In his February 2013 report released today, Auditor General Merwan Saher includes the Office’s findings in audits at Alberta Health Services, the Office of the Public Trustee and Alberta’s post-secondary institutions. His report also includes a commentary on the province’s fiscal updates.
There are a total of 33 recommendations to government in the Report of the Auditor General of Alberta—February 2013, five of which are repeated. It was necessary to repeat these recommendations because management had not done enough to demonstrate they have implemented the previous recommendations.
Health—AHS Controls Over Expense Claims, Purchasing Card Transactions and Other Travel Expenses (page 21)
Albertans are entitled to assurance that public servants are not rewarding themselves at public expense. Recently there has been increased public disclosure of the travel, meal and hospitality expenses incurred by the public service.
We believe that public disclosure is useful, but Albertans need more. Albertans need assurance from those who have oversight of the public institutions they fund that the organization has a well-designed and functioning framework to control expenses. Those with oversight responsibility must be able to assert publicly that their organization’s policies and procedures ensure it reimburses expenses only if there is a business purpose and regard for economy—in other words, the expenses are a cost-effective use of Albertan’s resources.
Our recommendation to Alberta Health Services is designed to help AHS back up its public assertion.
Human Services—Office of the Public Trustee (page 33)
The Office of the Public Trustee is entrusted with protecting and managing the property of deceased persons, represented adults and minors when there is no one else to act on their behalf. These are some of Alberta’s most vulnerable citizens. We were asked by the Department of Justice to audit the files of the OPT when it had determined through an internal investigation that a senior trust officer had misappropriated trust funds. While our audit did not find other instances of misappropriation, it did determine that the OPT does not have adequate systems or controls in place to ensure its client files are being properly administered; to ensure there is sufficient rigour in its internal audit function; and to ensure its trust officers are performing their duties competently and acting in the best interests of their clients. Further, we found that there is improper segregation of duties between trust administration and financial services, which increases the risk that improper payments could go undetected.
Enterprise and Advanced Education—Report on Post-secondary Institutions (page 57)
This is our third report card on post-secondary institutions. The first was released in our March 2012 Report and the second in our October 2012 Report. These report cards were prepared in response to institutions requesting a means of differentiating themselves from their peers. In this report card we note that, while some institutions have made positive gains, there is still work to be done by others. The challenge will be for the boards of these latter institutions and the Minister, who have oversight responsibilities, to ensure there are adequate financial control environments in place. Albertans expect their post-secondary institutions to operate effectively.