‘Sub-standard’ management found
Auditor general says Alberta television and film industry grant lacked financial oversight
A grant program aiming to boost Alberta’s television and film productions lacked financial oversight and allowed recipients to claim more than $1 million in unsupported expenses, says the province’s auditor general.
“The management of it has been sub-standard,” said auditor general Merwan Saher, following the release of his fall report on Thursday.
The Alberta Production Grant program — which doled out $43 million in 2016-17 with a cap of $5 million per project — had unclear guidelines for applicants since its launch in 2013, said the report.
An audit of eight grant recipients conducted by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission found that five of them had claimed ineligible expenses. Examples included one individual who claimed the salary for three positions and recipients who submitted expenses for out-of-province services.
The department of culture and tourism has been trying to recover $1.2 million from two companies since February 2016, the report said. That amount was reduced to $430,000 in late 2016.
The three other companies aren’t being pursued “because the unclear guidelines made it difficult for the department to enforce compliance.”
Almost $170,000 was recovered recently, said Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda on Thursday.
“We inherited a problem from the previous Conservative government,” he said. “(The program) didn’t have the oversight and the financial controls necessary to evaluate the applications.
“The way it was set up was flawed, no question about it.”
The report urged the culture and tourism department to create easy-to-understand criteria and establish a way to recover funds more quickly if recipients claim ineligible expenses. It also pointed to a tracking problem — an audit in late 2016 didn’t include any of the companies previously found to be problematic.
Miranda said the ScreenBased Production Grant — announced earlier this month to replace the program — will include external audits to access applications.
The auditor general’s fall report covered a slew of topics ranging from food safety measures to information technology controls for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.
Saher said that recommendations to the department of advanced education have been ignored when it comes to Campus Alberta, a policy framework launched in 2002 to encourage collaboration between postsecondary institutions.
“It’s as if nothing has happened in the last four years,” he said.
Collaboration would allow institutions to share costs and resources, the report said, reiterating problems outlined in a 2013 audit. “Institutions did not understand what the department expected Campus Alberta to achieve or how to achieve it,” the report said.
The multitude of recommendations included developing a strategic plan with expected outcomes for Campus Alberta and publicly reporting costs and results.
“Campus Alberta recommendations were a direction the previous government was taking,” Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt said Thursday.
He added while the recommendations are relevant, the mandates of Alberta’s postsecondary institutions are currently under review. “We won’t be bound by it.” @clareclancy
Auditor General Merwan Saher’s fall report covered a slew of topics ranging from food safety to information technology.