The Public Trustee manages the financial assets of vulnerable Albertans. The Public Trustee acts to protect and manage the interests of Albertans who are otherwise unable to make financial decisions for themselves. This role includes administering estates or trusts for represented adults, minor children, and deceased and missing persons. There are approximately 20,000 open case files. The Public Trustee has a fiduciary responsibility to act in their best interest, protect their assets and comply with legislative requirements. Clients, beneficiaries and families deserve to know that their loved ones’ financial needs are being properly managed by the Public Trustee.

The Public Trustee is accountable to its clients, the public and the Minister of Human Services. The Ministry of Human Services funds the Public Trustee’s administrative costs representing salaries and other expenses. In 2015 these costs totalled $16 million.

The Public Trustee was created as a separate legal entity under legislation, and administers $603 million in assets directly and indirectly. These assets are not consolidated into the Ministry of Human Services financial statements as they do not belong to the government, rather they are held in trust for clients.

What we examined

We examined whether the Public Trustee has processes to determine how much should be retained in the surplus account and how to utilize the balance that has accumulated over time.

We also examined the processes the Public Trustee uses to set, communicate and report the results of its operations.

Overall conclusion

The Public Trustee does not have adequate systems to manage the surplus funds arising from the management of the assets of the Public Trustee’s clients.

The Public Trustee does not have adequate processes to support reporting on the results the Public Trustee’s operations, including adequate results analysis.

What needs to be done

The Public Trustee should analyze past results and examine trends to determine the required amount that should be retained in the accumulated surplus to mitigate the risks of negative interest fluctuations and errors and omissions claims.

The Public Trustee should implement processes to identify, analyze and report results achieved in order to improve its operations and demonstrate accountability for results to its clients and Albertans.

Why this is important to Albertans

An increasing number of Albertans are relying on the Public Trustee to make financial decisions on their behalf. Albertans, the ministry and the Legislative Assembly need sufficient and appropriate information to assess whether the Public Trustee is complying with legislative responsibilities, accomplishing its objectives and managing risk for vulnerable Albertans.

If the Public Trustee does not complete an analysis of the accumulated surplus balance, there is a risk that the Public Trustee will hold in reserve more funds than are necessary to mitigate the risks of interest fluctuations, errors and omissions, and the opportunity to maximize the return to client accounts may be missed.

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