Financial issues continue in AER, environment ministry: auditor general, Financial reporting problems, improper expenses and mismanagement issues at the Alberta Energy Regulator extended beyond a problematic pet project of the regulator’s former CEO, the auditor general says by Janet French and Moira Wyton, November 21, 2019, Calgary Herald
Financial reporting problems, improper expenses and mismanagement issues at the Alberta Energy Regulator extended beyond a problematic pet project of the regulator’s former CEO, the auditor general says.
In a new report tabled in the legislature Thursday, Alberta’s auditor general, Doug Wylie, said the AER’s former CEO awarded two $21,000 cash bonuses to other senior executives after new provincial rules took effect that forbid such perks.
[Since when does AER, ERCB or EUB give a damn about breaking rules or the Rule of Law? The regulator violates Canada’s top law, the Charter, and lies about it in writing after the courts let them get away with breaking the law, and lying about it in court. Does anyone of authority give a damn about that? No.]
The auditor could also not find formal approval [shred shred shred! delete delete delete!] of an arrangement that allowed former CEO Jim Ellis to claim travel expenses between his home in B.C. and the Calgary office. The AER reimbursed Ellis $20,000 for those expenses in 2018 before Ellis left the regulator.
The agency also gave up $1.3 million covering employees’ tax costs for parking benefits — even though a government employee told senior executives the tax rules in 2014, the auditor found.
“Generally, I’d describe it as very concerning,” Wylie said of the irregularities he found at AER. “I’d also describe it as atypical of what we see in the operations of agencies and boards in Alberta.”
This latest auditor’s report comes in addition to a separate batch of October reports in which the auditor, the ethics commissioner and the public interest commissioner joined forces to detail “gross mismanagement” at AER in its relationship to a non-profit corporation called the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence (ICORE).
Improper accounting of ICORE
The creation of the non-profit ICORE was catalyzed by Ellis, who wanted to share Alberta’s expertise in oil and gas regulation with other energy-producing countries.
The October reports said Ellis had set up the organization as a career exit plan for after he left the AER.
The auditor’s October report found at least $2.3 million of AER money was spent by ICORE and never recovered. About 50 AER employees who were employed by AER were found to have done work for ICORE.
The October reports also found text message evidence senior AER executives were taking steps to cover up expense claims related to ICORE.
[Why no investigation into AER executives/staff covering-up endless cases of law violations and life threatening contamination by oil and gas companies!? Oh Ya! Because AER is industry.]
For the 2018-19 fiscal year, the AER tried to claim ICORE operated as a separate, non-profit entity. On Thursday, the auditor general said he rejected that claim, prompting him to give the AER a “qualified audit opinion” on their finances, signalling he disagrees with their accounting. Adding that caveat is “very rare,” Wylie said Thursday.
ICORE’s financial results should have been consolidated with AER’s, Wylie said.
The auditor made three new recommendations to AER: to improve processes for expense claims, long-distance work arrangement and succession planning and to ensure it’s following public compensation laws and tax rules.
In September, the United Conservative Party government fired and replaced the AER board and ordered a review of the organization.
$25 million unpaid royalties
A follow-up audit included in Wylie’s annual report also finds that Alberta Environment and Parks is not sufficiently protecting the province against financial and environmental risks of un-reclaimed sand and gravel pits.
$25 million in royalties is owed to government by oilsands operators due to exemptions given by the department without proper authority, the report found.
“Ten years after our original audit, the processes for reclamation monitoring and enforcement are still inadequate, and so is reclamation security,” Wylie said, noting that the department does not properly collect security or royalties from pit operators.
This leaves Albertans to shoulder a shortfall if operators do not pay [That’s the intention! And has been for decades.], Wylie said. The government has no concrete plan to recoup that money, he said.
The province has also made some progress on previous recommendations. It is now collecting $28 million more per year from insurance companies to help cover health-care costs for people injured in vehicle crashes. The government gave up about $140 million over five years by underestimating the cost of treating collision injuries, the auditor said.
AER has accepted all auditor recommendations and has already improved some of its processes, spokeswoman Cara Tobin said in a Thursday email.
The agency has updated its expense policies, to better track expenses and check they’re in line with government rules, she said. It has updated its travel policy to clarify what’s allowed, and updated whistleblower and respectful workplace policies to improve the culture, she said.
Kavi Bal, press secretary to Energy Minister Sonya Savage, said Thursday the AER’s interim board is using the findings of the October reports and the new auditor’s report in its review of the agency.
“Public servants are beholden to the taxpayer and the findings confirmed today are completely unacceptable practises,” Bal said in an email.
EUB became ERCB became AER (after Ernst lawsuit was made public). The regulator’s gang rape of the public continues.
Cartoon from Justice Perras 2007 report on the EUB’s lying & spying scandal.
Auditor general uncovers more troubling financial irregularities at Alberta Energy Regulator, Failure to disclose employer subsidized parking to Canada Revenue Agency cost $1.3 million by Jennie Russell and Charles Rusnell, CBC News, Nov 21, 2019
The former head of the Alberta Energy Regulator, Jim Ellis, knowingly broke provincial compensation law by handing cash bonuses of $21,000 to two senior executives, one of several troubling financial abuses revealed by the auditor general in his latest report.
In a report released Thursday, Auditor General Doug Wylie confirmed — as first reported by CBC News — that Ellis and another senior AER executive commuted from their homes in British Columbia under work arrangements that were not properly approved and cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The auditor general also found the AER intentionally did not assess taxes on employer-subsidized parking, which cost the regulator $1.3 million.
The audit uncovered evidence that the “AER was in fact informed about the parking as a taxable benefit by a Department of Energy employee on Nov. 26, 2014.
“We also determined the former AER (vice president) of corporate services directed his staff not to take action,” the report states. The vice-president was Rick Brown, a friend of Ellis’.
The AER decided to pay Canada Revenue Agency on behalf of its employees, which cost the regulator $1.3 million.
“Generally, I would describe it as very concerning,” Wylie told reporters at a press conference Thursday.
“I would also describe it as atypical of what we see of the operations of the agencies, boards, and commissions in Alberta.”
Wylie said his office has not reported its findings to any law enforcement agency. He said the new AER board would make that decision. [Likely to cover-up the cover-ups and keep all the criminals out of jail for free while continuing to let companies brutalize rural Alberta families, pets and livestock and the environment]
CEO improperly approved cash bonuses
Wylie’s audit found that in March 2018, Ellis approved cash bonuses of $21,000 for two AER executive vice-presidents, despite provincial legislation passed the previous year that prohibited such bonuses. Ellis described the bonuses in terms of days off with pay, but the auditor general found they were clearly cash bonuses.
“You will receive a lump sum payment of $21,000 less required deductions which is equivalent to 20 days of leave with pay,” Ellis wrote to one of the executives.
“This payment is in recognition of the additional time and efforts you have provided since moving into the (executive vice-president) role last spring.”
But Wylie’s audit revealed the AER and Ellis were aware of the legislation that prevented these bonuses.
Emails produced for the audit discussed costing scenarios regarding vacation days for the two executives “and how amounts could be given without coming across as circumventing the spirit and intent” of the legislation.
The auditor report states Ellis also authorized a bonus for the AER’s former chiefs of staff — $6,000 in 2017, and $5,000 in 2018 — and they were the only individuals outside the senior executive team who received the benefit. [they must have done some mighty dirty hanky panky for Ellis and or Encana]
“Similar to the two (executive vice presidents), a cash payment was made to the chiefs of staff and characterized as leave with pay. We found no documented rationale to support the selective approach to granting additional leave to the chiefs of staff versus others in the organization.”
AER paid for executives to commute from B.C.
The audit confirmed previous CBC News reporting that AER CEO Jim Ellis was paid to commute from his home in the Okanagan to work in Calgary. Auditors found the chair of the AER approved Ellis’s request after he asserted the chair had previously agreed to the arrangement.
But when auditors interviewed the chair, “he told us he only agreed that AER would cover the costs associated with changes in airfare resulting from work-related scheduling changes that impacted travel times.
“We found no formal documentation to corroborate the accuracy of either the former AER board chair or the former AER CEO’s account of what was agreed to.”
Auditors also found no evidence that the board chair at the time sought to confirm this alleged previous agreement.
The AER, the report states, paid about $20,000 in travel costs for Ellis from his B.C. residence to Calgary from Jan. 1, 2018 until his departure in Nov. 2018.
CBC News has reported that two other AER executives were also commuting from their homes in B.C.
The AER, funded by a levy charged to the energy sector, is one of Alberta’s most recognized public agencies. It oversees the massive energy sector and is expected to ensure the safe and environmentally responsible development of the industry.
[“Expected” by whom? Experienced self-thinking Alberta landowners expect nothing but pollution and harm enabling and law violation and contamination cover-ups out of AER and Alberta Environment]
‘Reckless and wilful disregard’
Last month, three provincial watchdogs concluded the AER wrongfully used its resources to establish another company outside its mandate, while Ellis displayed “reckless and wilful disregard” for the proper management of public funds. [Not public funds! AER is 100% funded by industry. Ellis did the Hanky Panky with industry funds]
In damning reports, the ethics commissioner, auditor general, and public interest commissioner concluded the AER’s board oversaw a regulator whose executives travelled by air first-class and stayed at $500-per-night hotels, plotted how to privatize the province’s intellectual property, and spent millions of dollars in public money on a private venture in order to secure their future employment.
[All nasty, yes, but nowhere near as nasty as the AER (and it’s previous evil incarnations) regularly covering-up environmental crimes by oil and gas companies (costing the public – Albertans and Canadians – billions of dollars in environmental and public health costs and endless toxic messes yet to be cleaned up) and the abuses both regulators gleefully dole out to landowners/families harmed by those crimes. Who will investigate these much more horrific crimes by the AER and Alberta Environment? And when?]
In some instances, the board knew of the behaviour and allowed it to happen, while at other times, it was completely unaware of activities. Board members not only failed to provide oversight, but they often didn’t even question senior leadership. [Like Board members knowingly letting industry get away with murder]
Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced in September that a review of the AER was being launched and she appointed an interim board to chart its future.
Refer also to:
Hanky Panky hits anti-Alberta Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allen: Why give $905K (more than 1/3 the entire budget) to Dentons Canada, law firm where Allen’s son is partner, Steve Harper works and Alberta Justice Minister Schweitzer was partner. Why such expensive advice to catch some witches flying on brooms made with a few foreign parts?
Kenney’s $2.5 Million “Public Inquiry” Witch Hunt has paid law firm Dentons Canada $905,000 so far! Is Steve Allen’s job to steal from Alberta taxpayers to give to lawyers in exchange for Kenney favours? What a toxic circus Alberta govt is.
Is AER making those who “leave” sign gag orders with payouts to keep secret the dirty goings on at the “Brotherhood” and Orphan Well Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Club? Nicely enabled by Alberta gov’t pretending to “clean” house while ramping up deregulation for industry to pollute and harm more?
Who needs ICORE! EUB trained deregulation – for free. It was the “Brotherhood of regulators,” says ex-EUB Chair Neil McCrank, who enabled the Caroline Cover-up and Encana illegally frac’ing Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers, with the “regulator” abusing it’s power, punishing Ernst instead of the company; was Chair when EUB incorporated the notoriously evil Synergy Alberta; authorized the “repulsive” spying on innocent Albertans that made gov’t change it to ERCB; etc., etc.
Where did AER’s Executive VP Mark Taylor go? He was Encana manager when the company illegally frac’d Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers, then lied about it to 200 concerned community members, promising Encana would only frac far below fresh water zones (same lie touted by frac’ers everywhere), after area water wells had already gone bad, and were being investigated by – of course – the criminal, with regulator and govt blessings.
Alberta’s $30 Million Taxpayer-funded Pathetic *Private Corporation* (to sneak around FOIP Law, keep the room undemocratic?) Propaganda War Room. Will it pimp Kenney up or be more Hanky Panky failure, costing six times AER’s ICORE?
The Hanky Panky Continues! Kenney’s newly named War Room, “Alberta Energy Information Centre,” gets another new name: “Canadian Energy Centre” and it sounds like AER’s/Jim Ellis’ ICORE on steroids! UCP failed candidate, Tom Olsen, hired as manager, reportedly to get $195,000.00 salary. “Spin pays big time in Alberta.”
Mega list of bankrupt companies! Kenney’s $30 Million McCarthyism War Room renamed “Alberta Energy Information Centre” (AER’s 100%-industry-funded ass): PetroPimps’ Propaganda Hanky Panky Bunker to Spy ‘n Lie for CAPP ‘n Koch ‘n Encana ‘n Harper? Just New West Partnership cont’d?
Hanky Panky Power Pimping Codswallop! Canadian & BC gov’ts forcing demand for Site C dam? Why give the failing frac ‘n dash industry another near $Billion in corporate welfare? LNG & frac’ing, even electrified, are not green or clean or safe!
AER/ICORE/Jim Ellis Hanky Panky & Deregulation Tried to Go Global. Is CAPP et al making Ellis take the fall for Neil McCrank, EUB Boss (before it became AER)? McCrank authorized spying on innocent Albertans, **initiated spreading AER’s evil, lies & propaganda globally**, was boss when EUB violated Ernst’s charter rights and refused to make it right. “I wonder what’s worse for the average Albertan…. A vicious STD, or the AER? It’s a toss up.”
Kenney’s $30 Million Bunker Hit by Bombshell! Alberta Auditor General report on investigation results into Energy Regulator’s global propaganda machine ICORE: AER inappropriately spent money on matters outside its mandate. Wrongfully used $5.4 Million of **industry’s** money! Includes investigation reports by Ethics & Public Interest Commissioners on ex CEO Jim Ellis.
After expense hanky panky by AER’s top executive Jim Ellis is publicly commented on by Diana Daunheimer, Alberta farmer and mother of two, he steps down: “Good riddance, bring in the next dickhead.” Indeed! Third AER executive paid to commute from BC (air & water too polluted in Alberta?)