EDMONTON - Alberta's bridges are not falling down, but the province needs to do a better job inspecting them, the province's auditor general reported Thursday.

Merwan Saher said his recommendation to the Transportation Department is simple: "You have a well-designed (inspection) system. Use it."

Saher, in his latest report, said his team found that Alberta's 4,400 bridges are not in imminent danger of collapse but work needs to be done to make sure they stay that way.

"The risk of unsafe bridges is unnecessarily high," he said.

"The department can't demonstrate that bridges are maintained to their standards."

The government contracts out basic bridge inspections to private contractors, but Saher said they found that half the inspections were being done by inspectors whose certification had lapsed.

Inspections done by people who have let their certification lapse can't be entered into government records. But Saher said the department overrode those safeguards to allow the non-certified inspections to be put into the database.

He said the timeline for inspections was followed in three of four regions, but said in the fourth region, 150 inspections were done a year late.

He said the department developed a spot audit process to monitor the quality of inspections, but didn't follow it consistently. When spot audits were done they revealed inaccurate inspection ratings, he said.

Also, Saher found that the department doesn't have a way to deal with those contractors who deliver shoddy inspections.

Transportation Minister Ric McIver said his department was made aware of the concerns months ago when a draft report from Saher was circulated.

He said they have already taken action to make fixes, particularly in making sure all inspectors have up-to-date certifications.

"They all have (their certifications) now, I can assure you," said McIver. "And we have put systems in place that it will be checked on an annual basis.

"It's administration, but it's really important administration. We weren't checking the boxes on a regular enough basis, and we are now."

Saher also said he's worried about future budgeting for bridge repairs.

The department says it will need $900 million over the next decade to replace bridges but right now is budgeting for only $25 million a year.

The department, said Saher, told him that the plan to address the shortfall in the short term is to close bridges or reduce the maximum weight of the trucks travelling over them.

McIver said they will work on the funding.

"We got a warning, if you will, from the auditor, when we're budgeting for repairs to bridges we need to make sure there are adequate resources to keep those bridges safe," he said.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said closing bridges is not the answer.

"Those bridges are there for a reason. You don't just downgrade them or shut them down because you don't want to maintain them," he said.

Mason also said the government needs to revisit contracting out the inspectors and look at hiring them in-house to make sure their certification and other training stays current.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the report reflects problems at the top of the department.

"There's a lack of oversight," said Sherman.

"Our economy can't function if we don't have good infrastructure, and we can't have good infrastructure if we don't monitor the infrastructure."

Saher also went after McIver's department on reimbursing employees for driving their own cars and trucks at work.

Saher said the department missed a chance to save taxpayers $450,000 by delaying a decision to have employees who drive a lot on the job to lease cars or use government vehicles rather than getting reimbursed 50 cents a kilometre for mileage.

He said some employees were getting an extra thousand dollars or more every a month this way.

McIver said the program was delayed by paperwork and approvals, but said they have already taken action on it.

"We have a couple of managers now driving government-owned vehicles and 50 more vehicles on order," he said.

Mason said the car issue "may be small, but these things do add up.

"When (taxpayers' money) is wasted like that, it's a failure in trust on the part of this government."

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Pollution By Province

    Here's a list of each province's contribution to Canada's overall emissions in 2009.<br><br>Source: <a href="http://nrtee-trnee.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/reality-check-report-eng.pdf" target="_hplink">National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.</a> Data. from Environment Canada. (Alamy)

  • P.E.I. - 0 Per Cent

    P.E.I's 2009 contribution was 2 megatonnes carbon-dioxide equivalent (Mt) or less than 1 per cent of Canada's total. (MICHEL VIATTEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Newfoundland And Labrador - 1 Per Cent

    Newfoundland and Labrador's 2009 contribution was 10 Mt. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/60548141@N00/" target="_hplink">Flickr: magnolia1000</a>)

  • New Brunswick - 3 Per Cent

    New Brunswick's 2009 contribution was 18 Mt. (Luke Pinneo/Getty Images)

  • Manitoba - 3 Per Cent

    Manitoba's 2009 contribution was 20 Mt. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jezz/">Flickr: Jezz's Photostream</a>

  • Nova Scotia - 3 Per Cent

    Nova Scotia's 2009 contribution was 21 Mt. (Tim BREAKMEIE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • B.C. - 9 Per Cent

    B.C.'s 2009 contribution was 64 Mt. (PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Saskatchewan - 11 Per Cent

    Saskatchewan's 2009 contribution was 73 Mt. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/justaprairieboy/">Flickr: Just a Prairie Boy's photostream</a>)

  • Quebec - 12 Per Cent

    Quebec's 2009 contribution was 82 Mt. (Alamy)

  • Ontario - 24 Per Cent

    Ontario's 2009 contribution was 165 Mt. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Alberta - 34 Per Cent

    Alberta's 2009 contribution was 234 Mt. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Loading Slideshow...
  • Carrick-a-Rede - Northern Ireland

    It’s said that salmon fishermen have been constructing (and re-constructing) bridges here for the last 350 years. These days, the bridge is mostly a tourist attraction for travelers who want to experience the area’s incredible wildlife like razorbills, kittywakes, and guillemots...whatever those are! <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo1&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>

  • Kawarau Bridge - New Zealand

    As the the site of the first commercial bungy jump, this is a place daredevils know well. Apparently, naked bungy jumping is quite popular here. <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo2&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>

  • Daedunsan Mountain Suspension Bridge - South Korea

    If heights aren’t your thing, this one might not be for you. As if the bridge weren’t high enough, the section that takes you to the summit is more a ladder than a bridge. In fact, it’s virtually straight up and down so make sure you give it some thought before trying the narrow climb. <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo3&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>

  • Trift Bridge - Switzerland

    This bridge was built when the glacier below it melted to the point that pedestrians could no longer make the walk across. <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo4&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>

  • Langkawi Sky Bridge - Malaysia

    Visitors to this bridge will need to take a cable car up to the top as it’s a full 2,000 feet above sea level. Once there, spectators can marvel at the panoramic view of the mountains and Andaman Sea below. <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo5&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>

  • Hanging Bridge of Ghasa - Nepal

    Don’t be surprised if you see more animals than people on this particular bridge. It was built to solve a nearby town’s animal traffic problem and is now used by villagers and animals alike. <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo6&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>

  • Old Hanging Bridge - Afghanistan

    The scenery here is a stunner even if you never set foot on the bridge. <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo7&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>

  • Huangshan - China

    A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mountains here were formed by glaciers about 100 million years ago. <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo8&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>

  • Montenegro Rain Forest - Costa Rica

    Costa Rica’s rain forests are the crown jewel in a place replete with interesting things to see. <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo9&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>

  • U-Bein Bridge - Myanmar

    Talk about eco-friendly; the teak here was salvaged from a former palace. <a href="http://www.trippy.com/friends/4eb96c1ee4b0c0ec367ca006/Really_Scary_Bridges.html?utm_source=HuffingtonPost&utm_medium=Slideshow&utm_content=Photo10&utm_campaign=ReallyScaryBridges" target="_hplink">See all 30 scary bridges on Trippy.</a>