Education plan too confusing: official

Alberta’s financial watchdog says the government’s push to have the province’s 26 post-secondary schools work more closely together to improve service and efficiency isn’t well planned or directed.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s financial watchdog says the government’s push to have the province’s 26 post-secondary schools work more closely together to improve service and efficiency isn’t well planned or directed.

In his annual report, auditor general Merwan Saher blames problems with the Campus Alberta plan on the Enterprise and Advanced Education Department.

“If there is one word, the word I would use is confusion,” Saher said Tuesday.

“There isn’t a clear structure for collaboration. There isn’t a collective business plan for collaboration and there are no performance measures with targets to see if collaboration is working.”

Saher said if the problems aren’t fixed, the government will not fully achieve its goal of improving post-secondary education that costs $4.8 billion a year in taxpayer money.

His report recommends the department develop a business plan to clearly outline what it wants to achieve, how it will meet its goals, how much it will cost and where the money will come from.

The plan must include a way to measure the performance of Campus Alberta and the government should publicly release results and costs, Saher suggests.

Deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who is also minister of advanced education, was not available to answer questions about the criticisms in the auditor general’s report.

But in a release he thanked Saher for his findings.

“We will use the recommendations to guide us as we improve our operations, while being open and accountable to taxpayers,” Lukaszuk said.

The minister noted that his department recently sent draft letters to post-secondary schools that say the government expects them to work more closely together, cut costs and reduce duplication.

The province’s budget for this fiscal year includes $147 million in funding cuts to colleges, universities and technical schools.

The auditor general also cited significant management problems at the Medicine Hat College of International Education. The program offers courses at campuses in other countries, including China, that allow foreign students to complete their studies in Medicine Hat.

The report said the college’s president and board of governors failed to manage or recognize the risks of such a program.

It noted people in the international division claimed more than $325,000 in travel expenses for the last three years without proper documentation.

Saher said the division operated independently and outside the college’s management control — a situation that he described as “extraordinary.”

“The result at the highest level is that the integrity of the college’s academic credentials have been put at risk and in a nutshell board oversight of the division failed.”

Last month, the board of governors of Medicine Hat College announced that Ralph Weeks was stepping down as president. No reason was given.

The auditor general’s report is also critical of how well the government has monitored an affordable housing project for people on low incomes.

The project cost the province $1.1 billion over five years.

The report says the government did not fully document how it awarded project funding or ensured that money granted for the housing was used properly.

“Many of the grant recipients we visited did not comply, in some aspect, with the grant agreement because they charged rental rates higher than allowed or had ineligible tenants living in affordable housing units.”

Saher’s report also said changes the government has made to its accounting practices will make it difficult to compare the budget this year with last year’s numbers.

Alberta’s opposition parties say the report’s findings are more evidence that Premier Alison Redford’s government isn’t good at managing, planning or budgeting.

“The latest auditor general’s report shows what many Albertans have known for a long time, that the PC government, their ministers and the departments that operate beneath them are simply not doing their jobs properly,” Opposition Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said in a release.

New Democrat David Eggen said problems in post-secondary education and affordable housing will not reassure people about how their taxes are being spent.

“We need clarity and honesty in the way we report on how our services are delivered, and I don’t think we’re getting that from this secretive PC government.”

The Alberta Liberals said the auditor general’s report shows the Redford government excels at only one thing — “causing confusion.”

Just Posted

Patrons practice on a putting green as the Whitestone Bridge looms in the distance at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx borough of New York on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Former President Donald Trump has a rich history of fighting back when he’s down and making others pay, and that’s exactly how he intends to deal with New York City over its plans to fire his company from running the city golf course. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Dump Trump? Kicking him off NYC golf course may not be easy

Trump Organization has been reeling after the Capitol riots

A photo illustration made December 14, 2012 in Montreal shows a computer in chains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Irish health system says it’s targeted in ransomware attack

Health care systems have been a target before

A woman wearing a mask talks on her phone near an exhibition depicting a rover in Mars in Beijing on Friday, May 14, 2021. China says its Mars probe and accompanying rover are to land on the red planet sometime between early Saturday morning and Wednesday Beijing time. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
China Mars rover to land between Saturday and Wednesday

Only the United States has successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a building in Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Weary Palestinians are somberly marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas and Israel traded more rockets and airstrikes and Jewish-Arab violence raged across Israel. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinians flee as Israeli artillery pounds northern Gaza

Israel called up 9,000 reservists as fighting intensifies

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Team Canada’s head coach Troy Ryan talks with players before the start of the of the Rivalry Series at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, February 3, 2020. Ryan of Spryfield, N.S., has been named head coach of Canada’s women’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Troy Ryan to coach Canadian women’s hockey team in 2022 Winter Olympics

Ryan was Canada’s assistant coach from 2016 to 2019

FILE- In this April 19, 2021, file photo, people wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus wait to test for COVID-19 at a hospital in Hyderabad, India. Misinformation about the coronavirus is surging in India as the death toll from COVID-19 rises. Fueled by anguish, distrust and political polarization, the claims are further compounding India’s crisis. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A, File)
Misinformation surges amid India’s COVID-19 calamity

Distrust of Western vaccines and health care also driving misinformation

FILE - In this Friday March 6, 2020, file photo, Britain’s Prince Harry visits the Silverstone Circuit, in Towcester, England. In an episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast broadcast Thursday, May 13, 2021, Prince Harry compared his royal experience to being on “The Truman Show” and “living in a zoo.” (Peter Nicholls/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Prince Harry thought about quitting royal life in his 20s

Feared his family would have to deal with the same spotlight that was on his late mother

Opinion
Mental health: Gossiping, backbiting and forming factions is unhealthy

We all know of dysfunctional organizations, which can be as troublesome as… Continue reading

Family practice physician Christina Tuomi, D.O., (right) gets Homer's first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine from Emergency Department nurse Steve Hughes (left) on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska. Tuomi has been the hospital's medical lead throughout the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
Alberta physicians: Vaccines are our path forward

As the AMA representatives for Alberta’s family physicians, we were immensely relieved… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Nils Hoglander, right, is checked by Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during third-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, May 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch, left, and guard Jalen Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

Most Read