Alberta Auditor General Doug Wylie speaks in Edmonton on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. nbsp;Alberta’s auditor general has flagged $1.6 billion worth of accounting blunders along with other oversight problems by Premier Jason Kenney’s government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta Auditor General Doug Wylie speaks in Edmonton on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. nbsp;Alberta’s auditor general has flagged $1.6 billion worth of accounting blunders along with other oversight problems by Premier Jason Kenney’s government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta auditor flags $1.6B in government accounting blunders, oversight problems

Auditor general Doug Wylie says the errors have been or are being corrected by the United Conservative government

Alberta’s auditor general has flagged $1.6 billion worth of accounting blunders along with oversight issues by Premier Jason Kenney’s government on big-ticket files including the Keystone XL pipeline and the so-called energy war room.

Auditor general Doug Wylie says the errors have been or are being corrected by the United Conservative government. But he highlights the importance of adhering to accounting principles so people have an accurate picture of what’s going on.

“The overarching theme of this report is to ensure the importance of having good, sound, strong financial control processes in place, and then beyond that ensuring that you are following them,” Wylie said Thursday before delivering his fall report to the legislature.

“It’s extremely important to ensure that that happens in times of (fiscal) restraint, when you are looking at various control processes and streamlining.”

Wylie’s findings revolve mainly around the energy portfolio.

The government has been selling off contracts to move oil by rail. The transportation plan was brought in by the previous NDP government, but the UCP deemed it ineffective and began off-loading 19 contracts to the private sector.

Wylie said the government at fiscal year end on March 31 treated those contracts as being off-loaded for accounting purposes, even though less than half of the deals were completed, forcing a $637-million adjustment to expenses.

He noted the government also had to make a $100-million adjustment to its Keystone XL pipeline investment. The government made that investment before fiscal year end, he said, but the money wasn’t reflected in the proper balance sheet.

Wylie also said the government failed to update its cash flow model for the Sturgeon refinery after prices cratered earlier this year due to COVID-19 and a global oil price war, leading to a recommended $795-million adjustment to expenses.

There was $152 million added to costs for two income support programs, including Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped, after Community and Social Services recorded 11 months of those numbers instead of 12.

The auditor said the department has adjusted its numbers “to appropriately disclose that Community and Social Services exceeded its budgeted appropriation by $120 million.”

The auditor also criticized the Environment Department for muddled oversight on grants handed out under a $563-million fund that places a levy on heavy industrial greenhouse gas emitters. The auditor said there wasn’t enough evidence to show that projects receiving fund money were in fact reducing emissions.

“For example, one of the grants was for dam maintenance, but we were not provided evidence to explain how the project reduced emissions or how it related to adaptation to climate change,” stated Wylie’s report.

He also said the Canadian Energy Centre, known as the energy war room, had not been properly documenting contracts with outside contactors and that some expenses were incurred without appropriate approvals.

The war room was created by Kenney in October 2019 with an annual budget of $30 million to fight perceived misinformation on Alberta’s staple industry. Wylie said by fiscal year end, the centre had spent $1.3 million on outside contracts, primarily through sole sourcing.

Sole sourcing is a valid procurement method, he said, but organizations must retain documents to ensure there are no conflicts of interest and that taxpayers are getting value for their money.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the auditor’s report is a harsh indictment of a government that claims to be fiscally responsible.

“This is potentially the worst audit of a government in generations,” said Notley.

“This government continually lectures Albertans that they are the only ones who can manage budgets.”

Notley renewed her call to shut down the Energy Centre.

She said issues cited by the auditor along with previous public relations gaffes, including use of someone else’s copyrighted logo, should spell the end of a high-cost experiment she said is hurting Alberta’s reputation rather than helping it.

“(Kenney) must just shut down this gong show, immediately,” she said.

A spokesman for Energy Minister Sonya Savage, in a statement, did not address the auditor’s criticism on broader energy accounting practices, but did speak to the war room.

“The board of directors of the Canadian Energy Centre are committed to ensuring that fiscal reporting is comprehensive and transparent,” wrote Kavi Bal.

“The Canadian Energy Centre has improved its contract management process policies and aligned it with government best practice.”

The Energy Centre did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Kenney’s government has seen its projected deficit this year soar to more than $24 billion from $6.8 billion due to collapsing oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Alberta Politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
The County of Stettler has now been classified as an ‘enhanced’ region for COVID-19

According to the Province, there are now 10 active cases in the County, which has a population of 12,449 people

Annette Hunter
Clearview Public Schools and Alberta Teachers Association honours retiree Annette Hunter

Hunter taught Kindergarten, Grade 2, and Grade 3 over her 35-year career

A scene from last year’s Light the Night fundraising event at the Stettler Town and Country Museum. This year’s rendition is on a drive-through basis only, but it still promises to be a not-to-be-missed seasonal event.
Independent file photo
Stettler Town and Country Museum hosts ‘Light the Night’

This year’s rendition is drive-through only, but will still prove to be a dazzling display

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
New record: Red Deer at 236 active COVID cases

One more death in central zone reported

Janelle Robinson owns and operates Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. The Ranch, just north of Stettler, is an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety. Mark Weber/Stettler Independent
Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler provides support through animal interaction

‘I also come from a family of doers - if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out’

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Executive Director and Co-Founder of Rock Soup Craig Haavalsen is sleeping in a tent outside Rock Soup’s location until the Go Fund Me for Rock Soup raises $10,000. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Putting normalcy into asking for help: New non-profit sets up in Wetaskiwin

Rock Soup non-profit is a new non-secular Food Bank putting down roots in Wetaskiwin.

Wetaskiwin Composite High School. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools prepare for transition back to online learning

Grades 7-12 will are mandated to transfer to online learning starting Nov. 30, 2020.

Lawyer Devon Page, Ecojustice Canada’s executive director, pauses during a news conference in Vancouver on Wed., Sept. 26, 2012. The environmental law group has lost its bid to pause Alberta’s inquiry into where critics of its oil and gas industry get their funding. Ecojustice sought an injunction this summer to suspend the inquiry, headed by forensic accountant Steve Allan, until there is a decision on whether it’s legal. nbsp;THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Judge tosses application to pause Alberta inquiry into funding of oil and gas foes

Ecojustice sought an injunction in the summer to suspend the inquiry

Janelle Robinson owns and operates Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. The Ranch, just north of Stettler, is an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety. Mark Weber/Stettler Independent
Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler provides support through animal interaction

‘I also come from a family of doers - if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out’

A pedestrian makes their way through the snow in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Wild winter, drastic swings in store for Canada this year: Weather Network

In British Columbia and the Prairies, forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Most Read