Auditor General Merwan Saher released his fall report which includes the details of follow-up audits on subjects ranging from Alberta’s climate change and emissions management fund to seniors care in long-term care facilities; opinions on audits of financial statements and performance measures, and recommendations to improve control systems; and a list of outstanding recommendations requiring action by the Government of Alberta.
"The Office has a duty to Albertans and Members of the Legislative Assembly to examine and report on the government’s management of, and accountability practices for, the public resources entrusted to it", said Mr. Saher. "In April 2011, I reported on the Office’s commitment to following up on the government’s implementation of prior recommendations. Working within our budget and ensuring we meet our statutory obligation to perform all of the financial audits means there are no new major systems audits in this report."
The 17 new recommendations listed in the November 2011 report are a value added by-product of the financial statement audits. The focus of the Office continues to be ensuring the Government of Alberta responds to the 243 outstanding recommendations on the books.
Mr. Saher went on to state, "I am pleased with the progress to date in terms of the number of follow-ups done, but more importantly in the results. Our overall assessment is that managers in the Government of Alberta take seriously their responsibility to implement accepted recommendations."
Of particular note in this report are the following:
In the business of greenhouse gases emissions management, an offset represents emissions reduced or prevented as a result of actions beyond those required legislation. In October 2009, the Office recommended the Department of Environment strengthen its offset protocols to have sufficient assurance the offsets used for compliance with regulations are valid. This year’s audit of the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund, which we have classified as a follow-up systems audit, showed the progress to date is unsatisfactory. The Office is repeating its recommendation that the Department provide clear guidance to facilities, verifiers, offset project developers and offset protocol developers to ensure they consistently follow the requirements in place to achieve Alberta’s emissions reduction targets. Without this, offsets used for compliance by large emitters may not be valid and Alberta’s emission reduction targets may not be achieved.
We have given Alberta Health Service’s monitoring of standards in long-term care facilities a satisfactory progress rating. AHS needs to complete development of its province-wide monitoring program. With planning for future needs in long-term care facilities being included in broad planning initiatives for continuing care, we will have to consider an audit of the systems to ensure that seniors’ needs in all settings are being adequately planned for and met.
Our audit focused on the Corporate Information System being developed by Alberta Innovates—Technology Futures (mainly the former Alberta Research Council) to improve its business efficiencies. The finding from our work is a lack of formal governance processes for the CIS project which could result in the corporation implementing an inadequate system or incurring significant financial losses. We recommend a comprehensive approach to ensure adequate policies, processes and controls are in place to successfully execute and monitor the CIS project.
We audited the processes ATB Financial followed to ensure internal controls within its new banking system were adequate before it was implemented. Management believes but cannot yet demonstrate with evidence that key controls in the new banking system operate as intended. Our recommendation is that ATB Financial confirm that key controls, as identified in its risk and control matrices, are implemented and operating effectively. Without this, management and other key decision makers could be inappropriately relying on controls that are not working effectively to manage risk.
The Office of the Auditor General of Alberta independently serves Albertans and their elected representatives by delivering relevant, reliable and reasonable cost audits. The Auditor General Act empowers the Auditor General and his staff to conduct audits, report findings and make recommendations.