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Budget dispute stalls B.C.'s Olympic audit report

British Columbia's financial watchdog says the provincial government is fudging its Olympic budget and he's refusing to release an Olympic audit until the Liberals turn over the numbers.

Auditor-General John Doyle said the province's $600-million price tag for hosting the 2010 Winter Games doesn't reflect such expenses as the B.C. pavilion at the Beijing Olympics, while the province's Finance Minister said those kind of costs have nothing to do with Vancouver's Games.

The dispute is holding up a scheduled auditor's report on Olympic spending.

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"Government has resisted reporting on all these matters for some time," Mr. Doyle said. "I am the third auditor-general to look at this and the third auditor-general to come to the same conclusion, and that is that government should actually provide a wholesome, clear and timely accounting for all the Games-related expenditure."

But Finance Minister Colin Hansen said the price tag for any government expenditure is included in the province's overall budget, making the books entirely public for anyone who has an interest.

He said he'd like the audit released, along with the government's five-page response. "It comes down to disagreement in terms of what should or should not be a cost of staging the Olympic Games," Mr. Hansen said. "We have $600-million that's in our envelope for the cost of staging the Games and it goes back to the commitments we made to the International Olympic Committee at the time of the bid."

Arguments over the actual cost of the Olympics have been dogging B.C.'s Liberal government since the bid was awarded in 2003 and are sure to become an issue in the coming provincial election.

"This Premier ran on that promise that he will be the most open and transparent government and the most accountable government in Canada," said Harry Bains, the provincial NDP critic for the Olympics.

"And what he's doing by frustrating this office and how they have been hiding the true Olympic costs from the taxpayers really shows he hasn't lived up to that promise."

There are holes in the $1.6-billion operating budget for the Olympics as well, which is managed by the organizing committee, Mr. Doyle said. He said that while the budget is supposed to break even, a review found issues with regards to costs and revenue.

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Mr. Doyle said he's heartened by the fact that the organizing committee recently began a review of its budget and he looks forward to seeing the revised document when it's released in January.

The Canadian Press

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