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Financial industry veteran is new head of AFSC

Agriculture minister says scandal that engulfed the crop insurer won’t happen again

A financial industry veteran is the new CEO of the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation.

“This marks the final chapter in what I like to call a new beginning for AFSC,” Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said in announcing the appointment of Steve Blakely.

In June 2016, the crop insurer’s former CEO was suspended with pay after the province’s chief internal auditor found a host of problems including “unreasonable expenses for travel, meals and entertainment, acceptance of gifts, and competitive bid processes compromised.”

The former CEO and two other top executives racked up nearly $900,000 in expenses over five years for travel, accommodations, meals, and other items, including limousine travel and luxury box tickets at Edmonton Oilers games. More than $340,000 was spent on travel to meet with reinsurance companies even though the agency contracts with brokers to deal and negotiate with reinsurers.

After the audit, Carlier dismissed the entire board of the corporation, appointing a new one 11 months ago.

“I lost confidence in the last board after an investigation into staff expenses left me seriously troubled that there was a culture of entitlement at AFSC,” he said.

New controls have been implemented, there is more oversight, and salaries for Crown corporations and other government-funded bodies have been reduced, he added.

The former CEO was paid $670,000 while Blakely will earn $301,000.

The RCMP were called in and investigated the expense scandal but since the expenses were approved by the former board, there were no grounds for criminal charges, Carlier said.

Blakely is a former president and CEO of Servus Credit Union and the Credit Union Deposit Guarantee Corporation of Alberta.

In addition to crop insurance, AFSC provides livestock price insurance, farm loans, commercial loans and farm income disaster assistance. It has 44 branch offices, nearly 700 employees, and is headquartered in Lacombe.

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