Fraud at colleges investigated

EDMONTON — Alberta’s auditor general is blaming poor financial controls and sloppy accounting practices for missing money at two community colleges.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s auditor general is blaming poor financial controls and sloppy accounting practices for missing money at two community colleges.

At Bow Valley College in Calgary, an unidentified department director has been fired and is now under police investigation over phoney invoices worth $189,000.

The college’s former director of international education and workplace training was fired last fall, but college officials are not releasing his name.

Weak internal controls allowed the director to approve invoices dating back to 2005 that paid money directly to companies he and his family controlled, auditor general Fred Dunn said in a report released Monday.

“Quite often in any fraud an individual will start off quite small and once they have proven that the process works without any questions, they will then become bolder over time,” Dunn told a news conference.

The college has filed a civil claim in Court of Queen’s Bench to try to recover the money.

Dunn’s report also takes aim at Grant MacEwan Community College in Edmonton, which was forced to write off $380,000 in parking fines dating back to 1999 due to poor accounting and no proper debt collection procedures.

The auditor general also found a couple of alarming computer security breaches in province’s Department of Transportation.

In one case, a technician hired by the department put the entire system at risk when he accidentally downloaded a malicious program known as a Trojan horse virus.

Dunn is also critical of the government’s slow response to his 2006 recommendation to improve monitoring of drinking water facilities in Alberta communities.

“The safety of our water is still not up to snuff,” said Liberal Opposition Leader David Swann.

“I think Albertans deserve that to be the priority.”

Dunn is also disappointed that the province has largely ignored his recommendation three years ago to create a process to report on the effectiveness of reforestation programs.

The Progressive Conservative government gives industry the responsibility of ensuring the new trees that companies plant are taking hold and helping renew Alberta’s forests.

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