the virus, including four in intensive care, according to the province.
Meanwhile, regional health authorities, which include people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in their weekly reports, as well as those initially admitted for another reason and tested for the virus. then tested positive, say 99 New Brunswickers have been hospitalized for or with COVID. -19, five of which required intensive care.
A total of 1,398 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported, and there have been 1,072 active cases in the province, based on PCR testing alone.
The Liberals called in December for an independent review of the province’s handling of the pandemic. The motion was defeated 23 to 20 by the Progressive Conservative majority.
Higgs then said it was not the right time for a review as the province was still grappling with issues related to the health and safety of citizens.
He said he was proud of his government’s response, citing spending to help businesses and individuals recover, save immigration and interest in properties.
According to the Auditor General’s 2022-2023 Business Plan, performance review reports expected to be released this year include:
- Government health and dental plans
- NB Liquor Corporation
- Contaminated sites
- Environment Trust Fund
- Joint follow-up on the 2016 recommendations to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation and follow-up