Alberta television and film industry grant lacked financial oversight: Auditor General

A provincial grant program aiming to boost Alberta’s television and film productions lacked financial oversight and allowed recipients to claim ineligible expenses, says the province’s auditor general.

The Alberta Production Grant program — which doled out $43 million in 2016-17 with a cap of $5 million per project — had unclear guidelines for recipients and continued to fund individuals after ineligible claims were made, says a report released Thursday by Auditor General Merwan Saher.

Examples listed in the auditor general’s fall report included salary expenses claimed by one individual for three positions and amounts claimed as Alberta expenses for services paid to companies in B.C., Ontario and the U.S.

The fall report covered a slew of topics ranging from infection prevention and control under Alberta Health Services to IT controls for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.

The department of culture and tourism has been trying to recover $1.2 million from two companies since February 2016, the report says. That amount was reduced to $430,000 in late 2016.

“The department’s staff explained that they needed to be consistent with the level of leniency exercised with the other three applicants because the existing program guidelines lacked clarity,” the report said. “To date, the department has not been able to recover the $430,000.”

But three other companies had also been found to claim ineligible expenses — “the department did not pursue recovery of funds because the unclear guidelines made it difficult for the department to enforce compliance.”

The grant program was replaced with the Screen-Based Production Grant in early October. Saher said the lessons learned in the audit apply to the new program.

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Source:: Edmonton Journal – Politics

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