Attawapiskat residents 'supporting Spence' in wake of audit

Attawapiskat resident Lindy Shisheesh says there have long been questions about how money is managed by the band.

First Nation resident said he believes Attawapiskat band managers 'tried their best'

A recent audit conducted by Deloitte could not conclude that the payments made by the Attawapiskat band council were in accordance with the terms and conditions of funding agreements with the federal government. The funding was intended for housing, infrastructure, education and other services. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Attawapiskat resident Lindy Shisheesh says there have long been questions about how money is managed by the band.

But he says despite an audit — conducted by accounting firm Deloitte to look at the $104 million in funding Attawapiskat received from the federal government between 2005 and 2011 — Chief Theresa Spence still has support in her fight with the federal government.

"It seems like the people are supporting Spence, which I am too," Shisheesh said.

"It's not going to take one meeting. It's going to take a whole bunch of meetings to solve and talk about this stuff. I do believe people are behind Chief Spence."

Chief Spence remains on a hunger strike in Ottawa, awaiting the outcome of a Friday meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss treaty issues.

Documentation missing, incomplete

Her camp sent out a written statement yesterday, calling the leak a distraction from the true issue. The statement suggests the audit documents were leaked to discredit Spence.

The audit determined that documentation was missing or incomplete for about 400 of roughly 500 financial transactions. The audit did not indicate that the money was misspent, but it showed a poor record of where it went.

Shisheesh, who has raised questions about the band's financial management in the past, said he's not surprised by the findings of the audit.

"The co-management said they were going to teach or provide learning skills to the finance department," he said. "I do know that they tried their best. But we need to learn more."

CBC News requested comment on the audit from leaders with the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation and the Muskegowuk Council. While there has been no response from the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, the leader of the Muskegowuk Council, Stan Louttit, said "all of this concentration on Attawapiskat’s fiscal issues is not doing anyone any good, only adding sensationalism to the issue."

In a media release issued Tuesday, Louttit went on to state that "the Deloitte audit did not observe evidence of misappropriation of funds as suggested by some media types and general public perception, only evidence of lack of supporting documentation."

"At the height of the Attawapiskat housing crisis over a year ago, the Attawapiskat First Nation made it very clear to the government that they would welcome a forensic audit to be carried out," he said.

"The government chose not to conduct such an audit only to settle for a limited audit by the firm of Deloitte. If the federal government is so hell bent on insisting that there has been misappropriation of funds then they should do the right thing and conduct a forensic audit."

Louttit said Attawapiskat received the Deloitte report in September 2012 and has been working with its advisors and staff "in actively enforcing new procedures for the issues identified in the report. The First Nation has brought in new expertise and a new co-manager to support their efforts at increasing financial transparency."

Mushkegowuk Council is a regional organization that represents the collective interests of the Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Chapleau Cree, Missanabie Cree, Moose Cree, Taykwa Tagamou and Attawapiskat First Nations in northeastern Ontario.