​B.C. auditor general's Site C review still a work in progress

An aerial view of the Site C construction zone on the north bank of the Peace River, showing a starter dyke and cofferdams, November 2017. Image: BC HYDRO

B.C.'s Auditor General still has the Site C dam on her mind, but what aspects of the $10.7-billion project she plans to review are still up in the air.

In a coverage plan released Jan. 24, Carol Bellringer listed Site C as one of 35 future projects she plans to tackle between now and 2020.

Bellringer had put a planned audit of the dam on hold last August after the new NDP government ordered a utilities commission review of the project's need and costs. That review is done, but a further audit of the dam — the most expensive public infrastructure project in B.C. history — remains a priority, Bellringer said.

"Some of the Site C work that we were initially going to undertake was addressed in the British Columbia Utility Commission's recent report, so we're adjusting the scope of our audit," Bellringer said in a statement.

"We need some time to determine where we can offer the most value, given the complexity of the project and our limited resources."

Bellringer notes in her latest plan that work began in early 2017 to examine information given to government to inform its decision to build Site C, its cost and progress to date, and the impacts of carrying on with construction.

All that was covered in the utilities commission review, completed last fall. It prompted the NDP to continue building Site C while pushing its cost to $10.7 billion — up from $8.8 billion when the Liberals first approved its construction at the end of 2014.

Bellringer notes in the plan that her office changed direction "in response to the external environment."

"We still intend to examine the Site C project and are reassessing our approach to determine how to best support MLAs and British Columbians," she wrote.

The office is expected to determine its focus in the coming weeks, Bellringer told CBC News.

"It's really hard to argue... there isn't some aspect that we shouldn't be scrutinizing," she told the CBC.

"In terms of the size, the significance, the impact on taxpayers, the impact on rate payers, it's all very much of interest and importance from our perspective."

Bellringer first targeted the dam for review in 2015, though a scope had yet to be determined outside of investigating "whether BC Hydro’s recommendation and government’s decision to build Site C was supported by sufficient information and analysis to demonstrate that it would meet government’s economic, social and environmental goals."

In a 2016 coverage update, the scope of a review was still undetermined and remained in the planning stages.

In her latest coverage plan, Bellringer list 20 audit projects currently underway, including reviews about the effectiveness of the BC Utilities Commission, provincial forestry revenues, BC Hydro’s rate-regulated accounting practices

Future projects include audits of natural resource permitting, resource roads management, independent power projects contract management, and a number of audits of the health and education systems.

— Alaska Highway News