Saskatchewan's provincial auditor says police are investigating a Global Transportation Hub land deal that has been the centre of controversy at the legislature — a fact that would prevent her from conducting a forensic audit for the time being.
Judy Ferguson also told the Public Accounts Committee of the Saskatchewan Legislature on Monday that her audit into the deal "did not conclusively state that there was no conflict of interest, fraud or wrongdoing with respect to these land transactions related to GTH."
In 2014, the GTH bought 204 acres from a Regina developer for two to three times more than the government's own appraisals said the land was worth.
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At Monday's meeting, Ferguson said her office hasn't been asked to do a forensic audit of the land deal but if it was, it would decline, for the time being.
"I think we would probably pause at this point in time because we understand that there is a police investigation underway and the scope of the investigation does include the activities related to GTH's acquisition of land from the private sector," she said.
Ferguson said it would be an unnecessary "duplication of public resources" for her office to also do that work.
Auditor says GTH review has been misunderstood
At the meeting, Ferguson was being questioned about her June process audit of the controversial GTH land deal.
Ferguson said her office felt some have misunderstood the purpose and findings of her audit and she wanted to set the record straight.
"Our office is a bit concerned that our finding that ... the audit did not find evidence of conflict of interest, indications of fraud or wrongdoing by GTH management or board of the directors is not well understood and has really, I think, overshadowed our audit conclusion," said Ferguson.
Day after day in the Saskatchewan legislature the NDP Opposition has been asking questions about the GTH land deal.
And day after day the government has repeated the same refrain.
'The audit did not conclusively state that there was no conflict of interest, fraud or wrongdoing with respect to these land transactions related to GTH.' - Judy Ferguson, Saskatchewan's provincial auditor
"Mr. Speaker, the provincial auditor went on to say in the press release that the audit showed no evidence of conflict of interest or fraud or wrongdoing on the part of the board of directors," said Premier Brad Wall on Thursday.
A few minutes later in response to another question, the Minister of the Economy Jeremy Harrison said, "I quote the words of the provincial auditor: 'The audit did not find evidence of conflicts of interest or indications of fraud or wrongdoing by the GTH management or its board of directors.'"
Ferguson pointed out that her audit was a process audit, aimed at determining whether the GTH had the right processes and followed them.
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"Our office did not do a forensic audit or audit the activities of private sector individuals or corporations," said Ferguson.
"The purpose of the audit was not to accuse or vindicate individuals or entities involved in specific land transactions as may have been the purpose of a forensic audit."
Ferguson said generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS) require auditors to be attentive to indications of fraud, wrongdoing or conflict of interest on every audit.
But she said even when following these standards, it's possible to overlook problems.
"Owing to the inherent limitations in audits there's always the unavoidable risk that an audit carried out under GAAS may not detect wrongdoing, fraud or conflict of interest," she said.
"To acknowledge this limitation we stated that the audit did not find evidence of conflict of interest indications of fraud or wrongdoing by the GTH management or board of directors."