Alberta film grant program lost $1.2M due to vague guidelines, auditor general says

A¬†grant program intended to promote Alberta’s film and production industry and bolster the economy gave away more than $1 million in ineligible expenses, says the provinces auditor general.¬†

“There are clear cases where the expenses weren’t eligible,” assistant auditor general Eric Leonty said Thursday at a news conference.¬†

The Alberta Production Grant program offers up to $5 million, or 30 per cent of production funds, to eligible companies, providing $140 million in production support over the last five years.

An audit of the program, prompted by two anonymous complaints and completed in October 2015, found five Alberta-based companies had wrongfully claimed $1.2 million in expenses since the program began in 2013.

The audit found that costs claimed as Alberta expenses were actually paid to vendors in Ontario, the United States and British Columbia, and that salaries claimed under the program went to non-Alberta residents.

Since February 2016, Alberta Culture and Tourism has been trying to recover the expenses from two of the companies, while writing off expenses paid to three others because the guidelines were so unclear.

However, according to the auditor general’s report, the department failed to recover¬†any of the $430,000.

Minister of Culture and Tourism Ricardo Miranda issued a statement Thursday thanking the auditor general for the report and the recommendations.

“We accept and agree with the auditor general’s recommendations to improve the controls over administration of the Alberta Production Grant,” Miranda said.

He said before the audit, his department began addressing the need for strengthened financial and audit controls of the grant program.

“The former Conservative government designed a bottomless grant program, with no financial accountability measures and limited oversight,” the minister said in the statement. “We know Albertans expect us to invest responsibly and in areas that will bring the largest economic and cultural benefit to Alberta.

“That’s why on Oct. 3, I announced an improved grant program for the film, television and digital media industry. The Screen-Based Production Grant replaced the Alberta Production Grant, introduced new funding criteria, specific application intake periods, stricter financial controls and a set annual budget.”

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