Investigations Into ICORE-Related Activities At AER Find ‘Conflict Of Interest, Gross Mismanagement’

Separate investigations by three independent officers of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta into activities at the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence (ICORE) found a conflict of interest by the former CEO of the AER, Jim Ellis, gross mismanagement and waste of public resources, and critical failures related to board oversight and management override of internal controls.

Investigations into AER’s ICORE-related activities by ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler, public interest commissioner Marianne Ryan, and auditor general Doug Wylie, were prompted by complaints brought forward to their respective offices over a three-month period in 2018.

In her investigation, the ethics commissioner found:

  • Former AER president and CEO Ellis had a conflict of interest in that he furthered his own interest and improperly furthered the private interest of three other employees;
  • The primary motivation behind ICORE not-for-profit was to provide future employment for Ellis and others;
  • The investigation by the public interest commissioner found serious and significant wrongdoing occurring within the AER, through the establishment of ICORE, under the authority of the Ellis.

AER responds

The AER’s interim board of directors said in a statement that it will take the recommendations seriously and implement any required actions in order to enhance public confidence in the regulator.

While ICORE was originally established to provide training to AER employees and support information sharing across jurisdictions, it is clear now that a small group of senior leaders used AER resources in a way that is unacceptable, said the board. These individuals are no longer employed at the AER.

“The findings from the reports are disappointing, especially to the employees, stakeholders, and Albertans who put their trust in the leadership of the AER,” said the board.

“There has been substantial progress already to improve governance, policies, controls, and culture, and we will advance this work further with the benefit of the important insights and recommendations from the investigation findings,” it said. “The ethics commissioner recommended a review of three current employees which has been completed by an independent firm and no concerns were found.”

The board said it also has reinforced the value and importance of employees coming forward with concerns about questionable practices and behaviours, noting that this was an important element in how the issue was identified and investigated.

In partnership with CEO Gord Lambert, the interim board said its focus is on supporting its dedicated employees and to deliver on its mandate.

“The reports have highlighted the regrettable actions of a small group of leaders,” it said. “This does not represent the organization’s 1,200 dedicated employees working everyday to ensure an efficient and effective regulatory system.”