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Auditor General Merwin Saher is Alberta’s financial overseer.
Courtesy of the Alberta Auditor General’s office

Auditor General report targets Campus Alberta

Poor planning and mismanagement rife in post-secondary organization

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Campus Alberta — the umbrella organization responsible for co-ordinating post-secondary institutions across the province — lacks a clear plan for the future, communicates its goals poorly with member institutions and is unsustainable in its current form, says Alberta Auditor General Merwin Saher in a report published July 9.

Campus Alberta was created in 2002 as a way to share resources between schools, eliminate redundant academic programs and lower the cost of post-secondary education in the province. These goals have been more aggressively pursued since March when Alberta’s post-secondary education budget was cut by 7.3 per cent — a $41 million loss to the University of Calgary.

The report paints Campus Alberta as overly bureaucratic, ineffective and wasteful.

According to Saher, Campus Alberta has failed to manage collaborative projects between post-secondary institutions effectively, as “institutions lack clear collective strategic planning processes to decide which initiatives to undertake, with limited resources.”

The report repeatedly describes Campus Alberta as lacking in organization and without clear goals.

“Without a clear, complete understanding of who does what and who accounts to whom, the department and institutions risk further duplicating their efforts, paying more than necessary and not effectively managing the risks, resources and benefits of collaboration,” reads the report.

The report also indicates that Medicine Hat College lost over $200,000 on a student exchange program with a fraudulent China-based firm. Saher said the fraud was made possible by a lack of proper oversight on the part of the school and Campus Alberta.

The Wildrose Alliance Party of Alberta went on the offensive after the report was published, with Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson condemning the management of Campus Alberta in a public statement.

“[The minister of advanced education] needs to scrap his centralization plan, start paying closer attention to the waste of tax dollars in his department and let the exceptional post-secondary institutions in Alberta do what they do best, while working with them to ensure accountability and transparency,” Anderson said.

A spokesperson for the University of Calgary offered a short comment on the report, saying the school “welcomes the Auditor General’s report and looks forward to reviewing the recommendations in detail.”

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees spokesman Andrew Hanon said the report proves that Campus Alberta is not competent enough to deal with the recent cuts in post-secondary education.

“The minister [of advanced education] has said in the past that these cuts can largely be absorbed through Campus Alberta initiatives, but the problem is that they are so poorly planned and poorly executed that one hand doesn’t seem to know what the other is doing,” Hanon said. “How can they possibly save any money when it’s been so poorly planned?”

The AUPE represents over 4,500 employees at the U of C.

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