The Bolton Committee
In September 2014, prior to the provincial general election, then Premier Jim Prentice appointed a three person committee to examine the four major financial agencies owned by the provincial government: ATB Financial, Agricultural Financial Services Corporation, Alberta Investment Management Corporation, and Alberta Capital Finance Authority. The committee was led by Hugh Bolton, an accountant who was the Chair of the City of Edmonton’s EPCOR Utilities and the chair of Capital Power, a company spun out of EPCOR. Also serving on the committee were two well known financial executives: Linda Hohol a former director of ATB and the former President of the TSX Venture Exchange. Larry Pollock, the former CEO of Canadian Western Bank and a director of EPCOR. All agreed to accept $1 a year for their services. The Press Release indicated that the Committee was to report within two months.
The mandate of the group was to review: governance; director appointment processes; president/CEO assessment processes and succession planning; and risk management strategies, and conflict-of-interest policies. According to the release: “Under my leadership, your government will ensure the best Albertan for the job is
appointed. Political party affiliation is not a relevant consideration.”
The report was submitted to the Prentice government at the end of February 2015, but to date, has not been made public.With a new NDP government, the fate of the report is unclear.
The announcement came as a surprise to public sector watchers for two reasons. Firstly, the question of provincial agency governance did not appear in the five priorities identified by Prentice during his 2014 leadership campaign. Secondly, a review of Board governance at provincial ABCs had been undertaken and completed in 2007. The final report in October 2007 examined : classification of ABCs; roles, responsibilities and accountability of ABCs; and appointment, evaluation and remuneration of CEOs and board members. Why did the new Prentice government decide to create another committee with overlapping mandates within a relatively short time frame?
In the first NDP budget tabled on October 27th, a comprehensive review of 301 provincial agencies, boards and commissions was announced. According to a subsequent news release, the review will seek to “improve services for Albertans and ensure value for taxpayers ”through examining the role and mandate, board membership, and governance of these entities.” The review will also “identify areas of duplication and potential cost savings.” In the April 2016 budget, a small number (and mainly irrelevant) agencies were eliminated and four of Alberta Innovate corporations were merged.
On 14 June the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry announced that the board of the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) was being replaced by an interim board and CEO. This interim board, including senior Alberta government officials immediately removed from “active duty” three of AFSC’s top executive officers. The action came as a result of a whistle blower’s concerns about executive expenses and procurement policies. The anonymous tip initiated an investigation and public report of the Province’s Chief Internal Auditor. The report was delivered to law enforcement agencies to determine if further action was warranted.
On 23 June, the Government of Alberta announced the release the first of agencies, boards and commissions. The Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act (which amended the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act) and the Public Sector Compensation Transparency General Regulation requires the disclosure of payments to board members and employees who earn more than $125,000 a year in total compensation. The Act allows the minister responsible for the Act to either conduct an audit or order an entity to self audit if one of the agencies, boards or commissions fails to publicly disclose salaries subject to certain limitation such as the safety of the individual .