Three primary tools can be used to increase accountability:
- business plans that lay out how the public agency intends to meet its mandate;
- annual reports that indicate what the public agency has done to advance its mandate, whether it has met its targets and progress towards intended outcomes; and
- audit processes.
These tools will allow the governing body to know how the public agency is operating and will also provide the minister and the public with key indicators of public agency's performance. The minister can hold the public agency accountable for how it has exercised its responsibilities.
In many cases, agencies are already preparing business plans and annual reports, as well as conducting audits in ways that meet their particular needs. The Public Agency Secretariat will continue to work towards sharing leading practices related to the range of accountability tools and their applicability to various types of public agencies.
A business plan is a document produced annually that contains the public agency's plans for a set of upcoming fiscal years (usually three years). It lists anticipated outcomes, sets targets and outlines high-level performance indicators. Public agencies that make financial decisions must include financial targets and plans. Other details contained in the business plan will depend on the individual public agency and any legislated requirements. The business plan must be submitted to the responsible minister on a timeline determined in the mandate and roles document. Public agencies are also encouraged to make these documents publicly available.
An annual report is a yearly document that details what was achieved during the previous year against the current business plan. It provides information on whether the targets, indicators and outcomes were achieved. Financial statements must be included for public agencies that make financial decisions. The annual report must be submitted to the responsible minister and must also be publicly available to Albertans.
Ensuring that an agency's financial matters are managed effectively is integral to good governance. Financial audits exist to add credibility that a public agency's financial statements fairly represent the organization's position and performance. Transparent audit processes allow the government, regulators, other levels of government, private corporations, employees and the general public to be confident the financial statements are accurate.
An individual public agency's requirement for, and level of, auditing will depend on a number of factors, including:
- the mandate;
- the financial, organizational and reporting structures;
- its ability to hold capital assets;
- its ability to incur financial liabilities or enter into other commitments (e.g. through borrowing or making loans);
- its ability to enter into legal agreements with other parties; and
- revenues and/or expenditures that may be material to the operations of the government.
Beyond these audit requirements, a public agency may also be audited at the request of the minister.
Enterprise Risk Management
Enterprise risk management (ERM) is defined as a continuous, proactive and systematic process to understand, manage and communicate risk from an organization-wide perspective.
Enterprise Risk Management Framework
The Enterprise Risk Management Framework (and Reference Guide) for Government of Alberta departments establishes common principles of enterprise risk management and provides a means to assess the level of implementation of enterprise risk management processes in each department.
Enterprise Risk Management Framework (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Reference Guide (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Other Established ERM Frameworks
- Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO)
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
- Her Majesty's Treasury
- Government of Western Australia