PRESS RELEASE --- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AS OF 21 APRIL 2004
Citizens Group Requests Audit of Provincial Aggregates Trust
A citizens group has requested an audit by the Ontario Provincial Auditor of the government trust that collects fees from gravel operations. The trustee for the trust is a corporation that is wholly owned by the Aggregate Producers Association of Ontario (APAO), the industrial organization for the aggregates business. The trust is also responsible for rehabilitation of pits and quarries that have been abandoned or that have had their licences or permits revoked.
Since APAO is the registered lobbyist organization for the gravel industry, it doesn't seem to make much sense for it to be collecting and spending government fees, says Ric Holt, of the citizens group, called Gravel Watch.
The trust was founded in 1997 with $58 million of security deposits that guaranteed that pits and quarries would be rehabilitated. In 1998-1999 the trust liquidated all but about $9 million of these deposits, handing about $49 million funds back to the operators holding licences and permits for pits and quarries. Each year the trust collects roughly $9 million in government fees from operators of pits and quarries. Most of this $9 million eventually goes to various levels of government. Each year abut $600 thousand of it goes directly to APAO for its rehabilitation program.
The group have asked the Auditor to determine whether government policies, procedures and methods are being followed by the trust. They have asked for an explanation of why the trust was single-sourced to a corporation owned by APAO, and for an open accounting of the flow of the $49 million to pit and quarry operators. The group have asked for a clarification of how APAO keeps its lobbying distinct from its responsibilities to carry out rehabilitation with government funds.
My hope is that this audit will cause the trust to run in an open and accountable fashion, and will deal with any potential conflicts of interest between APAO's purposes and the responsibilities of the trust, says Holt.
CONTACTS (For more information, see www.gravelwatch.org).