Former Fort Simpson housing authority director calls for independent review
'Public deserves to know what’s going on,' says director of housing corp. on decision to dismiss board
A former director with the Fort Simpson housing authority is calling for an independent review of the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation's decision to take over housing in the community.
"The public deserves to know what's going on," said Muaz Hassan.
He maintains the decision to dissolve the board and fire the authority's manager last week has more to do with a personality conflict between the manager and the corporation's top officials in the region.
"This is a personality issue," said Hassan. "The director of the corporation doesn't like the manager."
In an interview earlier in the week, the president of the housing corporation Tom Williams said the appointment of an administrator and dismissal of the manager was prompted by an audit of the authority's operations.
Williams would not discuss the findings of the audit in any detail, but the corporation has since provided CBC with a copy of it.
The audit identified a number of problems, including:
- That a manager needed more training in the accounting operations of the authority.
- That some expenses paid to the manager were not properly authorized.
- That damage deposits received by the authority were used for operations instead of being kept in a separate account.
- That the authority overpaid the severance of the previous manager by $5,616.
- That the authority spent $24,258 at the village hardware store, which is owned by a board member, presenting a potential conflict of interest.
Hassan said, instead of dismissing the board and the manager and taking control of the authority, the corporation should have helped them address the weaknesses identified in the audit. He said people living in the community know what's best for the community.
"We are here on the ground. We know our needs, we know our priorities."
Hassan questioned whether the corporation has the authority to dismiss board members, which are appointed by the housing minister.
Williams said the corporation prefers to have its programs run by a local board. He said members of the board may be re-appointed once the administrator's work is done. There is no timeline set for that work.
"There should be an independent evaluation or review of the performance of the department," Hassan said.
A news release from the Dehcho First Nations on Monday also called for an independent assessment, saying both the authority and the corporation need to be held accountable.
"The disbanding of the board and the firing of the manager is the latest example of [the N.W.T. Housing Corporation] overreaching into local decision-making," it said.
"If these claims are true, then that shows a failure on the housing corporation to ensure adequate and suitable housing for the residents of the Dehcho."
The First Nation said it may be better suited to deal with its own housing issues.
"The public deserves to know the truth. Housing is [a] critical issue and is closely tied to public health and wellness. It is extremely important for our people."