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Friday,  May 17, 2024 9:15 PM 

TICO releases Public Action Plan to address audit

TICO releases Public Action Plan to address audit
Richard Smart, TICO president & CEO. (Supplied)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) has released a Public Action Plan that addresses the value-for-money audit The Office of the Auditor General of Ontario (OAGO) conducted last year.

In its 51-page value-for-money audit report, released Dec. 6, 2023, the province made 16 recommendations, with nine of those directed at TICO.

The review found that while the travel industry has changed significantly since 1997, TICO’s structure and responsibilities “have remained largely unchanged.”

It addressed cost things like the Compensation Fund, finding that the cost to administer the Fund” may outweigh the benefits it provides to consumers.”

The report also noted “significant concerns” around compliance issues with TICO registrants, security deposits, the public’s general awareness of TICO, among other items.

In a notice posted Thursday (May 2), TICO said its Action Plan addresses recommendations of the OAGO and that progress updates will be posted on a quarterly basis going forward.

“TICO is committed to transparency and continuous improvement as it embraces the recommendations of the Auditor General to benefit all stakeholders,” said TICO’s CEO Richard Smart, in a statement. “TICO remains committed to enhancing its policies and procedures, risk-based decision-making processes, and its collection and analysis of data to improve business intelligence of the travel marketplace and the businesses it regulates.”

23 action items

As of March 31, 2024, TICO has 23 action items that are on schedule for completion, and six items for which implementation dates are pending, the plan reveals.

In its audit, the OAGO said that TICO could not demonstrate the justification for holding as much as $2 million in security deposits from registrants.

In its plan, TICO says it will “immediately assess” all registrant security deposits held for more than two years, and return all deposits where the Registrar has no concerns over the registrant’s compliance with the Act and its regulation.

TICO says $1.43 million or 72 per cent of registrants’ deposits held for more than two years, as identified by the OAGO, have now been returned.

The OAGO also found that TICO’s registrant risk rating system was not used to effectively oversee registrants.

The association says it is developing a process for reviewing and returning registrant security deposits within a targeted timeframe.

TICO is also reviewing and revising its application form so it’s clear to applicants what specific information and supporting documents they are required to provide with their application.

And creating guidelines for using registrant risk ratings to guide oversight activities.

Another action is to perform a cost-benefit analysis of implementing an electronic version of the application process, with built-in controls, to prevent incomplete applications from being submitted.

The audit found that The Ministry and TICO have not established a disciplinary process for registrants.

In response to this, TICO says it will record the outcome of each complaint in TICO’s information system, including whether it was referred for investigation and enforcement action, and the results of the action.

The province has recommended a system that protects Ontario consumers from travel salespersons with a history of misconduct.

In this regard, it was recommended that the Ontario government advance amendments to the Travel Industry Act, 2002 that would give TICO the authority to register and regulate individual travel salespersons.

The Action Plan includes a task to revise TICO’s fee structure to ensure operating costs are sufficiently funded through registration and other fees charged to registrants.

Slotted under “TBA” is a study of the Compensation Fund as its determined whether significant risk to consumers still exists to justify the cost of maintaining and administering the Fund, and whether it provides a positive net benefit.

To read the entire Public Action Plan, click here.

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