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Nunavut gov't to conduct forensic audit of YWCA Agvvik amid allegations of financial mismanagement

Leaked documents show that staff wages and reimbursements have come under scrutiny by the organization's auditors.

Auditor raises concerns about blank cheques, annual bonuses, in leaked documents

The Nunavut government is launching a forensic audit into the YWCA Agvvik Nunavut amid allegations of financial mismanagement among senior staff at Iqaluit's two women's shelters. (Nick Murray/CBC)

The Nunavut government is launching a forensic audit into the YWCA Agvvik Nunavut amid allegations of financial mismanagement among senior staff at Iqaluit's two women's shelters.

The allegations come in a trove of anonymously leaked documents, obtained by CBC News, purportedly detailing the organization's financial statements over the past number of years.

The documents were sent to local politicians, federal authorities, and the CEO of YWCA Canada, Maya Roy.

According to the leaked documents, staff wages and reimbursements have come under scrutiny by the organization's auditors, chartered accountants Lester Landau. The Nunavut government has confirmed that the Department of Family Services is investigating.

CBC News couldn't independently verify the numerous allegations detailed within the documents, and neither YWCA Agvvik Nunavut, YWCA Canada, nor the Government of Nunavut would answer any questions about them.

YWCA Agvvik Nunavut received nearly $2 million in public funding in its 2015/2016 fiscal year, most of which came from the Government of Nunavut, according to publicly available information from the Canada Revenue Agency.

The organization had previously claimed to be in a financial shortfall due to "unexpected repairs." As a result, YWCA Agvvik president Heather Daley said in December that the organization needed to cut down on staff. The funding issues also meant the organization wasn't able to help organize last year's annual Christmas Eve dinner at Iqaluit's Qayuqtuvik Food Centre.

'Shift replacement payments' and blank cheques

According to filings with the CRA, the organization ran a $244,743 deficit in 2015/2016, with 65 per cent of its budget spent on staff wages and benefits.

Its highest paid staffer earned between $160,000 and $199,999 — amounting to nearly eight per cent of the charity's revenues.

Following an audit of the organization's 2015/2016 financial statement, Lester Landau auditors sent a letter to YWCA Agvvik's board of directors noting that its executive director received about $75,000 in "shift replacement payments."

"These payments are outside of the employee's regular salary and there was no evidence of review or approval of these additional payments," the auditors noted, recommending that the board of directors review the executive director's salary.

The auditors also noted that offer letters had been made to employees that were inconsistent with the salary scale approved by the board of directors, and that staff received annual $200 bonuses without board approval.

The letter raised further concerns about how the board's former president — Daley's predecessor — signed blank cheques in advance, so that "cheques can be issued when the board president is unavailable."

The auditors also noted that staff had been reimbursed for travel expenses that appeared to be "personal in nature."

Allegations made by 'disgruntled' former employee, YWCA Agvvik says

When contacted, one of YWCA Agvvik's board members said the issues noted in the auditor's letter had all been dealt with.

In a statement, YWCA Agvvik said it is cooperating with the Government of Nunavut's review of the organization's financial records, and pending the outcome it would not comment any further.

In a separate statement from YWCA Agvvik's lawyer, James Morton, the organization denied any wrongdoing.

"The allegations appear to have been made by a disgruntled former employee," Morton wrote, adding that the organization is considering all legal options, including a defamation or libel lawsuit.

The Government of Nunavut deferred questions to YWCA Canada, but a spokesperson confirmed it has hired accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP to conduct the forensic audit.

It's unclear how long the audit will take, or whether the findings will be made public.

YWCA Canada also declined an interview request, but in a statement said it was aware of the potential management issues at YWCA Agvvik Nunavut, and its office is conducting due diligence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Murray is a CBC reporter, based in Iqaluit since 2015. He got his start with CBC in Fredericton after graduating from St. Thomas University's journalism program. He's also worked three Olympic Games as a senior writer with CBC Sports. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @NickMurray91.

With files from Jane Sponagle

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