In June 2020, the Alberta government announced the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant (SMERG) program. SMERG provided financial assistance to Alberta organizations (businesses, cooperatives, and non-profit entities) that faced restrictions or closures from public health orders and lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first phase of the program rolled out on June 29, 2020, with two more phases that increased program eligibility in December 2020 and April 2021.
Objective and Scope
The objective of our audit was to conclude whether the Department of Jobs, Economy and Innovation had effective systems to design, deliver, monitor and report on the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant (SMERG) program for the period of March 1, 2020 to March 31, 2022.
Based on our audit criteria, we conclude the department had effective systems to design and deliver the SMERG program. Improvements should be made to monitoring and reporting systems.
We recommend the department complete processes to verify the eligibility of approved applicants. The department designed the program to obtain supporting documentation from applicants to verify their eligibility after receiving benefit payments rather than at the time of application. This approach was reasonable given the desire to get funding to applicants quickly. We found the department has requested support from 1,055 of 101,762 approved applications. The department cannot currently conclude that the majority of recipients were eligible for the program.
We are not making a new recommendation to the department on the reporting as there are outstanding recommendations we have previously reported on the need to improve performance reporting to Albertans in ministry annual reports.