3rd of September 2009 Author: Glo Wood
As politicians scheme, a shakeup looms
There are reports from Toronto that the apparently error-prone Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation could be in for a shake-up as politicians vie for kudos in straightening out the state company. And it appears that claims of extravagance with the taxpayer's dollar may exacerbate the accusations faced by the OLG Board.
The Toronto Star carried the story, featuring a photograph of CEO Kelly McDougald, who was brought on board by the Liberal government two years ago to reform the lottery and gaming monopoly . The piece ignited an immediate heated commentary from over 136 posters.
Three "informed sources" told the Toronto Star that McDougald is fighting for her Cdn$400 000-a-year job, as the Liberal government seeks to address the issues before it can be preempted by the opposition Progressive Conservatives when the Legislature returns September 14. A by-election scheduled for September 17th had added pressure.
The government is sensitive to accusations following the exposure of extravagant spending by the eHealth agency earlier this year.
"Something big is up," a senior government official confirmed to the newspaper. "By next week, OLG will look much different. And by the time this is over, they'll be forced to clean up their act."
The Toronto Star recaps that McDougald has already been reprimanded by the Liberals for a series of problems at the gambling agency - including awarding foreign-made Mercedes-Benz cars as casino prizes at the same time as the province was bailing out General Motors and Chrysler.
And an audit last winter found:
* A Good Samaritan treated shabbily when he tried to turn in a cache of lost tickets;
* A malfunctioning slot machine erroneously informing a player he'd won $42.9 million when the maximum payout was $9 025;
* A misprinted scratch-and-win ticket that led a man to believe he had won $135 000 when he hadn't.
* Questions surrounding results that showed lottery retailers, employees and their families won $198 million in prizes over 13 years, dating from 1996.
"But the straw that broke the camel's back appears to be Liberal fears of a reprise of the eHealth Ontario debacle at OLG," the newspaper explains. "The Tories, repeating their successful strategy that exposed spending run amok at the electronic health records agency, are seeking thousands of pages in OLG documents under freedom of information legislation.
"Records sought include expense accounts of senior executives, spending on leased, owned and rented venues, such as luxury boxes at sports stadiums, contracts for consultants as well as travel costs."
In the case of the OLG, these demands for documentation have so far been stonewalled as the Liberals try to beat their political opponents to the punch by taking pre-emptive action.
Opposition MPP Norm Miller said his party has been trying since January to glimpse the inner workings of OLG.
"So far, we've been getting rebuffed. It certainly looks a lot like eHealth because with that we had to be very persistent - it wasn't just ask once and get the information. It certainly makes us suspicious."
Miller said the Tories targeted OLG because the organisation "has had quite a few problems."
He added that voters would likely see through any OLG shake-up that seemed to be politically motivated.
"The concern is she's [McDougald] been running OLG like it's a private-sector company, when it's a government agency," one Liberal insider told the newspaper.
Approached for comment, both the CEO and her OLG officials remained silent, and Liberal politicians were reluctant to talk on the record because negotiations on the future of the OLG executive team are expected to continue through the weekend and into next week.
"Premier Dalton McGuinty issued warnings to government agencies like OLG in the wake of the eHealth scandal - which saw consultants paid $2 700 a day while expensing $3.99 bags of cookies to taxpayers - that such spending no longer passes the sniff test and must stop," the Toronto Star report advises.
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