Alberta's auditor general warns lax oversight of high-speed wireless contracts could be costly

Alberta’s auditor general says the government has been failing to make sure taxpayers get value for money spent on contracts to run the province’s $1-billion SuperNet.

The SuperNet is a network that delivers fibre-wireless to big cities and rural areas, and the government has subcontracted the service to private providers.

READ MORE: Alberta government confirms new SuperNet contract with Bell Canada 

“The processes could and should be improved relating to how the government is monitoring its contract how it’s enforcing compliance with the terms and conditions of the contract,” Doug Wylie said Wednesday, delivering his first report as auditor general.

“With a contract as significant as this relating to SuperNet, the internet provision of services to Albertans throughout the province, effective processes really are required.”

Wylie said Service Alberta has not been diligent enough in keeping track of disruptions and in making sure providers deliver key financial data on service fees and network usage.

He also said there have been unresolved disputes with providers on some contract specifics.

Wylie said the department never resolved those problems, and renewed its contract in 2013 despite concerns that taxpayers might not be getting the best deal.

The contracts cost Albertans about $56 million a year.

Brian Malkinson, minister for Service Alberta, said the contract signed under the previous Progressive Conservative government was flawed, but that the NDP government has learned from those mistakes and drafted a new deal this year with better benefits for users and more oversight for taxpayers.

“It’s an excellent example of something that our government had to come through and fix,” said Malkinson.

Wylie also said the province needs to do more to evaluate and report what it’s doing to reduce forest fires, given public anxieties that have ratcheted up in recent years due to high-profile disasters like the massive Fort McMurray blaze.

READ MORE: Alberta auditor general calls for long-term financial forecasts as oil revenue slides

Watch below: (From April 2018) Merwan Saher released his final report as Alberta’s auditor general. As Tom Vernon explains, he wants to see a cultural change on how Albertans view the budget.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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