FREDERICTON (GNB) – In her latest report to the legislative assembly, Auditor General Kim MacPherson identified concerns about the respective roles of the Department of Natural Resources and the New Brunswick Forest Products Commission in their oversight of the province’s private wood supply.

In particular, she found the department has no documented, measurable goals and objectives specific to their role in private wood supply. Also, the department does not comply with legislated requirements under the Crown Lands and Forests Act specific to their role in private wood supply. Further, the department does not publicly report on its performance in encouraging sustainable development of private woodlots.  

MacPherson also commented on the department’s private silviculture program, the main program aimed at supporting sustainable management practices on private woodlots.

“We found the program’s performance objectives had not been defined and consequently, the public cannot assess if the department’s $5 million annual investment is providing value to the province,” said MacPherson.

She further noted deficiencies in the New Brunswick Forest Products Commission’s oversight of the forest products marketing board system.

In particular, the commission does not adequately assess the performance of forest products marketing boards to ensure they are meeting regulatory obligations, it does not consistently exercise its authority under legislation to address identified weaknesses in the marketing board system, and it does not report publicly on the effectiveness of its own work or marketing board performance.

The audit also identified specific areas of concern including the weak financial condition of certain marketing boards, risky marketing board investments, and poor marketing board governance practices.

“The lack of strong marketing board oversight by both the commission and the department means the province cannot determine if the marketing board system is operating as intended in legislation or if significant risks are being adequately managed,” said MacPherson. “Should marketing boards fail, the province, through the commission, may be liable for marketing board obligations.”

The Auditor General made a number of recommendations to the Department of Natural Resources and the New Brunswick Forest Products Commission to improve oversight, management and accountability of private wood supply, including:

  • setting separate departmental goals and objectives against which to measure success in fulfilling its mandate regarding private woodlots;
  • publicly reporting on the departmental goals, objectives and performance targets in regards to private wood supply;
  • having the department review the commission’s mandate and performance to ensure government objectives are being achieved; and
  • establishing marketing board oversight targets against which the commission can evaluate performance in critical areas.

The chapter Private Wood Supply can be found in Volume II of the 2015 Auditor General Report which contains three performance reports. Volume I, released earlier this year, reported on Financial Assistance to Atcon Holdings Inc. and Industry. The Auditor General Reports are available online.