Oil sands development has led to concerns about its environmental impacts and the need to better understand and respond to these impacts. The Alberta and Canadian governments responded by establishing the joint environmental monitoring program for the oil sands. Since then, the governments have been collaborating to enhance environmental monitoring, evaluation of and reporting on the impacts of oil sands development.
There have been a number of organizational changes in Alberta since the program’s establishment in 2012. Government established the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) in 2014, then dissolved it in 2016. The Department of Environment and Parks’ newly formed Environmental Monitoring and Science Division reassumed Alberta’s responsibilities under the program.
The quality of the systems to manage the program and report on its results are key to the program’s success, accountability, and transparency. A broad spectrum of stakeholders—government, industry, and the general public—is interested in the program’s activities and results. In 2014, we audited the program’s project management systems and its first annual report and found that both needed improvement.
In this follow-up audit, we examined how the department managed projects since the most recent transition and whether the program’s 2016–2017 annual report was clear, accurate, and timely. We focused on the annual report because it is the key accountability mechanism that informs stakeholders about program activities, results, and successes—in other words, the value provided for the resources consumed.
We found that the 2016–2017 annual report still has room for improvement. Information in the report related to the program’s success, progress toward objectives, and funding is incomplete; project status is unclear; and the report is neither timely nor accessible. We believe the department can correct these deficiencies through improving the process to develop the report, in collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Therefore, we are making a recommendation about annual reporting process improvements.
Based on our audit of project-management processes, we found that the department has made some important improvements by employing better work plans and monitoring activities. We conclude that the department implemented our project management recommendation.