There are no new or outstanding recommendations to the Department of Tourism, Parks and Recreation in this report.
CEO Travel, Hosting, and Hospitality Expenses
Travel Alberta is the tourism marketing agency of the Government of Alberta and the nature of its business requires employees to attend various meetings and events in the province and abroad to advance the strategies of the organization. Travel Alberta employees interact with businesses, representatives from other governments, as well as domestic and international organizations involved in tourism-related endeavors. Travel Alberta is funded through a levy that is assessed on hotel bookings in the province.
In March 2014 the Minister of Tourism, Parks, and Recreation was questioned in the Legislative Assembly about the appropriateness of expenses incurred by Travel Alberta’s CEO. On March 23, 2014 we were asked by an MLA to investigate various CEO expenses. The expenses raised as questionable included an $8,800 trip to Singapore, $828 for a dinner at a Banff restaurant and a $157 tuxedo rental to attend a black tie event, among others. Afterwards, the Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation requested that Travel Alberta engage an independent party to investigate travel, meal and hospitality expenses from September 20, 2012 onward. This review was completed and the results were provided to Travel Alberta in April 2014. The results of the review did not identify any significant matters or misuse of expenses. Travel Alberta updated its travel and hospitality expense policy (effective June 2014) to better conform with the Government of Alberta policy, while retaining the ability to carry out its activities, which includes marketing and promoting Alberta as a tourist destination.
As a result of the allegations of inappropriate expenses, we decided to review the CEO’s expenses for reasonableness and whether appropriate review processes were followed. Our examination was primarily focused on whether the above-noted expenses complied with Travel Alberta’s policies (that were effective at the time the expense was incurred). We also considered whether the expenses were appropriate given the circumstances and whether the approvals and justifications were supported by the necessary documentation. Our examination did not include an assessment of the new policy.