Top 10 revelations to come out of Alberta’s auditor general report
EDMONTON — A slew of stunning revelations fill the 60-plus pages of the auditor general’s report into the travel and other expenses of former Alberta premier Alison Redford.
Here are some of the highlights of the report by Auditor General Merwan Saher, and the resulting fallout.
1. Use of government aircraft for partisan events
The auditor found three instances of Redford flying on government aircraft in cases where there was no government business scheduled:
- a flight to Red Deer on June 15, 2013 to attend a PC Association of Alberta board of directors meeting
- a flight from Calgary to Lethbridge on August 26, 2013 to attend a PC golf event
- a flight from Edmonton to Grande Prairie (and back via Calgary) on October 25, 2012 to attend a northern Alberta Leader’s Dinner.
WATCH: Opposition members identify other PC party members who they say were on the partisan flights
The report says that “on three of the eight dates… multiple government aircraft flew to the same destination as the partisan event.”
2. Redford’s daughter flying on government planes
The teen flew on government aircraft 50 times between September 2011 and March 2014. She went twice without her mother, and was accompanied by a friend four times.
3. Declining to fly commercial
- In December 2012, Redford was booked on a $1,252 commercial flight to Scottsdale, Arizona, but cancelled in favour of taking a government plane at an estimated cost of $10,684.
The commercial flight and the government aircraft were both scheduled to leave on the same day, within a few hours of each other. The passengers were Redford, her daughter and one security officer.
“We found no documentation to explain why the government aircraft was used when a commercial flight was already paid for,” the auditor general’s report stated.
- In April 2013, more than $10,000 was spent after Redford insisted on using government aircraft to fly from Palm Springs to attend a Calgary memorial service for former premier Ralph Klein. Her staff had identified available commercial flights which could have been taken.
- According to the report, the Department of Treasury Board and Finance conducted an analysis in 2012 showing the costs of the Air Transportation Services program for the year were $9.3 million. According to the analysis, by comparison, the costs of commercial airline options and driving for the same transportation were $5.4 million.
“The difference of $3.9 million represents the cost associated with the value the government obtains by having on-demand access to aircraft,” the report stated.
4. Return from South Africa following Nelson Mandela’s funeral
Redford was heavily criticized for turning down Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s offer to fly back on the federal government’s plane, instead choosing to fly home on a first-class commercial flight, at a cost of $45,000. Her reasoning was that she wanted to return in time for the swearing-in of her new cabinet. The auditor general found she still could have done that if she had taken the (free) flight back with Harper, and then a government plane from Ottawa.
5. “Sky palace,” a penthouse on the 11th floor of the Federal Building which Redford had reportedly planned to use as living space for her and her daughter, is still being built with the original plans.
Back in May, MLA Ric McIver, who’s vying to be the next PC leader, said when he learned of the plans upon taking over the infrastructure portfolio in January 2014, he ordered the existing framing redone to turn the floor into meeting rooms and cancelled the premier’s penthouse.
According to the auditor general’s report, though, “the only change that occurred relates to the planned use of the space. The government intends to use the side-by-side rooms for meeting space rather than residential space.”
6. “Aura of power”
The auditor general blames the “aura of power” around former premier Alison 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,” Saher said. Other areas of government were wary of challenging decisions made in the premier’s office.”
7. The cost of the 68-page report? A whopping $485,400.
8. The fallout: Two of Alberta’s three opposition parties have called for the resignation of Finance Minister Doug Horner, who oversees the province’s transport agenda. Horner indicated he’ll stick around.
WATCH: Horner said the responsibility for the misuse of government aircraft laid with former premier Redford.
9. Horner says the government is “tightening the rules” around travel on its aircraft, including “cleaning up” the definition of “invited guests.”
10. Redford could face a criminal investigation, in light of the report’s revelations.
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