Métis groups in Saskatchewan, B.C. audited over finances

At least two provincial Métis groups came under scrutiny after questions arose about their management and finances, newly released documents show.

Questions raised about how 2 provincial groups are being run

What's in the audits

Two newly released audits raised questions about the management and finances of the Métis Nation Saskatchewan and the Métis Nation British Columbia. Here are some of the audits' findings:

  • The Saskatchewan executive was paid 34 per cent more than required under the province's labour standards;
  • The former Saskatchewan treasurer received a $14,000 contract for the period of June 25 to Sept. 24, 2010. The statement of work "was not well defined," the audit says. The treasurer also received $6,363 for the period of Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, 2010, for which there was no contract;
  • Saskatchewan executives "rarely" took the most cost-effective means of travel, the audit says and consistently failed to document their reasons for travel. Métis Nation Saskatchewan president Robert Doucette says the executives did not always travel together out of concern there would be no one to fill in should something happen to all of them;
  • Saskatchewan executives claimed meal costs when they were already receiving per diems;
  • In B.C., children of four of the seven co-ordinators of an aboriginal job-training program applied for, and received, funding. One co-ordinator had her assistant sign the approval documents, while the other three signed the paperwork themselves;
  • The B.C. group claimed for travel costs that didn't fall under their funding agreements, donations to organizations it wanted to support, and goods and services for which there was no proof that they had been provided.

Source: March 2012 Audit of the Métis Nation Saskatchewan by Hallux Consulting; August 2012 Audit of the Métis Nation British Columbia by Hallux Consulting. Both audits obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

At least two provincial Métis groups came under scrutiny after questions arose about their management and finances, newly released documents show.

Audits of the British Columbia and Saskatchewan organizations have come to light as their national council is embroiled in a controversy over its own expenses that has bred animosity among its top leadership.

Both Métis groups insist they have since dealt with the issues raised in their audits.

The Aboriginal Affairs Department hired an outside consultant to look at the Métis Nation Saskatchewan and the Métis Nation British Columbia.

The Canadian Press obtained copies of the two audits, both done in 2012 by Ottawa-based Hallux Consulting, under the Access to Information Act.

Hallux is the same company that Aboriginal Affairs hired around the same time as the provincial groups' audits were done to take a closer look at the management practices and financial controls of the Métis National Council.

The Saskatchewan audit raised questions about executive compensation and travel, while the B.C. audit found apparent conflicts of interest and expenses that should have been ineligible for federal funding under the terms of their contribution agreements with the government.

Métis Nation Saskatchewan president Robert Doucette, who has been critical of the national council, said all the issues in the Hallux audit have been dealt with.

"If I'm going to be pointing fingers, I'd better be ready to answer other questions, too," Doucette said.

"It swings both ways and I'm OK with that."

However, Gerald Morin, a rival of Doucette who is a member of the elected provincial Métis council, said he does not know if the auditor's findings have been addressed.

Métis Nation British Columbia president Bruce Dumont was not immediately available to comment on the audit. In a recent interview, however, Dumont said his organization has dealt with the issues raised by the auditor.

"We had a chance to respond to our audit, of course, and we did straighten that out," he told The Canadian Press last month.

"There was a couple of things we had to deal with."

Another provincial Métis organization also fell under the microscope several years before the latest round of audits.

Unrelated documents, obtained from Health Canada under access-to-information, show the Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat was audited in 2008 over "allegations of potential wrongdoings related to expenditures claimed by MNO under the funding agreements."

That audit, done by Navigant Consulting, found the Ontario group claimed $260,827 that "was either not supported by documents or considered ineligible expenses under the terms and conditions of the funding agreements."

A memo to Health Canada officials says the findings for its department are of financial mismanagement rather than wrongdoing.

Two other departments — Heritage Canada and Human Resources and Social Development Canada — were involved in the audit. Part of a paragraph that presumably describes how the findings relate to those departments has been censored in the copy provided to The Canadian Press.

Gary Lipinski of the Métis Nation of Ontario, who became president after the audit was done, said the organization repaid the expenses flagged by Navigant when he took over.

The organization has made plans to repay its other creditors and since 2008 has paid back a significant amount of its debt, he added.

"There are problems and they need to be fixed and we need to change, and so MNO has done that. I would say that I believe that we are one of the most transparent aboriginal governments in Canada right now."

Last week, the B.C. Métis Federation — a rival group to the Métis Nation British Columbia — wrote to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt to express concern about the results of an investigation into the national council.

They were responding to a Canadian Press report that revealed for the first time details of investigations that raised red flags over the Métis National Council's management practices and financial controls. Areas of concern included questionable contracts and apparent conflicts of interest.

The federation said the probes raise what it calls "a number of very serious issues that demand immediate answers and full public disclosure."

National council president Clement Chartier and vice-president David Chartrand of the Manitoba Métis Federation say some of the findings in a Hallux draft report were flawed and other issues have since been resolved.

However, the rest of the council's board of governors are at odds with Chartier and Chartrand, saying they didn't know about the issues flagged by Aboriginal Affairs and do not want to be associated with the probe's findings.