PCs made flood disaster recovery process worse, says auditor general

Alberta's auditor general says the former PC government's decision to assume control of disaster recovery claims actually made the process worse.

Taking back control from private company cost more than $13M

Calgary was one of 30 'local state of emergency' communities in the flooding of June 2013. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Alberta's auditor general says the former PC government's decision to assume control of disaster recovery claims actually made the process worse.

The decision came in 2014 after complaints piled up about a private company's handling of the large number of disaster claims from the 2013 flood.

"The lesson to be learned here is not to transition a program in the midst of dealing with a large natural disaster," wrote Auditor General Merwan Saher in his 2016 report.

"While the decision to move program delivery from a contracted service provider to the department of municipal affairs might have been sound, the timing was not."

Saher says the government wasn't ready to take on that work — and it couldn't quickly hire staff to deal with the workload.

He estimates it cost the government more than $13 million during the transition.

The Tories initially privatized the processing of disaster claims but brought that process back inside government because of public complaints.

After the flood, thousands of compensation claims were filed, but many were held up in endless red tape, which frustrated claimants who wanted money.

In 2014, the PC government decided to terminate the contract with the private company doing the work.

The current minister of municipal affairs, Danielle Larivee, says Albertans suffered because the PCs ignored the advice of the municipal affairs department to ease the transition process.

"To move forward with something that clearly contravenes the recommendations of the department, we attribute to being political reasons," Larivee said.

Larivee says 99 per cent of the 2013 claims have now been dealt with and the government has improved its processes for handling any future disaster claims.

With files from the CBC's Scott Dippel

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