County must audit financials as province considers ‘third-party’ childcare providers

WELLINGTON COUNTY – The province is requiring Wellington County to conduct a value-for-money audit of its directly operated child care programs.

The province is considering having a third party operate the county-delivered programs instead, according to an excerpt from this year’s Canada Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) program guidelines from the province.

More commonly known as $10-a-day childcare, the federal CWELCC program is provincially administered.

However, Ontario is unique because it’s the only province tasking municipalities with administering funding and delivering child care.

County early years director  Mandy Koroniak told the Advertiser the audit wasn’t expected. The county learned about it when the education ministry released CWELCC guidelines for the year.

According to those guidelines, the audit will determine if tax dollars are being used “efficiently and effectively” and if a third party can take over childcare services for the county.

The audit, including a report, recommendations and management responses, must be completed by the end of the year, and made publicly available. CWELCC administration funding can be used to cover the audit’s cost.

The county hasn’t yet a hired a third-party auditor as required under the guidelines.

Koroniak said there are “internal discussions” about the audit’s scope, which she said the province hasn’t defined. That means the county gets a say in what “value” means.

“It doesn’t just mean the cheapest mode of service delivery,” Koroniak said.

“We see this an opportunity to have the value of our directly-operated programs to be broadly understood.”

Without directly-operated child care, Koroniak said other options may not be available to families in some parts of Wellington.

A government official close to education minister Stephen Lecce told the Advertiser the audit is meant to look at how tax dollars are being spent as the province approaches a CWELCC review period with the feds.

The official, who would not speak on record, also said the audit won’t affect childcare funding, but the county would be expected to implement the auditor’s recommendations.