A Canadian passport is displayed in Ottawa on July 23, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

B.C. immigration program well managed, but fraud, corruption are risks: auditor

The audit does not identify widespread corruption but cited possible fraud and misrepresentation scenario

An immigration nominee program that brings workers to British Columbia fills labour gaps but needs to improve safeguards for fraud and corruption, says an audit.

The B.C. Provincial Nominee Program that is meant to attract and retain immigrants for job placements is well managed, Russ Jones, B.C. acting auditor general, said Tuesday.

More than 85 per cent of those who became permanent residents stayed in the province and about 90 per cent of the nominees since 2012 were employed, the audit says. Less than one per cent were receiving social assistance during the same period.

The audit found 32,000 people, including program nominees and their families, came to B.C. between 2015 and 2018.

“There were indicators the program is working as intended,” Jones said at a news conference, but added more can be done to refine targets and maximize economic benefits.

“The program’s primary focus on nomination targets could result in unintended behaviours, for example a focus on quantity over the quality of nominees or approval of applications with less scrutiny than warranted,” he said.

Jones said that despite the program’s corruption and fraud protections, those safeguards have not been fully assessed for risks and are not monitored.

The audit does not identify widespread corruption but cited possible fraud and misrepresentation scenarios, including applicants inflating their qualifications, employers falsely claiming they advertised jobs in Canada before recruiting abroad and immigration agents lying about jobs.

Jones said there are also concerns about possibilities for corruption, threatening the integrity of the program.

“It’s more corruption within the ministry that we had some concerns over, ensuring that there are appropriate controls in place, guidance to protect the employees from having the risk of coercion on them,” he said.

The report makes four recommendations to improve performance management and protect the program.

Jobs Minister Michelle Mungall said in a statement the ministry agrees with the audit’s recommendations and will be taking firm action to address the effectiveness and integrity of the program.

“Work on the auditor general’s recommendations are already underway, including developing a formal framework to better assess risks of misrepresentation, fraud and corruption,” Mungall says.

READ MORE: Immigrants face language, financial barriers during COVID-19 crisis

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