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Five things to know about the 2022 provincial auditor’s report

The provincial auditor of Saskatchewan Tara Clemett has released her 2022 report.

REGINA —The provincial auditor of Saskatchewan has released her 2022 report.

The 2022 Report - Vol. 1 was released Tuesday morning by Provincial Auditor Tara Clemett. Her report included annual integrated audits of the 58 different agencies including 27 school divisions; six performance audits for 3sHealth, the Public Service Commission, Saskatchewan Health Authority, Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board and Sun West School Division No. 207; and 19 follow up audits. 

Here are highlights of that report:

1. Cyber security an issue in school divisions

The auditor’s report outlines concerns only at certain school divisions which meant that the majority of agencies had effective financial related controls already, and prepared reliable financial statements. 

The auditor said that Prairie South and Northern Lights divisions need to appropriately restrict privileged user access to financial systems. Clemett also noted that 13 other school divisions use the key financial system managed by a third-party with identified system vulnerabilities.

She said this was an area where better monitoring of the IT system and IT service provider could mitigate those risks. 

“Cyber security remains a real threat, highlighted by the recent breach to the Regina Public Schools and IT systems.”

2. SLGA and Craft Alcohol

A key finding was the need for the SLGA to increase its regulatory oversight of craft alcohol producers, following an audit of their processes to the regulate the production and sale of locally manufactured craft alcohol.

SLGA already requires craft alcohol producers to submit certificates of analysis or lab test reports for each alcohol product line sold by a craft alcohol producer every two years, which verify they are safe for consumption.

But the audit found SLGA did not have reports for over half of the craft alcohol product lines approved for sale on its tracking sheet - 43 of 83 product lines. Some of these craft alcohol producers had not provided certificates of analysis to the authority for more than nine months past the deadline. 

Clemett also noted SLGA needs to use a risk-based approach to inspect craft alcohol producers and high-risk manufacturing areas. In one instance, SLGA had not inspected one producer in three years.

SLGA also needs to renew permits prior to expiry, according to the report. The audit had found four craft alcohol producers operated without a valid permit. 

The report also recommended SLGA perform reasonability analysis of craft alcohol producers' monthly sales and production information. 

“The industry has grown and SLGA now needs to prioritize this as a segment of liquor production and sales that they are responsible for,” Clemett said.

3. Public Service Commission diversity

Diversity and inclusion in ministries in the Public Service was a key topic of Chapter Four of the report. 

The focus was on the Public Service Commission as the central human resources agency for 17 government ministries, with over 11,000 employees working across these ministries. As of January 2022, the Branch had about 25 employees working closely with all ministries to support workplace diversity and inclusion. 

Clemett said they found the commission needs to modernize the employment equity policy and expand its inclusion toolkit to include all key diversity and inclusion concepts. It was last updated in 2000.

There is also a need cited to monitor ministries’ inclusion plans and progress reports. Clemett reports the Commission did not receive 13 of 17 ministry diversity and inclusion plans for 2021–22.

Clemett also said the commission needs clear indicators to measure and then report on progress towards achieving diversity and inclusion goals. 

“Without that as a baseline you can’t know to some degree which ministries are doing as well as others, which ones need additional support and which ones perhaps aren’t maybe doing plans and fulfilling them,” said Clemett. 

Clemett reported that 3.5 per cent of ministry employees self-reported as disabled compared to the benchmark of 22 per cent, and that only three percent self-declared as Indigenous compared to the benchmark of 14 per cent.

4. Sun West School Division distance learning

Clemett said the audit for Sun West was done because it had the highest proportion of students in Grade 10-12 distance education courses compared to the other divisions, with more than 2,100 students registered.

There were a number of recommendations regarding Sun West School Division. They include the need to identify and engage students who are behind in their coursework by consistently using its student activity phasing process. It was noted the nine students tested who did not receive the phasing notification emails from teachers did not complete the course.

It was also noted Sun West should also improve its IT system to help monitor whether teachers were falling behind in the grading of course work. Sun West also needed to periodically review and upgrade its online courses and whether teachers needed training specific for an online learning environment.

Finally, it was noted Sun West needs to establish course completion targets for its students learning solely online and then analyze and determine possible issues affecting student success when targets are not being met. 

It was found that the average distance-education course completion rate for the 2020–21 school year was 61 per cent for all distance education students, and they have lower grad rates than their in-person counterparts. 

“They’re not completing the courses, which ultimately is impacting whether they are graduating high school — only 30 per cent of them do,” said Clemett. She suggested having a target would allow the division to figure out if there were root causes or things that weren’t working well.

5. WCB psychological injury claims 

The report also noted the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board was taking longer than expected for psychological injury claim decisions.

The auditor’s report noted WCB needed to meet its target timeframe for assigning and communicating decision outcomes. It was noted 17 of the 30 claims tested did not meet WCB’s target timeframe for assessing and communicating decision outcomes of psychological injury claim assessments. 

The late claim decisions took between 15 and 43 business days to communicate, which may create delays for injured workers to receive benefits and treatment.

Another recommendation was for regular communication with claimants — at least once every three weeks. The report notes WCB only met this expectation for one month in 2021.

The auditor’s report recommended WCB set formal guidance on what key information is needed for appeals; what to communicate for appeal outcomes; and what claim information to release to employers for appeals. It was also recommended they complete ongoing quality reviews for psychological injury claim and appeal files.