Alberta auditor flags faulty management of $1B Supernet contracts

Service Alberta did not properly manage and monitor the $1 billion in contracts the government signed with private companies to build the Supernet, Alberta’s auditor general has found in his latest report. 

Problems with the contracts extended over 17 years, from when the initial agreements were signed in 2001 to when a new contract was finally signed in 2018. 

The findings were included in the November 2018 report by Auditor General Doug Wylie, who was appointed after Merwan Saher retired earlier this year. 

Instead of building the Supernet itself, the Alberta government opted to put the work out to third parties in 2001. Construction was completed in 2005.

Service Alberta is responsible for managing the contract. Wylie said the department lacked the systems to properly measure performance and enforce compliance of the contracts to build and run the system, which provides high-speed telecommunications to government offices, schools, libraries and health centres across Alberta. 

“There is a lot of service delivery that Albertans rely on, from health care services provided in rural Alberta to libraries receiving services, so a network shutdown would be significant to rural Alberta,” Wylie said.

For example, the government received monthly reports on service outages but the information did not say where they were occurring.

“Determining if there were specific areas in the province that were receiving more outages than others, they weren’t getting that kind of real-time information to be able to make some of those adjustments,” said assistant auditor general Rob Driesen.

The investigation found the contract, which was set to expire in 2015, was extended another three years in 2013 to give the government more time to fix outstanding problems before a new contract was signed.

But the report notes the extension meant Albertans were stuck with a bad deal for another three years.

A contract was signed with new provider Bell this year

Service Alberta Minister Brian Malkinson said the government learned from problems with the previous contracts and has taken the auditor general’s recommendations into account. 

He said the government plans to post the contract online once the assets are transferred from Axia to Bell.

“We’re proud of that contract and Albertans will see that they’re getting good value out of that,” Malkinson said. 

Other issues cited in the auditor’s report include: 

  • Keyano College in Fort McMurray still needs to improve its financial processes. Management didn’t prepare a proper financial statement for last year, the auditor general found. The college needs to train its staff on accounting standards for the Canadian public sector and ensure its financial reporting is accurate. In 2017, the college didn’t follow Alberta legislation when it obtained a loan.
  • Environment and Parks hasn’t yet implemented an earlier recommendation to improved public reporting of Oil Sands Monitoring Program. The auditor general found last year’s annual report had incorrect information on costs and insufficient information on environmental targets and status of projects. It was also released nine months after the end of the fiscal year and is hard to find online.
  • The auditor general found that Alberta Agriculture and Forestry needs to go a better job at telling the public about what it is doing under the FireSmart program. That includes listing approved and completed projects, and how much is being spent and where.



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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.

History

Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
Geography

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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