A concern over conflict of interest in the awarding of a contract by the Department of Tourism was raised at P.E.I.'s public accounts committee Tuesday.


PC Leader Olive Crane wants to see the signature on the contract to an employee at the Tourism Research Centre. (CBC)

The department has been under fire for its contracting procedures since Auditor General Colin Younker's report in April. Younker reviewed 31 contracts  for professional services handed out by Tourism PEI, and found many didn't follow Treasury Board guidelines, some contravened the Atlantic Procurement Agreement, and others were paid out before the work was completed.

Younker testified regarding his findings before public accounts Tuesday.

"[If] there's no contract we don't know the terms of work that were required to be done and you don't know whether the work is being done," said Younker.

"It limits your recourse if the work is not done."

The opposition Progressive Conservatives focused in on three contracts in particular, worth a total of $128,000, with the Tourism Research Centre at UPEI. One payment, for $84,000, was made directly to an employee of that centre.

Opposition leader Olive Crane wants to know if the contracts with the Tourism Research Centre were signed by then deputy tourism minister Melissa MacEachern, who is on secondment from the Tourism Research Center where she was employed.

"If she did indeed sign the contract, absolutely, she's in a conflict," said Crane.

"As you know today we've asked the auditor to bring back her signature, or whoever's signature it was to authorize that particular work."

Outside investigations

Younker said the writing of the cheque to an individual at the Tourism Research Centre led to an investigation by the police and Canada Revenue Agency.


There were outside investigations of a contract to the Tourism Research Centre, says Auditor General Colin Younker.

"The attorney general's office received some documentation, and as well as the RCMP, I think, and Revenue Canada," said Younker.

"As far as I know the police have investigated  and I am not sure of their final disposition."

Charlottetown police told CBC News its file on the matter is not currently active.

Opposition tourism critic James Aylward  has  been critical  of Tourism Minister Rob Henderson's response during the spring legislature session to the problems in his department.

"To say that we had a little gap, our staff are getting up to speed, Is weren't dotted, the T's weren't crossed, I mean, that's inexcusable," said Aylward.

The public accounts committee will  hear next from Henderson and his current deputy, David MacKenzie. It will then hear from MacEachern , and the Tories say they'll ask her about conflict of interest and  that $84,000 cheque that went to an individual at the Tourism Research Center at UPEI.