EDMONTON — A government investigation concludes the former head of the Alberta Energy Regulator grossly mismanaged public funds in a scandal that has left taxpayers about $2.3 million out of pocket.
The findings were announced by Alberta’s auditor general Doug Wylie, public interest commissioner Marianne Ryan and ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler.
The investigation revolved around the activities of Jim Ellis and other executives with the energy regulator between 2017 and 2018.
A report says Ellis and other executives set up a non-profit agency to sign contracts around the globe to advise on best regulatory practices.
The plan was for the agency to be spun off from the regulator and go independent, but the report says the reason behind that was to provide future employment for Ellis and others.
The report also says Ellis and others worked to get the agency off the ground, even though it was not part of the regulator’s mandate and potentially put it in conflict with the oil companies it was overseeing.
It says the executives used regulator funds, travelled business class and stayed in lavish hotels.
Dozens of regulator employees were redirected to work for the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence, even though the regulator faced criticism for long approval times, the report says.
It adds that the board was kept in the dark on some issues and didn’t provide proper oversight on others. It estimates that taxpayers lost $2.3 million in salaries, work time, travel and other costs related to the international centre.
Ellis quit the energy regulator earlier this year and last month Premier Jason Kenney’s government replaced its board. The province is reviewing the regulator’s operations.
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