Investigation into the Alberta Energy Regulator
In our annual report last year, we summarized an investigation that resulted in a finding of wrongdoing by the former Chief Executive Officer and President of the Alberta Energy Regulator(AER). The story was widely reported in the media. The full report remains available on our website.
As was reported in the news at the time, investigations were subsequently initiated into the actions of other employees at the AER at the time the wrongdoing occurred. The Commissioner’s findings were released to the AER and the investigated individuals in December 2020. Subsequently, the AER reported on its website that no further wrongdoing was found.
The Commissioner’s investigations confirmed that the former CEO created an atmosphere at the AER that made it difficult for other executives to act in the best interests of the AER. Although employees under the direction of the CEO should have acted more strongly to protect the public interest, their actions did not meet the threshold of wrongdoing as defined by the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act (the Act). Nevertheless, the Commissioner made five observations to the AER Board to further protect the public interest.
To summarize our full report, in October 2019, the Commissioner released a public report on significant and serious wrongdoing that took place within the AER. Our office received a whistleblower disclosure concerning the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence (ICORE), a side project established within the AER by its CEO and President at the time. The disclosure alleged the improper use of public funds and AER human resources to establish and operate ICORE. This alarmed AER staff who saw it as a diversion from the AER’s true mandate.
As a result of the investigation, the Commissioner recommended: the wrongdoer not be permitted future employment or contracts with the AER; the AER undertake a thorough internal review of actual time and resources expended on ICORE; and, take legal steps to collect any amounts outstanding. Further, she recommended the AER take measures to protect its intellectual property related to the training curriculum, and the new President and CEO address a culture within the AER that discouraged employees from voicing their concerns by overseeing a full review of the AER’s whistleblower policy and procedures.
At this time, there are no further investigations into the matter. If any lesson is to be learned, it is that CEOs have substantial influence and control over organizations and strong oversight mechanisms are required. In this case, the Act was effective in bringing wrongdoing to light.
The whistleblower remains protected. The person’s identity has never been revealed.