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Alberta’s auditor general confirms review of province’s COVID-19 response

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WATCH ABOVE: The province’s auditor general confirmed Wednesday that he will be reviewing Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Julia Wong reports – May 28, 2020

The province’s auditor general confirmed Wednesday that he will be reviewing Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This would be the auditor general’s first-ever review of the province’s response to a pandemic.

“Our focus is really going to be on accountability,” Auditor General Doug Wylie said, adding his office will review the money spent by the government, that the money was being spent for the right reasons and that the money spent achieved what the government wanted.

“Based on what we’ve seen and heard thus far, there are certain areas we’re likely going to focus on. That is, programs and initiatives that are designed to help vulnerable Albertans, those who are in real need such as seniors, those dealing with affordable housing, as well as programs and initiatives that are designed to help with the economic recovery of the province.”

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Wylie said he has received inquiries about a review from the public as well as from MLAs and he expects to work with his counterparts across the country.

“Obviously this has been a significant issue not only in Alberta but across Canada. It’s something we want to make sure that we do spend our resources in the right area that are going to provide value to make the improvements that are needed, if we find any opportunities to make those recommendations,” he said.

READ MORE: Alberta’s auditor general ‘very likely’ to review province’s COVID-19 response

The Office of the Auditor General is currently tracking COVID-related programs and initiatives, reviewing current outstanding recommendations to government for relevant or related issues, such as seniors care, analyzing all COVID-related inquiries from the public, stakeholders, media and MLAs, as well as discussing themes and approaches to COVID-related audits with federal and provincial auditors general.

Initial findings will be reported to the Legislative Assembly in the fall.

Outstanding recommendation

Wylie said his office has been doing work on seniors care since 2005 and there is one outstanding recommendation relating from that work, which was reiterated in a 2014 report.

“That’s germane to this subject actually. That’s dealing with the care and level of staff that is being provided to provide the services to residents within the long-term care facilities. It’s an area we certainly will be looking at,” he said.

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“We have an outstanding recommendation and we follow up on all of our recommendations. Currently AHS has indicated that recommendation is not yet ready for follow-up but we’re going to evaluate what work we might be doing and when we’ll be doing that.”

Reviews federally, in other provinces

Reviews of the pandemic may become commonplace across the country: the Interim Auditor General of Canada has said he is conducting an audit of the federal government’s COVID-19 emergency response, a similar request has been made of Prince Edward Island’s auditor and Nova Scotia’s auditor says his office is considering a review of that province’s response.

Wylie’s office is completing an audit on emergency preparedness in general, which is slated to be released late summer or early fall.

Val Mellesmoen, spokesperson for the Office of the Auditor General, said the audit was conducted prior to the public health state of emergency being declared in March so it does not deal specifically with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Audit teams are currently conducting the 2019-2020 year-end financial audit of many government entities and ministries.

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