WCB well governed and stable, Auditor General finds
STRATEGIC GOAL: Be financially stable and sustainable
The road to financial sustainability in workers’ compensation isn’t an easy one.
In the 1990s, the story was simple — there wasn’t enough money coming into the system to sustain the benefit payments going out, and that would be going out into the future.
Had nothing changed, it was a recipe for financial ruin for the system as a whole.
But things did change. Over the years, a number of changes led to a much more sustainable system. Today, the WCB is 85.5 per cent of the way toward eliminating the unfunded liability – up from 27 per cent in the early nineties.
In the words of Auditor General Michael Pickup, whose office reviewed the WCB in 2018, it was a “significant turnaround.”
The findings that the WCB is well governed and on a path to financial sustainability came as part of the first phase of a two-phase review, and they spoke to the financial stability of the WCB.
- Received favourable results of Nova Scotia’s Office of the Auditor General (OAG) phase 1 audit into WCB operations focusing on governance and long-term sustainability.
- In volatile investment markets of 2018, achieved an investment return better than the benchmark portfolio.
- Carefully monitored and managed our investment in modernization, including oversight by a dedicated Board of Directors committee.
- Review and implement the Auditor General’s Phase 1 and 2 recommendations.
- Continued responsible financial stewardship through our proven investment model.
- Continue to lead conversations with stakeholders on what it will mean to be fully funded, as the funded ratio continues to improve.
- Ensure we start to realize the benefits of our modernization.
“I believe the Board can be proud of the approaches they have put in place, recognizing that we did make two recommendations for fine-tuning in the areas of oversight, and the Workers’ Compensation Board has agreed with these suggestions,” said Pickup, about the first phase of the report.
In essence, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) found WCB Nova Scotia to be well run and on a stable long-term path.
WCB Chief Executive Officer Stuart MacLean says the validation of the WCB’s governance model and funding strategy speaks to the vision of its Board of Directors, and their perspective on governance informed by the worker and employer stakeholders they represent.
“We have a solid, competent, engaged Board who care deeply about creating the conditions for success for our province,” says MacLean. “With this type of a report, we focus on what we can learn. We’ll learn from what they’ve provided us, and we will improve.”
Board Chair Rod Burgar echoes that sentiment.
He says that while perspectives may be different around the Board table at different times, the Board shares a belief in the importance of a well-governed and financially sustainable system. It’s a principle that has informed the Board’s strategic planning for years.
“In many ways, the first phase of the Auditor General’s report in 2018 validated our approaches to governance and sustainability,” Burgar says.
The WCB has agreed to all of the recommendations and will be working to implement them.
Auditor General Report: Phase Two
In phase two, which was released in May 2019, the Auditor General looked at claims and benefits administration, appeals, return-to-work processes, and service provider contracts.
While it reaffirms that overall the WCB is effectively managing claims for workplace injury and return to work, the report’s second phase has identified important, needed improvements.
The WCB accepted all 12 recommendations and is committed to making changes to ensure they are implemented. The Board of Directors will oversee that implementation.
Supported by new systems and processes, over time, improvements to the way we deliver service across people, process, and technology will begin to address many of the challenges associated with our current operations.
The WCB will report to stakeholders as implementation progresses, primarily through its quarterly and annual reports to Government.