It’s never OK to fail doing your job one-third of the time, especially if your job is inspecting early learning and childcare centres.
On Friday, auditor general Jane MacAdam released her annual report, and found that 35 per cent of licensed centres hadn’t been inspected in over a year.
In her words, the department of education, early learning and culture did “not adequately monitor and enforce the licensing of early learning and childcare centres.”
It becomes more disturbing if we probe deeper into the details.
As it turns out, the department’s appointed early learning and childcare board didn’t even have a policy on how often inspections should be done. And, it wasn’t spelled out which violations would result in an unsatisfactory inspection outcome.
Licenses and renewals were granted without sufficient information to make sure legislative requirements were met.
Licenses were granted to one-third of centres without obtaining staff screening documents, such as criminal record checks. Also, fire inspection documents were not adequately obtained from one-third of approved centres.
It’s as if we found out that motor vehicle inspections were not checking the brakes one-third of the time.
How safe would we feel about driving if we knew that?
Or, how safe would we feel about eating out if we found out that one-third of restaurants weren’t inspected?
The only difference with the auditor general’s report is we’re talking about the safety of children in the trust of centres that were not inspected in a timely manner 35 per cent of the time.
Anything less than 100 per cent is not acceptable, especially when we’re also talking about criminal record checks and fire inspection documentation not obtained 30 per cent of the time.
The department of education, early learning and culture is trying to reassure us that everything is OK.
There were visual checks of the sanitation of furniture, equipment and food preparation areas. But these were not recorded on inspection forms.
Minister Jordan Brown said his department will implement the auditor general’s recommendations. But he also defended the inspection practices. Even when inspectors found and recorded violations, they worked with operators to ensure there was a quality program but also that they were not shut down because of any violation or shut down until an inspection was done. The priority was keeping these places open.
Even so, Brown said childcare centres are now “100 per cent up to date.”
Great news. The department is now doing what it was supposed to have been doing all along – 100 per cent of its job.
Unfortunately, it needed the auditor general to tell it to get its act together.