$1M spent in 8 months on snacks for flood evacuees
Agency that disperses federal flood funds spends $1M at Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano
An aboriginal association tasked with disbursing federal funds for flood evacuees has spent over $1 million in eight months on snacks for evacuees, CBC news has learned.
The Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters (MANFF) spent the money, which was over and above the three meals a day Manitoba evacuees from the 2011 flood received from the hotels they were staying in.
Ted Ducharme, a MANFF community liaison who is currently on stress leave, has provided documents to CBC News that show the organization paid Winnipeg’s Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano more than $1 million to provide "light refreshment" in the evenings to hotel-bound evacuees.
A copy of a ledger Ducharme provided to CBC News shows the restaurant delivered up to $1,500 worth of snacks every day to each hotel housing evacuees from April 2012 to December 2012.
Even though meal allowances for aboriginal flood evacuees were reduced last November from $33.90 to $4 a day, MANFF continued to pay for snacks at a much higher rate into the end of December, according to the documents.
"We've been dishing out a lot of money," Ducharme said, adding the cost for the snacks became so high it exceeded what the government allows for all meals, including breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks.
The amount of money the restaurant charged per person has also increased significantly over the year, according to the documents.
An invoice from November 2011 shows Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano charged MANFF $10 per person — the approved MANFF rate — for snacks.
In 2012, that cost had grown to almost $60 per person.
"Between the snacks and the meals, we've gone up to $111 per evacuee per day," Ducharme added.
When contacted by CBC News, managers at the hotels where the food was delivered said a lot of leftover food was thrown out, with one hotelier calling the amount of waste "ridiculous."
Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano owner Joe Grande told CBC News that MANFF ordered increasing amounts of food and his restaurant simply delivered what was ordered.
Grande said non-evacuees were eating the food.
MANFF chief financial officer Perry Gregorchuk is listed on the restaurant invoices as the person ordering the food.
When asked how Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano got the business from MANFF, Grande said Gregorchuk was an acquaintance who asked him to supply the snacks.
Ducharme said the money could have been used in better ways to meet the needs of evacuees.
MANFF has not responded to CBC’s repeated requests for an interview.
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See the restaurant invoices showing the increased cost of the snacks and the related MANFF ledger below.