AG REPORT: FORD GOVT GAVE NEARLY $1B TO BUSINESSES NOT ELIGIBLE FOR COVID AID OR WHICH LOST LESS THAN THEY GOT
Dec 01, 2021
By Bob Komsic
In an effort to get pandemic financial assistance out the door quickly, the province sent almost $1-billion to thousands of businesses who were either not eligible or that had lost less money than they received.
That according to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report.
While understanding the government was dealing with ”an unprecedented crisis,” Lysyk says even in a crisis ” systems should be in place to make sure that only eligible businesses received taxpayer dollars, and program funds reach those who need it most.”
But the auditor general says she found a ”troubling” absence of controls that resulted in the approval of ”suspicious” applications, including from businesses with addressed outside the province, because of the focus on speed and a lack of verification.
For example, $210-million in Ontario small business grants of $10,000 to $20,000 went to 14,500 businesses that were not eligible according to criteria.
It was intended for those that were required to close during lockdowns or were severely restricted and lost more than 20% of revenue.
”Eligibility controls were either missing entirely, poorly designed, or not applied,” said Lysyk.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy says most of the money though did go to businesses that applied in good faith.
”Within the money that was handed out, there are some that were clearly fraudulent, and so the investigations team is going after that, and those bad actors as well,” said Bethlenfalvy.