Auditor General of Ontario - Report
The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is committed to continuous improvement. We are gratified by the Auditor General's observations that:
- OTF administrative expenditures were relatively modest compared to most other government agencies the Auditor General has audited.
- OTF has an institutional mindset that placed emphasis on keeping costs to a minimum.
- The Foundation has a 'well-defined grant application and review process'.
- The OTF website is 'comprehensive and informative'
- OTF ensures that all grants indeed have a 'community-based focus,' and that its grant allocations to regions on a per-capita basis 'facilitate equitable access to grant funds throughout Ontario.'
OTF participated fully in the Auditor General's audit, conducted October 2010 through April 2011. We appreciate the Auditor's recommendations for stronger documentation, robust performance measures and enhanced monitoring.
The Auditor General has noted seven areas for improvement, some of which OTF had been working on prior to the audit, as part of ongoing business and service improvements. The Auditor's recommendations provide us with suggestions to strengthen these improvements.Grant Review process
The Foundation has an extensive and rigorous grant review process that starts with a technical review to ensure eligibility. A first review is followed by an in-person meeting of the volunteer Grant Review Team, to vote on which the strongest applications to move forward. This is followed by comprehensive staff research and analysis. A final meeting of the volunteer Grant Review Team carefully reviews and recommends applications for final approval by the Foundation's CEO and Board of Directors.
The Foundation agrees with the Auditor General regarding the value of greater consistency of grant-making procedures and better documen¬tation. This need was one of the driving factors behind the development and implementation of our new on-line grants-management system, fully implemented in March 2010. The new system is enforcing the standardiza¬tion of consistent procedures and documenta¬tion, and we will continue to actively monitor the success of this objective. Monitoring of Grants
With respect to the monitoring of grants, the Foundation has always worked to achieve an optimal balance between maintaining cost-efficiency, while auditing and verifying a sample number of grant records each year. The Auditor General has recommended that additional resources be used to implement qual¬ity assurance reviews, expand internal audit functions, request and review more grantee documentation, and conduct more site visits. The Foundation acknowledges and respects these rec¬ommendations, and will investigate cost-efficient ways of expanding these procedures.What else the Auditor General had to say?
The Auditor General cited certain examples of grants in the report where: documentation was not complete; competitive quotes for capital purchases were missing from files; equipment to be purchased with an OTF grant was not available at the time of the Auditor General's visit; or process had not been followed with respect to communication to OTF of appropriate changes to the project by the grant recipient.
The Auditor General also noted some questions regarding the reasonableness of the amounts granted, and in reviewing each example referred to, OTF is satisfied all grants achieved or exceeded the anticipated results for the approved funding.
With respect to concerns raised by lack of documentation, the Foundation agreed with the Auditor General's findings that there were gaps in some files. Specifically with regard to lack of two competitive quotes for capital expenses, the policy on this matter was reiterated with staff. In each case OTF staff has clarified and ensured documentation was complete and OTF is satisfied all grants were successfully completed and achieved the anticipated outcomes.
The Auditor General visited several grant recipients as part of the audit process. In a few cases, the grant recipient could not demonstrate that the capital equipment purchased with their OTF grant was in their possession. The Foundation's policy states that such capital purchases must be in the possession of the grant recipient for five years following completion of the grant. In the cases cited, OTF reviewed the policy with each grant recipient and was able to confirm each had possession of the equipment in question.
A few examples noted grant recipients that had made alterations to the program or re-allocated capital funding but had not fully informed OTF of these changes. In each case, cited OTF staff reiterated the re-allocation policy with the grant recipient, is satisfied that funding was used for the approved program and that all re-allocations were within the scope of the policy. OTF also reinforced with grant recipients the importance of communicating requests for changes to program management staff as soon as possible.
The Auditor General also cited a least one case where unspent funds were not returned promptly to OTF. OTF was in contact with the grant recipient at that same time and all the funds have been accounted for.
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