Nfld. & Labrador

Fraud alleged at Newfoundland and Labrador English School District

The provincial government has requested the Auditor General investigate allegations of fraud within the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District after receiving an anonymous tip.

Province asks Auditor General to investigate after anonymous tip

Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Dale Kirby said the Auditor General was called in after an internal review. (Gary Locke/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has requested the auditor general investigate allegations of fraud within the province's largest school board, after receiving an anonymous tip. 

 The investigation is focusing on irregular activity as it relates to purchasing by individuals at the English School District, Education and Early Childhood Development Dale Kirby said. 

"In January, I believe it was, there was an anonymous letter that was received by the premier's office," Kirby told reporters outside the House of Assembly on Tuesday.

While he wouldn't speculate on the monetary value of the fraud, Kirby said it's "certainly more than a few hundred dollars."

"I met with the premier's officials and we decided to ask the minister of finance to direct the comptroller general to do an investigation of the allegations that were made in the letter," Kirby said. 

"That started in, I believe, early February. Based on the results of that preliminary investigation, the government has decided to engage the auditor general to ensure that a thorough review is done." 

The comptroller's investigation went back two years but it is possible these allegations could date back longer, Kirby said.

A number of companies implicated

Kirby declined to get into specifics about the nature of the allegations, but said a number of employees were implicated and the allegations occurred at more than one site.

"What was concerning to government was that there were a number of vendors/companies…implicated in this. And it's just extremely concerning to us," he said.

"We ran in the election last fall on the platform of having better management, better accountability, and that's what we intend to deliver, and this is of sufficient seriousness that we decided that the auditor general should be engaged now and that a thorough investigation be done of these allegations so that we can see what exactly has gone on there."

Kirby confirmed one person's employment has been terminated as a result of the preliminary investigation and the school board is performing an ongoing investigation.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has been contacted and they are conducting an investigation. As well the, RCMP have been contacted about a related issue, Kirby said.

"I would expect, and I would hope, that if there's evidence of criminal wrongdoing that either of those police agencies can show that the people who have engaged in fraudulent activity with taxpayer's scarce money are prosecuted accordingly," he said.

"We've got a fairly horrific deficit and to have any money wasted or improperly spent is not acceptable. We will not stand for it. And that's why the auditor general has been called in to do the investigation."