JULY 4, 2012 — Auditor General Merwan Saher released a report today which includes the results of recent audits conducted on systems and processes in the ministries of Health, Human Services, Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, and Treasury Board and Finance. There are a total of 11 new recommendations and one repeated recommendation. The repeated recommendation was made because in the judgement of the Office there had not been sufficient progress in enforcing compliance with occupational health and safety law by high-risk employers and workers.
Highlights from the report are as follows:
New Systems Audits
Health—Management of Healthcare Waste Materials at Alberta Health Services—An audit to determine whether Alberta Health Services has effective systems to manage its healthcare waste materials handling and disposal. The cost of healthcare waste materials management is not high in relation to AHS’s annual budget, but the potential risks are significant in terms of human health, environmental contamination and organizational reputation. We found weaknesses in AHS’s systems to manage healthcare waste materials. AHS has not assigned responsibility for the oversight of these materials at all sites, does not have fully standardized procedures across all of its sites, does not have adequate controls to ensure waste disposal services have been performed before it approves vendor invoices for payment and its current agreements with contracted service providers do not ensure AHS’s service standards for these materials are being met.
Health—Primary Care Networks—An audit of the effectiveness of accountability systems for Alberta’s Primary Care Network program. We found weaknesses in the design and implementation of the accountability systems for the PCN program. The Department and AHS lack the systems to evaluate the program and demonstrate that their current efforts are bringing the province-wide benefits envisioned for the program.
Albertans are not informed that they are assigned to a PCN, nor do PCNs know who has been assigned to them. This lack of information limits patients’ ability to engage in decisions about their own healthcare and impairs PCN programming and accountability. Opportunities have been missed to create province-wide systems to support and improve the program. There are also system weaknesses at different levels within the PCN program which have resulted in poor compliance oversight for the program overall. Having noted these weaknesses, we also found positive outcomes and good practices by individual service providers, management and staff at PCNs, and AHS and the Department of Health.
Treasury Board and Finance—Analyzing Performance—Each year government ministries publish their business plans which set out their goals and the performance measures and targets that have been established to measure the achievement of these goals. At the end of the year, ministries report on their actual results. Our audit found inconsistent interpretations of results reporting requirements and non-compliance with reporting standards.
Follow-up Systems Audits
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development—Systems to Promote Drinking Water Safety and Regulate Water Well Drilling Activities—This is a follow-up to our 2006 audit. Five outstanding recommendations have been implemented. We concluded that the Department has made satisfactory progress on implementing our recommendation to improve its information systems. Without effective information systems, the Department cannot perform timely and efficient analysis of drinking water data to better understand and manage risk.
Human Services—Occupational Health and Safety Systems—This is a follow-up to our 2010 audit of the systems used to promote, monitor, enforce and report on occupational health and safety goals and objectives. While two of the original five recommendations have been implemented by the Department, three areas of concern remain. We found that the Department has not sufficiently defined high-risk employers and workers. It also does not have processes that will comprehensively identify high-risk employers and workers and apply enforcement actions that will successfully deter them from breaking the law. More work needs to be done by the Department to develop and implement its Work Safe Alberta strategic plan. Finally, the implementation of quality reviews of COR auditors’ work will help the Department in strengthening the employer certification process.