Report of the Auditor General
EDMONTON, JULY 5, 2016—Alberta’s Auditor General Merwan Saher today made two new recommendations to the Department of Justice and Solicitor General and he repeated two recommendations to the Department of Labour.
JUSTICE AND SOLICITOR GENERAL—OFFICE OF THE CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER—CONTRACTING TRANSPORTERS OF DECEASED RURAL ALBERTANS (PAGE 19)
When an Albertan in apparent good health dies unexpectedly, or in a violent or unexplained way, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) investigates the death. Sometimes, the investigation requires an examination of the body. In that case, the body is transported to medical examiners in Edmonton or Calgary. The OCME uses independent third-party service providers to transport bodies to these locations. Auditors found that the department’s contracting process does not have clear and effective guidelines on:
- what information a program area, such as the OCME, must provide in a business case for an external services contract
- when a program area must create such a business case
If the OCME continues to use non-contracted rural transporters in the normal course of business, it is compromising the department’s decision that all transporters be contracted. By not identifying circumstances in which the OCME may still need to use non-contracted vendors, the department may be putting itself at increased risk.
LABOUR—OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY SYSTEMS (PAGE 39)
The department works with employers to deliver various occupational health and safety (OHS) programs to promote, monitor and enforce laws. The department is also responsible for setting goals and objectives for its programs, analyzing them to ensure they achieve the desired results, and reporting those results to the minister. Auditors followed up for a second time on three outstanding recommendations from the office’s April 2010 report, which assessed how the department promotes, monitors, enforces and reports on its OHS goals and objectives. In the six years since the original audit, the department has made a number of recommended improvements to OHS systems. However, the department has still not fully implemented process improvements to enforce compliance for all OHS orders issued and to evaluate and report on OHS program results analysis compared to desired results. The department is unable to demonstrate, with evidence, that it has a complete set of processes to apply department policies to keep Alberta’s workers safe.
TRANSPORTATION—MANAGING THE STRUCTURAL SAFETY OF BRIDGES (PAGE 49)
In 2012, the Office of the Auditor General reported the results of an audit of the department’s systems to manage the structural safety of bridges. Auditors made nine recommendations to the department to improve processes related to inspection contracting, quality and frequency; contractor certification; bridge information system access; maintenance activity reporting; and capital planning submissions. In 2015 the office reported the results of a follow-up audit and concluded that the department had implemented seven of the recommendations, but repeated two recommendations. In this second follow-up audit, auditors found the department implemented effective contracting processes to manage the structural safety of bridges. The department improved processes for contracting out bridge inspections and determining if contracting out inspections is cost effective.
ENVIRONMENT AND PARKS—CONTRACTING PROCESSES AND THE KANANASKIS COUNTRY GOLF COURSE (PAGE 13)
In July 2013 the Kananaskis Country Golf Course (KCGC) was among the areas impacted by the severe flooding that occurred in southern Alberta. The golf course is operated by Kan-Alta Golf Management Ltd. The Department of Tourism, Parks and Recreation, now Environment and Parks, submitted a recommendation to a ministerial task force, which set direction and made decisions on behalf of Cabinet to support and coordinate flood response and recovery. The task force agreed that the proposal should go ahead and gave the department direction to restore the golf course and negotiate an amended operating agreement with Kan-Alta. In July 2014 the department amended one agreement and signed two new agreements, committing the government to an operating relationship with Kan-Alta until 2025. Auditors assessed whether the new agreements provided value for money for Albertans and followed government contracting practices. Auditors sought the answers to three questions:
- Did the department use a reasonable process in deciding whether to rebuild KCGC?
- How will the department protect KCGC from future flooding?
- Did the department use a reasonable process in deciding the risks and rewards to the Crown when entering into the 2014 agreements with Kan-Alta, given the pre‑existence of the 1999 operating agreement with Kan-Alta and the 2013 flooding?
Auditors found that the department used adequate contracting processes in 2014 when it recommended to Cabinet to rebuild KCGC and signed the three agreements with Kan-Alta in July 2014. The agreements made financial sense given the existing contractual commitments the department had with Kan-Alta at the time of the flood. Auditors did not make any recommendations to the department.