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Alberta auditor general Merwan Saher says the government put too great a strain on its resources after took over the program in-house. (JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Alberta auditor general Merwan Saher says the government put too great a strain on its resources after took over the program in-house. (JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Alberta auditor criticizes work on disaster recovery after 2013 floods Add to ...

Alberta’s Auditor-General is taking the province to task for overhauling its disaster-recovery program while still handling the biggest natural disaster in its history.

Merwan Saher, in a report issued on Wednesday, says the government put too great a strain on its resources after it announced in March, 2014, that it would take over the program in-house.

The work previously had been done by an outside contractor.

Mr. Saher said that making the switch while Municipal Affairs was still dealing with the 2013 Southern Alberta floods went against the advice of department officials and overwhelmed the department.

“The department did not have the capacity to deal with this magnitude of change,” Mr. Saher said in the report.

The June, 2013, floods that hit parts of Calgary and Southern Alberta led to more than 10,000 applications for aid.

Mr. Saher said there are still gaps in the program that need to be addressed for when the next disaster hits, such as hiring more project managers and implementing better project-management practices.

“The department must further improve its program delivery systems to achieve the desired results,” Mr. Saher said.

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said the bureaucratic mess has had human costs, given that hundreds of people affected by the floods are still waiting for disaster assistance.

Mr. Clark said he has little faith that the officials who created the problems with the process will be able to fix them.

“This report shows that the unfortunate people who have to access [resource aid] after the next disaster will have exactly the same problems,” Mr. Clark said in a news release.

“There’s a big risk Alberta will miss out on hundreds of millions in federal funding because the program is so badly administered.”

Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said almost all the 2013 flood claims have been taken care of and, if not, have been expedited. Information-technology systems have also been upgraded.

“To date, 99 per cent of files are closed,” Ms. Larivee said.

She said her department has accepted all of Mr. Saher’s recommendations to improve the process, and has already started to act on them.

“[I will] not make the same mistakes the previous government did,” she said.

Wildrose critic Wayne Anderson said it’s critical Ms. Larivee follows through.

“Many who have dealt with the [disaster-recovery program] directly would tell you that the program quickly fell apart with ill-defined processes, inadequate staffing and inconsistent information,” Mr. Anderson said.

“[There were] complicated applications, lost applications and the typical bureaucratic merry-go-round that resulted in almost the revictimization of those who suffered the most.”

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