The following news items were gathered from the June 16 APEGGA Council meeting in Edmonton. The next meeting is Thursday, Sept. 22, at the APEGGA Calgary office.
A revamped system for meeting the future is now in place at APEGGA, calling on the Association to be an “agent of excellence” in professional practice. Council accepted a new strategic plan and strategic planning process, as well as sharpened wordings of the Mission Statement and Vision Statement.
President Larry Staples, P.Eng., told Council: “This is a good first cut at our strategic plan and the process itself, and I think it will be a good springboard for the Association. I’m very comfortable with adopting this as a starting point.”
The strategic planning system has been more than a year in the making. The approvals come out of two Council strategic planning sessions in May 2004 and May 2005, and a series of meetings of a task force since the 2004 meeting.
Council stood down the task force and created the Strategic Planning Committee, which will monitor progress through the year and prepare for strategic planning sessions.
The plan puts six guiding principles in place — public interest, professionalism, relevance, trust, fairness and transparency. But it also reaches down from philosophy, detailing how staff is responsible to the strategy in the nuts-and-bolts operation of the Association.
Council looks at a 10-year horizon, with the strategic vision and goals within the plan. Strategic directions for every three or so years are developed by Council and staff.
Each year staff members develop a business plan, which must be in sync with the APEGGA Strategic Plan. Out of the business plan comes the budget, which staff and the finance committee develop each year.
“I think we’re on a good track to thinking in a more long-term way and on a strategic basis,” said Mr. Staples.
For five years Council has required that The PEGG editor publish names of offending members whenever there are discipline findings against them. The policy held that —once appeal periods and appeals themselves have passed — the names should be published to deter others from practicing unprofessionally.
But now Council has handed discretion back to the statutory committees involved, after hearing that the policy took away the committees’ power to decide when the punishment of publication matched the severity of the contravention.
Council also learned that the no-exceptions policy was clogging up the system. Members were more likely to fight a complaint, in the hopes of keeping their names out of print.
Name publication will, however, still be the norm. The Investigative Committee, the Discipline Committee or the Appeal Board may now direct against publication of the name, but the direction has to come with the committee or board’s reasoning.
All the names are public information. In fact there’s nothing to stop outside news media from attending a Discipline Committee hearing and publishing whatever they consider worthy of coverage — names included. In practice, however, the media rarely show any interest.
APEGGA is more than half way through reacting to a list of 2004 audit recommendations, Council heard. Among the completed actions are the creation of an audit com-mittee, the addition of quarterly financial variance reports and cash flow projections, and an examination of high-expense spending categories.
The auditor made 13 recommendations. APEGGA has finished reacting to seven of them and is at work on the remaining six, the Finance Committee report says.
In a related matter, Council formalized how much leeway the executive director has in shifting expenditures within the budget and meeting overall budgeted expenditures. Staff is not allowed to go over budget by more than three per cent of expenditures, unless Council gives prior approval. And transfers aren’t allowed to exceed 10 per cent of the transferring department’s budget.
No to Mandatory
Because there are other ways to protect clients and the public, for now APEGGA permit-holding consultants will not be forced to declare whether they have professional liability insurance. But the Insurance Review Task Force was divided on mandatory declaration, and seven sister associations in Canada have made it a requirement, Council heard. The matter will be reviewed in two years.
The task force’s recommendations — which Council accepted unanimously — will strongly imply declaration is a good idea, once they are in place. The APEGGA Ethical Practices Guideline, for example, will “make it clear” that consultants are obliged to discuss project risks and how to manage them with their clients.
On the client end, APEGGA Permit to Practice Seminars will make sure non-consultants know their obligations to discuss and understand risk. APEGGA and the Consulting Engineers of Alberta will also look at new ways of educating non-consultants.
Council heard that CEA’s board and firms, as well as geoscience consultants, are against mandatory declaration.
The task force heard that professional liability insurance is not a panacea, that levels of coverage may be as important as the fact of coverage, and that mandatory declaration adds a level of bureaucracy to firms without generating financial return. Mandatory declaration gives a questionable sense of security, and may even give some consultants the impression that they’re absolved from proper risk management.
For some geoscience consultants, adding professional liability coverage will mean their clients can’t afford their services.
Council stood down the task force, which has put a long list of initiatives into play to improve the lot of members buying insurance. Council created the task force in September 2003, because members were finding insurance difficult to obtain and too costly.
The way insurance companies bundle their products remains an issue, and APEGGA is lobbying the government to disallow tying professional liability with commercial general liability insurance.
A number of awareness and educational programs, ranging from professional development seminars to articles in The PEGG, are also part of the initiative.
APEGGA and five other regulatory organizations are leading the way in helping governments devise new sign-off systems for oil-and-gas industry reclamation projects. Council heard that APEGGA’s Environment Committee and the other groups have been meeting with Alberta Environment for the last 18 months to figure out who will qualify as a sign-off specialist and what the sign-off will entail.
The result will be a joint practice standard between the groups for environmental site assessment, reclamation and remediation, Council heard.
“We’re leading the way for all of the other jurisdictions,” said Lianne Lefsrud, P.Eng., APEGGA Assistant Director of Professional Practice.
Added Executive Director Neil Windsor, P.Eng., “We will be doing something historic.”
Right now, Alberta Environment regulations do not require specialist sign-off. But the requirement is coming, Council heard.
Working with APEGGA are the Alberta Institute of Agro-logists, the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists, the Association of the Chemical Profession of Alberta, the College of Alberta Professional Foresters, and the College of Alberta Professional Forest Technologists.
Following are the new APEGGA Mission Statement and