Alberta AG report highlights oversight issues in government - 660 CITYNEWS
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Alberta AG report highlights oversight issues in government

Last Updated Feb 22, 2018 at 1:36 pm MDT

(Office of the Auditor General)

Class sizes, a massive refinery project and full transparency of the Climate Leadership Plan are some of the key findings that need addressing from the provincial government, according to the latest report from Alberta’s Auditor-General.

Merwan Saher released his February report Thursday, which analyzed departments including education, energy, environment and parks, health, transportation, treasury board and finance and others.

“Our findings in this report show areas where oversight is working, but unfortunately, we also found many cases where it needs to be improved,” the report 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.”

CLASS SIZE INITIATVE

One of the glaring findings was the investigation into the Class Size Initiative, which has included $2.7 billion being spent on trying to reduce class sizes over the last 13 years.

The report found there’s no way to tell if the program has made a difference.

“As an Albertan, I’m hugely disappointed,” Saher told reporters. “They have not had a full explanation.”

“The use of averages there to be honest is not particularly useful to any parent, I believe that actually we’ve moved into an age now where the data that the department uses to get to at its averages, should in fact be made available to all Albertans.”

CLIMATE LEADERSHIP PLAN COSTS

While the Class Size Initiative goes back well before the NDP, Saher found issues with one of the government’s highest-profile agendas, the Climate Leadership Plan.

Specifically he said while the implementation of the plan has been good, the overall cost to Albertans has not been clearly explained, in part because a key committee was ended.

“We’re concerned that that highest level of oversight has in fact been disbanded,” he said. “I think the lesson is and my purpose in citing the oversight of the Climate Leadership Plan being correlated with good results I think is a generalized message that can be applied to any government endeavour.”

STURGEON REFINERY

The report also said we don’t know if the investment into the new Sturgeon County Refinery is good enough, because there’s hasn’t enough transparency in recent financial reports.

The project – managed by the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission and managed by North West Redwater Partnership – has included ballooning costs from $5.7 billion to $8.5 billion.

“I would say concerned that these matters not being simply talked about from the government’s point of view in annual reporting, that should be the concern,” he said. “I think Albertans should be saying to their government, please discuss these matters, please explain them to us in simply language we can understand.

MEAL AND TRAVEL EXPENSES

Saher also commented on the lacklustre reporting in the department of Indigenous Relations when it comes to tracking meal and travel expenses.

While he stressed the costs weren’t huge amounts of money, it’s the principle about accountability and being reputable.

“This is not rocket science, this is simple stuff,” he said. “Most departments can get it right, so unashamedly, we’re highlighting those that don’t seem to be able to get it right.”

“They should be highlighted and the message should be, get it right it’s simple.”

To read the full report, go to oag.ab.ca.