Former Alberta Premier Alison Redford and her staff “used public resources inappropriately” and “consistently failed” to justify spending on travel, according to a new report from the province’s Auditor-General.
Ms. Redford stepped down as premier earlier this year, and stepped down as an MLA Wednesday, a day before the release of the auditor general’s report. The report has already been referred by Ms. Redford’s former colleagues to the RCMP.
Here are six of the report’s findings.
1) Partisan and personal travel
Premier Redford’s office used government planes for “personal and partisan purposes,” the AG report found. It found three trips on government planes “where only partisan business occurred,” including a PC party fundraiser, a PC party board meeting and a PC party golf event. Another five trips included partisan events and government business, the AG found. The AG also found “a greater personal time component” to trips Ms. Redford took on government planes to Vancouver and Jasper, Alta. Ms. Redford also “obtained a personal benefit” by having her daughter fly on government planes on a total of 50 occasions from 2011 to 2014, the AG found.
|Event||Date||Location||Government business also conducted?|
|Southern Alberta Leader's Dinner||10/18/2012||Lethbridge||Yes|
|Northern Alberta Leader's Dinner||10/25/2012||Grande Prairie||No|
|Calgary Leader's Dinner||4/11/2013||Calgary||n/a|
|Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta Board of Directors Meeting||6/15/2013||Red Deer||No|
|Southern Alberta Regional Golf Tour||8/26/2013||Lethbridge||No|
|Progressive Conservative Party Youth Summit||9/28/2013||Red Deer||Yes|
|Fort McMurray Leader's Dinner||10/3/2013||Fort McMurray||Yes|
|Southern Alberta Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta Leaders Fall Harvest||10/10/2013||Medicine Hat||Yes|
2) Flying business class
Alberta provincial expense policy requires that economy class generally be used for domestic flights, unless otherwise authorized, but Ms. Redford and her executive assistants “usually travelled business class” when flying commercially and “generally would only fly economy when that was the only class of fare available on the flight,” according to the report. The AG also found Ms. Redford and her EAs usually travelled on full business class fares, which are more flexible but more expensive than restricted fares. The AG found no documents explaining why Ms. Redford and her staff were upgraded to business class.
3) Block-booking planes
The Premier’s office used “false placeholder passengers,” such as “passenger 5,” when booking government planes. The effect was that, in some cases, the premier and her guests essentially blocked others from joining the flight. The “false” passengers were then deleted before the final “trip sheet” was printed, the AG found. The AG said Ms. Redford and Mr. Adatia “denied any knowledge of the block booking,” but said that, based on its interviews, the “idea for restricted access to the aircraft came from the [premier’s] office.”
4) The Premier’s Suite
Ms. Redford intervened in the development of the “Federal Building,” which is provincially owned and sits steps from the legislature, to create a “premier’s suite,” the AG found. The Department of Infrastructure accepted floor plans in 2012 signed by the premier’s aide, Ryan Barberio, to change the design “and incur additional project design and construction costs.” The AG was told by the Department of Infrastructure that it “viewed Premier Redford as the authorized decision maker” for the part of the development. The 2012 plan amended by Ms. Redford’s aide continues to be built, but government has said it won’t be used as a living space, the report said.
5) Expensive hotels
The Alberta government has standing offers for hotel rates worldwide, but the AG “did not see evidence” Ms. Redford’s office used those. Instead, hotels costs reached as much as $825 per night abroad, with Ms. Redford’s own room “often considerably higher” in cost than that of her staff.Premier Redford and her staff's accommodation expenses
|Travel type||Premier Redford||Mr. Farouk Adatia||Mr. Ryan Barberio||Mr. Brad Stables||Mr. Stefan Baranski||Other staff||Total|
6) A murky paper trail
The AG found the premier’s office didn’t “always provide sufficient information as to the government purpose of the [travel] expenses.” As such, the office couldn’t prove to the AG if the expenses were “economical” and did not comply with provincial policy. Ms. Redford and her top staff spent $659,690 on travel, meal and hospitality expenses over 17 months between 2012 and 2014, the AG found. Premier Redford’s expenses were often “incurred on [her] behalf” by those travelling with her or arranging travel for her. The office said it struggled to find documentation showing the rationale for travel decisions “because of the number of departments and individuals involved.” The AG said rules should be changed to make it “absolutely clear” that responsibility for travel costs for premier and ministers “rests with them personally.”
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