AUGUST 7, 2014—Auditor General Merwan Saher released his report on the findings of a special duty audit requested by Premier Redford in March 2014. His overall conclusions follow.
Premier Redford and her office used public resources inappropriately. They consistently failed to demonstrate in the documents we examined that their travel expenses were necessary and a reasonable and appropriate use of public resources—in other words economical and in support of a government business objective. Premier Redford used public assets (aircraft) for personal and partisan purposes. And Premier Redford was involved in a plan to convert public space in a public building into personal living space.
The Department of Treasury Board and Finance has not explained to Albertans why it believes the extra cost over alternatives to owning a fleet of aircraft is judged to be worthwhile.
Where there was a lack of desirable clarity in polices (for example, the appropriateness of a family member travelling on a government aircraft), we have inferred the policy intent from the overriding principles. Use of a public asset in the absence of a government business objective is personal use and inappropriate.
Overall, the expense practices and use of public assets by Premier Redford and her office have fallen short of publicly stated goals. How could this have happened? The answer is the aura of power around Premier Redford and her office and the perception that the influence of the office should not be questioned. We observed a tendency to work around or ignore rules in order to fulfill requests coming from the premier’s office in ways that avoided leaving the premier with personal responsibility for decisions. Other areas of government were wary of challenging decisions made in the premier’s office. All of the failings might have been prevented or detected earlier with oversight designed to provide substantive challenge.
Our advice and recommendations in this report are intended to improve the management of risk.
No public servant, not even a premier, should be excused from vigilant oversight of their compliance with policies and processes designed both to protect the public interest and themselves from bad judgment.
Senior members of the public service should focus on these three areas of risk:
- allowing any individual’s expenses to be incurred and approved by many staff across multiple ministries
- not having processes to identify and cost the partisan use of government aircraft when that use occurs together with government business
- not restricting out-of-province use of government aircraft to those cases where a cost benefit analysis has been performed
This was an audit of the expenses of Premier Redford and her office. It would be wrong for anyone to extrapolate our findings and conclusions to the public service of Alberta as a whole.
A copy of the special duty report can be found on the office’s website.