Thursday, July 12, 2007

Alberta Ministerial Expenses: Update

As per my post yesterday on Alberta government ministerial office expenses, I noticed expenses were quite high compared to the month previous.

So, I made up this chart to look at just how high they are this month compared to last month (ranked in order of largest increase):

The largest increase was the Ministry of Education's office with a 1654% increase, followed closely by Service Alberta and Treasury Board with an 1199% increase.

Most offices had very large increases, with the average increase being 516%.

In fact, all but two offices (Children's Services and Energy) at least doubled their expenditures from April.

With the Minister's of Education and Service Alberta (Ron Liepert and Lloyd Snelgrove) being two of the more fiscally conservative members of cabinet showing the two largest increases, I decided there had to be some accounting errors or reporting changes that would explain why almost every office had large spending increases.

This is what I was told:

"Two reasons – more travel expenses, and under goods and supplies some ministries reported their annual vehicle leases as a one-time expense in May rather than pro-rate over 12 months."

That's not exactly the answer I was expecting. I figured it would be a more technical accounting explanation.

Travel would explain the increase in the Advance Education & Technology expenses (Minister went to China) as well as the Finance expenses (Minister went to NYC & Toronto).

But what about Education? They reported $7,816.34 in "Meals, accommodation, and travel." But there's no news release from April or May that would indicate the Minister was travelling anywhere.

Did they report vehicle leases under "travel"?

And what about Service Alberta and Treasury Board, they reported $ 3,404.01 in "Goods, supplies and services, and other expenses," is that all a vehicle lease?

That would be a lease of $284/month. That's pretty cheap compared to say Seniors, who reported $11,756.99 in the same category. If that was all a vehicle lease it would be $980 per month.

But it's not completely unfathomable, especially when you consider the cost to lease a 2007 Nissan Pathfinder is $906/mo (48 mo term).

UPDATE: Oh, and I got an answer on how the Ministry of Health and Wellness reported a revenue gain of $490.72 last month.

"The negative amount showing up in the Month of May reflects charges paid in April relating to the 2006/07 fiscal year. We had set up an accrual for those charges and paid them in April 2007, as we were not able to process payment before the cut off for 2006/07. The April report reflected those charges.

The timing of the report for April publication however, did not allow us time to process the reversing transaction to move those charges back to 2006/07 where they belonged and therefore the reversing transaction now is reflected in May's report."

That answer is a lot less interesting than the potential of Minister Dave Hancock running an illegal Bed and Breakfast out of his office...

The bottom line is that while the government deserves much praise for putting these numbers on-line, they do not go far enough to explain what money is being spent on.

But, it's a start and we'll keep working on them to give us more info...

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