The office of Alberta’s auditor general confirmed Tuesday it will audit all travel expenses of former premier Alison Redford and her staff. The office will also audit the government’s controversial air transportation service, which operates the government’s fleet of planes.
Kimberly Nishikaze, the auditor general’s communications director, confirmed to CBC that auditors will review all expenses related to travel by Redford, and her staff, including the former premier’s use of government planes.
“If the audit finds the policy hasn’t been complied with, we will make recommendations to improve processes within the office of the premier,” Nishikaze said, adding that she expects the audit to be completed by the end of July.
On Monday, CBC News reported Redford had flown her daugher on 50 separate government flights, including a flight with the family’s nanny.
The CBC News investigation also found Redford used government planes to facilitate two long weekends — one in 2012, a second in 2013 — in Jasper with her daughter, and a friend of her daughter’s.
Despite repeated requests from CBC since March 26, neither Redford nor the office of interim Premier Dave Hancock has provided any evidence that the former premier conducted any government business. One of those weekends in June 2013 was during the height of the flooding in southern Alberta.
In the legislature Tuesday, Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith again speculated that Redford had used the planes for a family vacation in Jasper. She asked Hancock to explain what government business Redford had conducted while at Jasper Park Lodge on the June 2013 long weekend.
Hancock told the legislature he had “no idea.
“And I am not going to go back and check everybody's calendar and find out what they were doing on any given day,” Hancock said. “I am not going to ask ministers to give me their calendars so I can check to see whether they had an appropriate meeting with somebody before they booked a flight.”
Auditor General to review Jasper trips
Hancock said the “appropriate” way to answer Smith’s question would be to have the auditor general conduct a review.
“The auditor general is doing it and will have access to all of the information he needs to do that job," Hancock told the legislature.
Redford resigned on March 19 under pressure from her caucus and the Conservative party, which had spiralled in the polls at least in part due to ongoing negative publicity about Redford’s lavish travel expenses.
Three days earlier, she had announced she would repay the $45,000 cost of a trip to South Africa to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela. She also apologized to the public, but only after members of her own caucus had threatened to quit. Some subsequently did quit.
Earlier in March, Redford had suspended all out of province flights on government planes and asked the auditor general to review the government’s use of its fleet.
Again in the legislature on Tuesday, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith asked the government why it didn’t sell the fleet, after citing examples of other provinces which had sold off their flights after conducting reviews.
Finance minister Doug Horner responded that chartering aircraft was far more expensive and he cited comparisons between the cost to fly using the government’s fleet and chartering. Horner however, did not address the fact that the vast majority of flights are between Calgary and Edmonton, which have numerous commercial flights.