Nova Scotia

Report blasts south shore authority

An audit firm hired by the provincial government has found serious deficiencies at Nova Scotia's South West Shore Development Authority.

Proper accounting procedures not followed at SWSDA

An audit firm hired by the Nova Scotia government has found serious deficiencies at the South West Shore Development Authority.

Ernst and Young's report was released Wednesday. It suggests there was little control over the way CEO Frank Anderson ran the authority and another group, the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission.

Ernst and Young said the board of directors had no clear mandate, lacked key skills and had little information on which to base decisions.

The authority is a regional development agency that represents nine towns, including Yarmouth and Shelburne.

The 73-page document examined the administration of the regional development authority from January 2008 to February 2010, the sale of the Shelburne Youth Centre and the relationship with the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission.

The province was the authority's biggest funding partner.

Percy Paris, the minister of economic development, briefed reporters about the audit Wednesday afternoon.

"The question is, are taxpayers out of money? And I would say no, not that we know of," he said.

"However, having said that, is there still monies that are owed people in Yarmouth? Absolutely. Proper accounting procedures were not followed."

$500,000 missing

The report found the board of the organization didn't have the necessary skills or information to oversee the running of the development authority.

Paris said those who are owed money should sue the authority to try to recoup their losses.

The government audited the authority's books after irregularities in their accounting procedures were found by the Ombudsman's office.

Neal Conrad, executive director of community and rural development, says the authority owes or cannot account for close to $500,000.

"Board effectiveness and oversight needs significant improvement and immediate attention," the report states.

It calls for the hiring of a board advisor to help implement the report's recommendations.

Those recommendations include the creation of a board mandate, a code of conduct and a CEO position description. It also urges the board to develop executive policies that clearly set out the parameters in which the CEO can operate.

"The board has started the process of reviewing this report and has already started to act on these findings," said Phil LeBlanc, chairman of the South West Shore Development Authority.