Gaming grant oversight needs overhaul, A-G finds

Review of B.C.'s $135-million gaming grant fund shows gap in how government measures performance.

When it comes to gaming grants in B.C., the province has a “suitable framework” in place to manage this program but improvements are needed, says B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer.

Her office reviewed the provinces $135 million gaming grant fund and found a gap in how the government measures the program’s performance.

“Greater information is needed to allow stakeholders, like communities and non-profits themselves, to see the successes of the program, and to better understand how well this program is being managed,” the report says.

Recommendations in the report include improving how the government advertises one-time gaming grants, how gaming grant recipients are chosen and awarded, and how the province monitors where the grant money goes.

Despite requiring applicants to report how the money is spent, a number of recipients would receive funding the next year even if they hadn’t submitted a report on prior funding, the report showed.

“We recognize that many organizations depend on this funding,” Bellringer said. “But $135 million is a lot of money to give out without this kind of information.”

Updating the application’s guidelines is also recommended, Bellringer said.

“Ministry staff assesses grant applicants against the program guidelines but the guidelines need clarifying and updating.”

In 2013 to 2015, about 400 to 450 groups did not get the amounts requested in gaming funds, according to the report. However, about 75 per cent applied for reconsideration and received the requested amounts.

Having a more efficient program that made it easier for charities to only need to apply one time “would be ideal,” Bellringer said.

Reassessing the entire gaming grant structure was also suggested, which would look at whether the $135 million is enough, Bellringer added.

When the recession hit in 2008, the B.C. Liberal government cut grant funding from the B.C. Lottery Corporation from $156 million to $113 million, then raised it back to $120 million to restore funds to school district parent advisory councils. It was increased to the current amount in 2011.

When asked if there’s a chance community groups could see a bigger chunk of gaming revenue being used for this gaming grant fund, Premier Christy Clark said all recommendations of the auditor general is being considered.

“What I said when I was running for leader is that we need to get the gaming grants, that are so beneficial for arts and culture in communities, back up to previous levels. We have done that. I think it’s the highest it’s ever been now. So that was a promise made, promise kept,” Clark said.

See the full report here.

With files from Tom Fletcher/Black Press.

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