Auditor General report provides learnings for design of future emergency payment programs

Written by ECA Review

The Auditor General of Alberta found that Alberta Labour and Immigration had processes to quickly make payments to applicants assessed as eligible under its Emergency Isolation Support (EIS) Program, but not all of these processes were effective.

On March 18, 2020, the Alberta government announced the EIS program. The program’s objective was to quickly provide financial support to ensure working Albertans required to self-isolate did so rather than go to their place of work and increase the spread of COVID-19. 

The one-time EIS program provided financial relief until the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit became available for Albertans at the beginning of April 2020.

“In my report, I did not make any recommendations as EIS was a one-time program,” said Wylie. “However, our findings about automating controls, load testing online applications, flexibility for correcting mistakes and fully confirming applicant residency can serve as learnings in the design of future emergency payment programs.”

The Delivery of COVID-19 Emergency Isolation Support Program Report found that the application process effectiveness was not optimal, which created inefficiencies. 

In addition, adjudicators were trained on documented approval processes but there was no oversight over adjudicator performance. 

While many program applications were eventually approved without issue, errors and inefficiencies did occur.

In addition to these key findings, the Auditor General also found that verification of applicant eligibility is still incomplete 21 months after the program end.

“As a result, at the time of writing of my report, the department is unable to assert how much of the EIS benefit was paid to ineligible individuals,” said Wylie. “Without strong benefit program application and payment processes, there is a higher degree of risk ineligible individuals may exploit program processes to fraudulently obtain funding.”

The Auditor General will examine the results of the post-payment verification as part of the audit of the department’s 2021-22 financial reporting and program results analysis in the department’s 2021-22 annual report.

This report was tabled in the Alberta Legislature on March 22, 2022 and is available at www.oag.ab.ca.

Appointed under Alberta’s Auditor General Act, the Auditor General is the legislated auditor of every provincial ministry, department, public post-secondary institution, and most provincial agencies, boards, commissions, and regulated funds. 

The audits conducted by the Office of the Auditor General report on how government is managing its responsibilities and the province’s resources. The Auditor General of Alberta provides independent assurance to the 87 members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, and the people of Alberta, that public money is spent properly and provides value.

 

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