Auditor general report says improvements needed around provincial risk assessment

CALGARY — Alberta has elements of a hazard assessment system but improvements are needed so the province and its partners can properly analyze the total disaster risk, according to an auditor general’s report released Tuesday.

The report – Provincial Hazard Assessment for Emergency Management – by auditor general Doug Wylie looks at whether “the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) has an effective system to coordinate a provincial hazard assessment to identify provincial emergency management priorities for mitigation and preparedness activities,” according to a release.

“For a government to reduce risk, plan for, and respond to calamities like flooding, wildfires and pandemics, it must understand the extent of Alberta’s cumulative disaster risk now and in the future,” said Wylie in a statement.

“A province-wide hazard assessment system is a key building block for an effective provincial emergency management system. It can help the government make informed, province-wide decisions on funding, policies, and other planning and mitigation strategies.”

The audit found AEMA has elements of a provincial hazard assessment system but says improvements are needed for it to be effective in allowing the AEMA, its partners, and government to assess the total disaster risk in Alberta.

The report says the province incurred about $2.3 billion of $9 billion in total disaster expenses between 2010 and 2016.

The audit found:

  • AEMA drafted a preliminary provincial hazard assessment in 2014-2015, but it was not completed;
  • AEMA has not defined clearly the roles and responsibilities for developing and maintaining the provincial hazard assessment, nor does it have an adequate plan to guide the assessment;
  • The provincial hazard assessment methodology is also lacking critical elements, including a mechanism to evaluate hazards, and a step to identify hazard treatment options, and;
  • Since 2011, post-incident disaster reviews have included several recommendations to AEMA on the hazard assessment system, however, AEMA has weaknesses in its systems to monitor the status of outstanding recommendations.

Auditor general review of Alberta’s COVID-19 response 

In a separate review, Wylie will focus on public accountability for the extra $500 million the province has spent on the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. 

Wylie was tasked with the job back in May to look at the value of investments made and inform the province of lessons learned to best respond to similar crises in the future. 

“Like other Auditors General across the country, we are paying close attention to the government’s response to the pandemic crisis,” Wylie said. 

“As it involved a significant investment by the Government of Alberta, and had a significant impact on the lives of all Albertans, it is something we examine.”

Initial findings and observations will be reported to the Legislative Assembly sometime this fall.

The report released Tuesday can be read online and a copy is available below.

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