BC Hydro: the public utility with zero public accountability

Longtime readers will know well the wisdom and warnings of Erik Anderson, retired former economist who has long been ringing the warning bell of the dire situation of BC Hydro’s financials.

Something is still very wrong at BC Hydro, and this matters because we all have hydro accounts. And we will all bear the brunt of Hydro’s past mismanagement that continues despite Michelle Mungall’s use of former BC Hydro cheerleader Bill Bennett’s pom-poms to boost Chris O’Riley at every chance she gets…( I swear, it’s as if they all forgot everything they ever hammered the Libs for on BC hydro)

I digress as can happen on a hot summer night but let’s move on.

Before good old Kootenay Bill left, he signed off on a change to how BC Hydro gives annual reports which typically give a full financial account of the affairs of the corporation.

This presents an issue for those looking forward to ‘Annual Reports’ because it’s now a “Service Plan Annual Report”. 

( I would be remiss in failing to mention that the most recent report was opened by Brad Bennett who, in addition to being appointed chair of BC Hydro by Clark in 2015…also acted as her…ahem..advisor on the campaign trail in the last election!)  Nope, no conflict there… 

Not surprisingly, Bennett was replaced shortly after the NDP won the last election-that’s where accountability seems to have stopped pending a full review.

Capture+_2018-07-16-22-59-39~2.png

Erik believes…as do I…that the people of BC who will ultimately pay for every bit of BC Liberal ( and NDP?) mismanagement at BC hydro deserve better…and he has a concern on the legality of the new reports…and an idea.

He was kind to prepare a post for you and here it is.

July 16, 2018

 

             BC Budget Transparency and Accountability Act

 

Yes such legislation does exist but maybe only on paper, not in practice. It also features “Annual Report instructions for Crown Corporations” where it goes on to say that “each Crown corporation MUST issue an annual report showing how their business outcomes compare to the goals in their “service plan”.

 

For undisclosed reasons no ‘annual reports’ by either ICBC or BC Hydro have been issued for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. In two weeks we will know if 2018 will be another.

 

Speculating about why no annual reports have been issued is just that, speculation, but the usual reason is that the issuer’s financial statements are or will not be conforming to professional and accepted accounting standards.  The independent auditor risks losing their license to practice if they were to accept incorrect or misleading financial statements for their signature.

 

So what do we citizens now have? A series of “Service Plans” where there is no one legally accountable for their content. The absence of annual reports that a Minister, Board of Directors and Senior Managers would and should be legally accountable for is massively unfinished business.

 

Adding to this uncertainty we now have the BC Auditor General advising on July 9th, 2018 that they will “become BC Hydro’s financial auditor in 2020”. Characterizing this as kick the can down the road action would seem correct and likely means that “Service Plans” will be the standard fare until then and beyond.

 

Since this wrong state of financial reporting has been around for plus 2 years and no elected person has spoken out against this shabby behavior, it is left to the electorate to demand remediation.  Most adult readers know that they would fail to get a bank loan if they went to a bank with a set of income, liability and assets statements that were not official. Yet BC Hydro has been and continues to do this very thing by not having income and balance sheet reports that are legal documents.

 

What worries me most is that there are those willing to lend regardless of the reporting shortcomings and the apparent illegality of there being none.

 

What I am asking people to do about this sick condition is to join individually or even better, as groups, and ask the BC Public Interest Advocacy Center, in Vancouver, to seek a court injunction prohibiting all capital expenditures, particularly Site C , by BC Hydro until all missing annual reports are publicly posted and sign by a nationally recognized accountancy firm.  The contention is that borrowing and spending by BC Hydro is immoral, unethical and likely illegal.

 

BC PIAC exists for the very purpose of looking out for the “public’s interest”. Borrowing and spending by BC Hydro seems to fit the purpose PIAC was created. Many of us, including my dear friend Rafe Mair , sought to have the BC Hydro sorry story change but as of yet to no avail. Please lend a hand with this new initiative.
BC PIAC can be found and contacted at this link: 

http://bcpiac.com/contact/

Telephone: 604-687-3063
Fax: 604-682-7896
Email: support (at) bcpiac.com

 I am happy to be used as a reference. twolabradors@shaw.ca

Please.

Go now and share and email the org above and ask your friends and neighbours too as well. Hydro is continuing to take a wrong turn when all evidence presented by the NDP themselves over past years indicated a full stop…yet they do nothing.

They count on the fact most people may not understand this…or why this matters. And that’s wrong.

Over the next few days I will have a few more blog posts coming..not all by me but all are important enough I can’t ignore them.  Including another post on the evidence for a corruption inquiry in BC…

Stay cool.

 

10 thoughts on “BC Hydro: the public utility with zero public accountability

  1. Salal Lou

    We must hold a public inquiry. Take the lead of the new Ontario Provincial government. If not the decay will continue. Taxpayers deserve better, much better.

    1. Laila Yuile

      I agree and will have a new post on both Site C and why we need an inquiry also this week. It would be insane to just ‘move forward’ and give everyone a free pass.

      It astounds me that of all people…Doug Ford calls for an inquiry in his province….while the NDP here are tiptoeing around our issue in the face of buckets of evidence it is needed!! ( the irony of Gordon Campbell heading it up though is just hilarious.Pot calling Kettle black there😂)

      Please email this org and ask them to assist here on Hydro. We must force accountability here and not let this go. Erik will keep people advised if something can be done or anyone undertakes the effort.

      Hydro is still not on track and Mungall just smiles and says she has confidence. Smackmyhead….

  2. Terry

    The announcement that the AG will assume audit oversight in 2020 indicates an unfortunate delay in their original plans – from the Site C section of their ‘Work in Progress’ page:

    “We have related audits in progress at BC Hydro on rate-regulated accounting, capital asset management and more. In 2019, we will also be BC Hydro’s financial statement auditor. More information on these audits is available in our most recent coverage plans.”

    I strongly agree with the call for an injuction on major capital spending – and certainly any new spending related to Site C – pending the AG’s completion of their anticipated work on the project. From the same page as above:

    “Site C remains a priority for us. After much deliberation, we are changing our focus from our original plan. Because we can’t audit all aspects of the Site C project, we need some time to determine where we can offer the most value given the complexity of the project and our limited resources to best support MLAs and British Columbians. Audits, depending on type, can take one year or more to complete. Once we have defined our new Site C audit, we will update this description.”

    1. Laila Yuile

      Great comment.

      Why would the ndp delay this after all they KNOW? Its not conjecture. Its fact that there are serious issues that need to be addressed asap.

  3. Erik Andersen

    Please folks no “poor me or poor us” postings. The disarray of BC Hydro’s financial circumstances were identified at least 6 years ago. In several posts with Rafe and Damien it was suggested there was a choice for BC citizens.
    To think that the Government, BC H board and Executives were financial and economic illiterates or to think that some others wanted Hydro to be loaded up with financial obligations, besides those shown in the annual reports, but identified as $58 billion in 2016 by the BC AG.
    It is a classic scam where the buyers pretend they are going to be in big need just to change the market dynamics from being a sellers market to a buyers market. Our great leaders fell into trap with coal in the 1980s but the lessons did not stick so here we are yet again.

  4. Sent to BC PIAC this morning:

    The Budget Transparency and Accountability Act provides the framework and accountability for the fiscal operations of the Government of British Columbia. Establishing the budget presented to the citizens of British Columbia for approval through the Legislature depends on key legislated inputs without which accuracy and transparency would be impossible.

    The major cornerstones of the Act include the service plans of crown corporations, especially major ones like BC Hydro, which has capital projects and contractual obligations involving well over $100 billion.

    The minister responsible for BC Hydro has not made public the annual service plan report required under section 16 of the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act for years 2016 or 2017.

    The Budget Transparency and Accountability Act provides at section 17 that if a document required to be made public is not made public within the required time, the responsible minister must make public a written statement giving the reasons for the non-compliance.

    As neither of these lawful obligations has been met, and the responsible minister has issued no public notice of a regulatory change to those obligations as required under section 24(3) of the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act, the responsible minister appears to stand in violation of the laws of British Columbia.

    The possibility also exists that the citizens of British Columbia will be exposed to substantial fiscal harm absent lawful fiscal oversight designed to prevent it.

    This is to request that your organization take urgent action under whatever means are available, including a court injunction prohibiting all major capital expenditures on the Site C project by BC Hydro until all missing annual reports are publicly posted as required by law to ensure the government of British Columbia conducts its operations according to established legislation.

  5. Erik

    Now in case anyone was having doubts about the legality of what the Minister and BC Hydro have been doing, the above post should settle the matter.
    The noted legislation is created in the Legislature and thereby are the rules of play for all legislators. Ignoring should mean serious time in the penalty box and a fine as well.

  6. Ron Scott

    Hello Ron,

    I’m sorry to hear that your sister didn’t qualify for the Crisis Fund.

    We can certainly connect your sister with our BC Hydro liaison to find out more about why she didn’t qualify, or if an error was made.

    We are not able to respond to second-hand information, so would you kindly ask her to either call us or send an email about her concerns? Then we will gladly connect her with someone who can best answer her questions and concerns. It’s great to know that she has a concerned advocate like yourself looking out for her. Thank you for letting us know.

    Kind regards,
    Angelika Brunner, Constituency Assistant
    ____________________________________________________________________
    On behalf of: Katrine Conroy, MLA | Kootenay West | #2, 1006 3rd Street | Castlegar, BC | V1N 3A9 | T:250-304-2783 / 1-888-755-0556 | F: 250-304-2655

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Ron Scott [mailto]
    Sent: Friday, July 20, 2018 11:16 AM
    To: Conroy.MLA, Katrine
    Cc: Ron Scott
    Subject: BC Hydro crisis fund

    Im just reaching out for my sister who lives in Nakusp has been denied a crisis fund from BC Hydro due to the fact her bill is at a disconnection stage.
    Numerous people have also informed me they do not qualify since they are on the equal payment plan and Hydro adjusted there bills in the hundreds of dollars and don’t qualify either.
    First off, my sister is a single mom all her life, when my neice was in a car accident while toboganning on a road and was hit by a car at 11. Years old and almost lost her leg and now requires shoe lifts and can not exercise or walk long distances and now weighs 360 pounds. At 19 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and went through intense chemo and partial histerectomy losing most of her reproductive organs. All at the same time ICBC sucessfully proved her mother a unfit mom and was given $0.00 (zero) dollars for the car accident. And a bill for $35,000.00 in legal fees. My niece works part time and is also on a disability income and sends what she can home while living in a run down basement suite. ICBC was not going to renew her license since she owed them the legal fees and she went on an equal payment plan just to keep her license and get to her work. She now works part time in a hospital, is on disability pays off a student loan and tries to pay her rent and scrapes by to eat regular meals(we have her over and help as much as we can) And sends money home to her mother. These 2 have been through enough in there lives and could use a break. My sister borrowed money yet again to eat this month so her hydro did not get disconnected. I have issues with hydro collecting $15,000,000.00 a year from us for crisis funds and won’t help the people in crisis.
    Ron Scott.
    Vernon BC

    1. Laila Yuile

      This is terrible Ron and this is EXACTLY what my issue is with Hydro collecting this from hydro customers-under their ‘qualifications’ most people won’t qualify. It’s a farce when bills will continue to rise and in the face of payouts and cash incentives to hydro contractors who are clearly unable to even maintain a decent worksite…a slap in thr face.

      If I may make a suggestion and feel free to ignore it…

      This has happened to a lot of people on the equal payment plan and it tends to be terrible for people on the cusp or fixed income. Because the fixed amount you pay every month is an estimate based on past average consumption, if its very cold during winter or you have an energy sucking appliance, when it comes to year end you get billed the difference between estimated usage and actual usage….when you get the bill its a shocker and a lot of people can’t pay it all..and then boom. Disconnect notices.

      Equal payment only works if you can monitor your usage online or freeze during winter 😦

      I have always done regular billing for this reason. Some bills are higher in winter but its easier to pay off than one huge bill when they reconcile accounts.

      I know Hydro reads here regularly. I hope they take this to heart. There are unexpected emergencies and there are thousands on low fixed incomes who live in crisis because its their only option.This fund is not in the spirit of addressing this and those people have no pennies to spare!
      ( not to mention account holders are taxed on this as well)

      Please keep us posted Ron.

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