Alberta Auditor General Merwan Saher.
Credits: AMBER BRACKEN/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY
EDMONTON -- Frustrated by a backlog of 55 recommendations dated back three years or more that the provincial government hasn’t acted on, auditor general Merwan Saher is ready for increased co-operation.
“We would like to see a reduction in outstanding recommendations,” Saher said Thursday.
Of the 55 moldy recommendations, the government believes 25 are now ready to be revisited, he said.
“We will be more vigorous in revisiting them,” he said. “We continue to make progress in clearing the backlog.”
While he said he wouldn’t be afraid to cross any bridge in Alberta, Saher said inspection procedures in place at the time of his fall report could have put safety at risk.
There are currently 4,400 bridges in Alberta, with an estimated replacement value of $6.7 billion.
Saher said there are deficiencies in terms of the quality, timeliness and completeness of inspections, the lack of adequate certification of inspectors, the contracting process used for inspections, the ability to monitor maintenance activities and the access to information required by decision makers to assess the Department’s capital needs.
“Look, you have a well-designed system. Use it -- and thereby you will be in a situation ... to assert you have everything in place to assert and assure Albertans the bridges they are driving over are safe,” he said.
Transportation Minister Ric McIver said he appreciates the auditor general’s concerns.
“We appreciate that and we have acted on the recommendations of that report,” he said.
McIver said the single biggest recommendation for him pertained to inspector certification.
“They all have now (been certified), I can assure you,” he said. “That’s a piece of discipline that we’ve put back in place.”
Saher also said taxpayers have been missing out on savings with a provincial policy that’s been reimbursing employees 50 cents a kilometre -- plus $8.55 a day for adverse driving conditions -- when they use their own cars for work travel.
Some employees were being reimbursed $1,000 a month, he said.
McIver said a fleet of 50 new vehicles on order will fix the situation, and he added that the official opposition Wildrose Party favoured the province owning fewer fleet vehicles.
There were 33 recommendations to government arising from the report, drafted with a note of frustration because the government has failed to act on 55 recommendations from previous reports. Of those outstanding recommendations, the government is prepared to demonstrate they have fixed just half, Saher said.
The AG also found that effective controls were lacking in the reporting of bitumen royalty information disclosed in financial statements which could lead to readers of this information being misinformed about the amounts involved in royalty reduction programs.
On ATB Financial, Saher said it was necessary to repeat a recommendation first issued in his office’s November 2011 report regarding ATB’s new banking system.
“The Office is concerned the institution has not done enough to ensure the key controls in its new banking system are implemented and operating effectively,” he said.
“Without this, management and the Audit Committee could be making decisions based on information that is not reliable.”
Other main findings in the report include Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
The AG found that after a 2008 audit, the department hasn’t improved the reliability, comparability and relevance of its public reporting on results and the costs incurred in meeting Alberta’s climate change targets.
Alberta Liberal environment critic Laurie Blakeman says the report shows no clear public reporting results regarding targets or surrounding the total costs of climate control.
“This smoke-screen allows the government to allege whatever it wants regarding our greenhouse gas data, regulation and monitoring,” she said, pointing to the Climate Change and Emissions Management Act’s 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity levels to below 50% of what they were in 1990.
“Albertans have no idea if we even come close to hitting our climate change targets because the department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) doesn’t have to publish any of the numbers,” Blakeman said.