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British Columbia Auditor General Michael Pickup.

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B.C. Auditor General Michael Pickup once again expresses reservations about how the provincial government keeps its books as the Ministry of Finance projects a $5.6 billion deficit in its quarterly report presented Tuesday.

Michael Pickup says his office is qualifying its audit report for the 16th consecutive year, implying that the province's financial statements contain material misstatements or omissions and should be viewed with caution.

In fact, the government received 38 reservations over the last 16 years, meaning we couldn't say that [its] financial statements were presented fairly, explains Michael Pickup in a press release. This is critical because economic decisions depend on accurate reporting of financial transactions and estimates.

This time, inaccuracies in three areas caught the auditor's attention.

First, according to Michael Pickup, if British Columbia's financial statements met Canadian public sector accounting standards, almost $7 billion more would appear in the revenue column and debts would decrease by the same amount.

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He also believes that government documents do not disclose all the money that the province is contractually committed to spending in the future. According to him, information on this type of future spending is underestimated by about $4.9 billion.

Finally , Michael Pickup laments that the province's documents do not include the gaming revenues transferred as part of the gaming revenue sharing agreement with the First Nations of British Columbia. According to him, revenues and expenses in this area were underestimated by $113.6 million in the consolidated statement of operations.

For her part, the Minister of Finance, Katrine Conroy, affirms that the government respects and appreciates the efforts of the Auditor General on this issue, but believes that the province is doing what all other jurisdictions in Canada are doing.

With information from The Canadian Press

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