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Home News Government Relations Minister promises to strengthen selection process following criticism from provincial auditor

Government Relations Minister promises to strengthen selection process following criticism from provincial auditor

Government Relations Minister promises to strengthen selection process following criticism from provincial auditor
Herald File Photo

Saskatchewan Minister of Government Relations says the provincial government has strengthened their selection process following the provincial auditor’s claim that Cabinet lacked transparency when approving funding for municipal projects.

“It was early on in the program, in fact it was the very first intake, it wasn’t as robust as what the auditor thought it should be,” said Don McMorris. “So we strengthened it, the auditor reviewed it and there was no problem. We were able to have a more robust screening process afterwards.”

In 2019, cabinet approved 25 projects through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program representing a total of $185.5 million in grant funding, with $106.4 million coming from the federal government and $79.1 million from the province. 

One of these 25 projects approved for funding include the Prince Albert Arena and Aquatic Recreation Centre that is currently undergoing construction.

In a public accounts meeting at the legislature in September, officials for the provincial auditor stated that Cabinet’s approval of the projects was not consistent with what is considered their normal acceptance process.

“The normal process of selecting projects involves municipalities submitting a detailed funding application for each project. The Ministry of Government Relations would then, using factors communicated in The Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program — Program Guide, do a detailed assessment and assign each project a rating which it used to rank the projects,” Provincial Auditor Tara Clemett wrote in an email to the Herald. “Based on those ratings and funding available, the Ministry would submit a listing of projects to the Federal Government for approval.”

Clemett said that because the 25 projects did not go through the Ministry’s detailed ranking process, she is unable to determine whether or not the Prince Albert recreation centre would have been selected for approval by the Federal Government. 

“We saw a lot of communities wanting to upgrade their community and recreation facilities, be it urban or rural. So we looked at the ones that were close to shovel ready and which were poor to critical condition,” explained McMorris. “These 25 projects stood out and we funded them across the province, from First Nations to large urban to small rurals.”

McMorris said the Federal Government has put in close to a billion dollars over the course of the program, “a lot of money has gone into the province and more still needs to go”.

“There has never been a time where there aren’t more projects than dollars. There are always more projects that meet pretty much all criteria then there are dollars and it’s up to the government to prioritize the ones that they feel are most important,” he said. “It’s great that communities are wanting these projects to be done. It’s sometimes frustrating that we don’t have enough money to cover all of them but that’s just the reality of the aging infrastructure that we have in the province.”