Alberta auditor probing relationship between energy regulator and not-for-profit centre

Alberta's auditor general is examining the relationship between the province's energy regulator and a not-for-profit centre it helped launch — as the regulator sues the centre for $2.6 million.

Audit comes as the energy regulator sues the same centre for $2.6 million

The regulator for energy development in Alberta is suing a not-for-profit institute it created for $2.6 million. (CBC)

Alberta's auditor general could complete its probe of the relationship between Alberta's energy regulator and ICORE — a not-for-profit institute it helped launch — before summer amid a lawsuit between the organizations.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) was a founding member of the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence, or ICORE, which began in 2017 as an independent, not-for-profit institute where regulators from around the world could train and exchange best practices.

The AER said that year it would offer expertise in the form of in-kind services provided by its experts, with the new initiative touted by its then-chief executive, Jim Ellis, as "an institute built by regulators for regulators." 

The Office of Alberta Auditor-General Doug Wylie is now looking at the relationship between ICORE and the AER.

A spokeswoman for the auditor-general told CBC News that "we are conducting some audit work related to the Alberta Energy Regulator and its relationship with ICORE."

She said she was unable to share any specific details while the audit is underway, nor could she say when the probe will be completed and made public, though it's anticipated it will be complete before summer.

Alberta Auditor General Doug Wylie's report also found that controls and processes to protect against potential conflicts of interest failed and that oversight from the AER's board was ineffective. (CBC)

The job of the auditor general is to examine and report publicly on the government's management of public resources.

The auditor general's work comes amid a lawsuit launched by the AER against ICORE.

In a statement of claim, the AER says the regulator and ICORE signed a memorandum of understanding where the two sides agreed the AER may provide in-kind services to ICORE, for which it would be compensated.

The AER later granted ICORE an exclusive licence to deliver training courses to third parties. 

Now, the AER alleges that ICORE Energy Services owes it $2.6 million in reimbursement for the development and delivery of training materials. 

"Notwithstanding the AER's demand for payment, ICORE has refused or neglected to pay any amount of the [Memorandum of Understanding]  Invoice or the Licence Agreement Invoice," according to the lawsuit filed March 7 at the Court of Queen's Bench in Calgary.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. A statement of defence had not been filed as of Wednesday.

A spokesman for the AER confirmed details of the lawsuit, but would not elaborate as the matter is before the courts.