November 4, 2013—In his Report of the Auditor General of Alberta—October 2013 released today, Auditor General Merwan Saher includes the office’s findings in new and follow-up audits, as well as the results of financial statement audits of 150 entities. There are 15 recommendations to government in this report. Of particular note are the following:
Infection prevention and control at Alberta hospitals—healthcare-acquired infections pose a significant health risk. Our audit results, including recognition of more focus on infection prevention and control, are summarized at page 17.
Food safety—we have found it necessary to repeat for the second time the government’s need to improve and integrate its accountability for food safety and report the results of its strategy. Our audit results, which include what the government has achieved, are summarized at page 51.
Information technology—IT is fundamental to program and service delivery, yet we regularly find various IT weaknesses. This report includes five new IT recommendations. The weaknesses point to a lack of consistently adequate IT oversight. The office will be following up on its outstanding recommendation to Executive Council (see page 119) that was designed to improve oversight of IT security throughout the government.
Accountability—at the heart of the office’s recommendations in these three areas is the need for improved accountability that would produce better results and lower risks. Accountability is the obligation to show continually improving results in the context of fair and agreed on expectations. For Albertans to receive the value for money they deserve, all those who use public resources must:
- set measurable goals and responsibilities
- plan what needs to be done to achieve goals
- do the work and monitor progress
- report on results
- evaluate results and provide feedback
Improved results will come from using this simple model only if all responsible parties play their part. Otherwise there is an accountability vacuum that drives up risk.
But if results analysis is done poorly, then the whole model becomes increasingly ineffective since its sole purpose is to drive improved results. Mr. Saher indicated he intends to continue to use his office’s resources to assist Alberta’s public service in its goal of achieving optimal results across government.
Financial statement auditing (page 73)—This page shows the direct result of about 75 per cent of the office’s audit effort. It reports that the office issued unqualified independent auditor’s reports on the financial statements of over 150 entities, including the consolidated financial statements of the Government of Alberta for the year ended March 31, 2013. The report also speaks to the extent of the work on ministry and agency performance measures, including the government’s Measuring Up report for the year ended March 31, 2013. The fact that none of the auditor’s reports on financial statements contained a reservation of opinion means that Albertans can be sure they are receiving high quality information from the government on the province’s actual financial performance.