Federal officials say they knew nothing about a probe into how a prominent Saskatchewan-based science project was being managed, despite contributing $4 million to the venture.

The forensic report, written by the accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny, highlighted concerns about possible conflict of interest and mismanagement at the International Performance Assessment Centre for Geologic Storage of CO2 (IPAC-CO2), based at the University of Regina.

The report was ordered in 2011 by the board of IPAC-CO2.

Funding for IPAC

  • IPAC was created in 2008 as a non-profit company to help set industry rules for the underground storage of carbon dioxide.
  • The federal government, through the Western Diversification ministry, contributed $4 million to IPAC. The province committed $5 million and Royal Dutch Shell also committed $5 million.

CBC News obtained a copy of the report and has been reporting on the concerns.

Federal officials said Friday they were unaware of any issues until this week.

"WD was not informed of the concerns that led to the MNP [Meyers Norris Penny] report and was not notified that the other partners had put their funding on hold," Joanne Mysak, a spokeswoman for Western Diversification, told CBC News Friday. "These allegations are very serious and WD is reviewing the file."

Mysak added the federal government was "reviewing its options" and would be looking at ways to "ensure taxpayer money is properly accounted for".

According to a spokesperson for the provincial government, the University of Regina was responsible for administration of IPAC funds.

'Not a deliberate oversight.' —U of R President Vianne Timmons

The spokesperson said that when Saskatchewan officials learned of potential issues at IPAC, the province suspended its funding and pushed for the forensic audit.

On Friday, University of Regina President Vianne Timmons issued a statement saying no one associated with the oversight of IPAC declared a conflict of interest to her, but she did act when she was eventually alerted "that a potential conflict of interest may have occurred."

Timmons added that "some employees did not follow our conflict of interest policy" and steps have been taken to ensure university policies are followed. Her statement did not detail what steps were taken, but Timmons added that employees have been given a reminder about the school's conflict of interest policy.

President was preoccupied

Subsequent to issuing the statement, in an interview with CBC News, Timmons said she could have notified federal officials about the issues.

"In hindsight, I absolutely could have," Timmons said, adding she was preoccupied with resolving the university's issues over the venture. "I would say that at the time I was working with Meyers Norris Penny, cooperating with them, looking at our own policies and procedures."

Timmons said it was "not a deliberate oversight" to not inform federal officials of the goings-on at IPAC and the issues relating to the university's management of the venture.

With files from CBC's Geoff Leo