Canadian Consulting Engineer

Auditor General uncovers problems in Alberta’s school building program

April 19, 2016

One hundred projects are delayed, while departments don't know scope or even if sites are available

Alberta’s Auditor General has uncovered a litany of problems with the way the province’s school building program has been run, resulting in a hundred projects being delayed.

The province’s aggressive school building program was launched originally by then-Premier Alison Redford in 2011 to keep pace with the burgeoning population. In total the three phase, $4.6 billion program involved 230 building projects: 140 new buildings, and 90 retrofits.

In September, David Eggan, the Minister of Education, announced that around 100 of the phase 2 and 3 projects were running behind schedule and asked Auditor General Merwan Saher to investigate what had gone wrong.

On April 12 the Auditor General issued his report. He has found that the departments of Infrastructure and Education which are responsible for the school building program had not coordinated their approaches and did not have adequate systems to plan, deliver or report on the construction program. He wrote, “Although the projects have common features, each is unique, with its own challenges. Each requires proper planning to set a reasonably attainable completion date.”

Saher found that neither Infrastructure nor Education departments had project schedules before they announced the estimated completion dates of schools. They often didn’t understand the project scope or even the status of the site. In some instances schools were announced when it was not even known if the sites were available, whether the right zoning was in place, or whether environmental and geotechnical studies had been done.

The departments would both agree on a budget, but there was no agreement on scope, schedule or other key milestones.  Documentation was lacking and the lines of responsibility were not clear. The departments would each be handling different aspects of a project, but neither one was responsible for the overall results.

Noting that the departments had already improved some of their processes and reporting, the auditor had several recommendations. One was that they should clarify their roles and responsibilities. Another was that they should establish a “gated” approvals process, clearly setting out the project deliverables and who is responsible.

Of the 195 projects in phases 2 and 3, 86 are running late and 14 have no set completion date.

To read the Auditor General’s report, click here.

To read an article in the Edmonton Journal, click here.


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