More oversight a general theme of Auditor General report on government

by Morinville News Staff

Alberta’s Auditor General Merwan Saher laid some criticsm at the NDP government’s feet Thursday afternoon with the releasing of his February report to the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of Alberta and to Albertans.

While Saher identified some areas where the government is doing well, the report identified areas where accountability for the “cost-effective use of public resources” needed work.

Saher noted the importance of oversight as a common underlying theme in the findings.

“Oversight is at the very core of good government. It is the means by which those who serve, either through being elected or as members of the public service, can earn the public’s confidence that they are managing public resources wisely,” Saher said. “Good oversight will invariably produce better systems to achieve desired results.”

“Our findings in this report show areas where oversight is working, but unfortunately, we also found many cases where it needs to be improved,” Saher said. “Our identification of areas in which oversight is weak should be of concern to MLAs and the public, as it means that the opportunity has been missed to demonstrate, with evidence, the cost-effective short- and long-term management of public resources.”

The February Auditor General’s report consists of eight separate reports.

The Auditor General reviewed an initiative to manage class sizes in Alberta which began in 2004 and has cost 2.7 billion since that time. Saher found that the department “has spent billions of dollars to reduce class sizes, but it does not know why school jurisdictions have been unable to achieve the target for the K-3 grade group over the past 13 years.”

An audit related to the Sturgeon Refinery found that the public was not being properly informed of risks and benefits.

The government has a $26 billion commitment to supply bitumen to the Sturgeon refinery over a 30-year period. The arrangement is managed by the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission (APMC), a commercial agency of the Government of Alberta.

Saher concluded that “the APMC does not have well-designed systems to manage and communicate the risks of its business arrangements and the agency does not have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that its risk management systems are operating effectively.”

On the province’s Climate Change plan, Saher has praise, but cautioned more oversight is required – a theme through the report.

“We conclude that, as of December 2017, the Department of Environment and Parks had implemented adequate systems to lead and coordinate the implementation of the Climate Leadership Plan, including planning, monitoring progress and reporting on results,” the report summary reads.

Saher said the department implemented multiple tools to plan and deliver on the commitments under the CLP but there is a lack of an overall implementation plan for the CLP and individual initiatives and programs.

“The lack of such a plan could negatively impact the cost-effective implementation of the CLP going forward,” the report summary continues. “The systems used to monitor and report on progress should be more rigorous and efficient in order to ensure that management has reliable and complete information to track progress and identify required corrections. The first progress report on the CLP contains detailed and important information, but future reports should more clearly and completely describe the actual and expected costs of the CLP and its initiatives and programs.”

The complete report can be found at

Both the Minister of Education and Premier were scheduled to hold media opportunities Thursday afternoon to respond to the report.

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