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Municiple Affairs

Municipal Affairs

 

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

DEPARTMENT

Matters from prior audits

Disaster recovery program—implemented

Background

The province provides disaster recovery funding to individuals, businesses, First Nations and municipalities. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency coordinates the activities of various departments involved in the government’s response to disasters. The agency also acts as a liaison between the province and the federal government.

The province receives applications from municipalities in which a disaster has occurred. For an event to be qualified as a disaster, its damage must be uninsurable, and the event must be extraordinary and widespread. Applications from the municipalities outline the extent of the damages and the initial estimated recovery costs. The agency reviews the applications and engages a contracted firm to assess the reasonableness of the estimated costs. The agency also engages professional engineers to perform environmental assessments. Based on the reports from these contractors, the agency’s disaster recovery coordinator further reviews the application for eligibility and files a request for the province to issue an order in council declaring the event a disaster.

The province shares the cost of financial assistance for disaster recovery with the Government of Canada. Under the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program, federal reimbursement is based on actual eligible costs incurred to repair the damages. If the eligible expenditures exceed $1 per capita of the Alberta population—which is approximately 3.7 million—Alberta qualifies for federal reimbursement and can share up to 90 per cent of the eligible costs with the federal government. Under the agreement, the province must apply for federal financial assistance within six months from the end of a disaster.

Once the provincial order in council is in place, and if the cost of repairing the damages exceeds the $1 per capita threshold, the Minister of Municipal Affairs will request federal assistance from the federal minister of public safety. If the federal government agrees that the event qualifies for assistance, it issues a federal order in council declaring the event a disaster.

In May 2008, a series of rainstorms caused significant damage in a number of municipalities in southern Alberta. At that time, we found that the Minister of Municipal Affairs submitted a letter to the federal Minister of Public Safety on December 15, 2008 requesting disaster assistance.

This submission was beyond the prescribed six-month deadline. To meet eligibility criteria for federal assistance, the minister should have sent the request by end of November 2008. Although the letter was late, the federal government accepted the application with no penalty.

Our audit findings

The department has implemented our 2009 recommendation1 by setting timelines for key steps for federal funding and periodically assessing and adjusting costs and estimates based on current information.

Set timelines for key steps for federal funding

In 2012–2013, we noted that management tracked details of the disasters that were eligible for federal assistance. The information included milestones such as the date when the province issued the order in council to declare the disaster, and when federal government issued its order in council. Management set both the guidelines requiring municipalities to submit claims to the department, and its internal guidelines to submit request to federal government within 14 days for any event that meets the eligibility criteria for federal assistance.

Between April 2010 and July 2012, a total of seven disasters were eligible for federal assistance. The eligible costs incurred ranged from $9 million to $79 million. We noted that the department submitted requests for federal assistance within the prescribed timeline.

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