An important part of our mandate is to examine and report on the government’s management control systems. Through systems audits, we identify opportunities and propose solutions to improve the use of public resources. This report contains primarily the results of systems audits.
Education—Systems to Improve Student Attendance in Northland School Division
Regular school attendance is critical to student success. Poor attendance has been a significant and longstanding problem in the Northland School Division, which comprises 2,700 students in 24 schools located in northern Alberta. We found the division has no operational plan with short- and long-term targets to improve student attendance. Further, the Department of Education has not provided purposeful oversight—it has not responded to inadequate action to improve attendance. At the operational level, schools have inadequate processes and controls to ensure attendance data is reliable.
Energy—Alberta Energy Regulator—Systems to Regulate Pipeline Safety and Reliability in Alberta
Pipelines are an essential component of the energy industry in Alberta. The primary responsibility for maintaining safe and reliable pipelines rests with their operators. The Alberta Energy Regulator’s role is to ensure that pipeline operators act responsibly, with public safety and the environment as their priority. We found that the AER has adequate systems and processes to ensure operators comply with regulatory obligations. Albertans can be assured that the regulator is performing its essential function. However, there is room for improvement. The AER should:
- use its risk management activities to make informed decisions on allocating resources and determine the nature and extent of activities to oversee pipeline operations
- complete a skills gap analysis and formalize a training program for its core pipeline staff
- improve measures to assess pipeline regulatory and industry performance
- expand its analysis of incident contributing factors beyond primary causes and share lessons learned with industry and operators
These are areas in which we believe AER should focus to meet its goal to be a leading regulator.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development—Flood Mitigation Systems
Flooding is one of the most costly and destructive natural disasters in Canada. Every year, governments typically spend millions of dollars cleaning up after floods and providing disaster assistance to municipalities, businesses and people who suffered losses. Flooding is also a significant risk to public safety. Effective flood mitigation can reduce the damage caused by floods. Our audit of the government’s flood mitigation systems found weaknesses in two key places:
- identifying flood hazard areas and establishing processes for controlling, regulating or prohibiting future land use or development in designated flood hazard areas
- establishing processes to assess the cumulative effect of flood mitigation actions in communities when approving new projects or initiatives
Risks to public safety and the public purse are avoidable with effective flood mitigation.
In 2013 the Municipal Government Act was changed to allow the Government of Alberta to make regulations to control, regulate or prohibit any use or development of land in a floodway. The Department of Municipal Affairs is working on the Floodway Development Regulation to limit property damage and risk to public safety from future floods within a floodway. Once complete, the Department of Municipal Affairs needs to establish systems to implement and enforce the regulation.