PEI

$13.3M in crab loans go to auditor for answers

The P.E.I. cabinet has asked the auditor general to investigate the former Tory government's decision in 2006 to give eight Island snow crab fishermen loans totaling $13.3 million.

The P.E.I. cabinet has asked the provincial auditor general to investigate the former Tory government's 2006 decision to give eight Island snow crab fishermen loans totalling $13.3 million.

Innovation Minister Allan Campbell says cabinet wants to know why some of the loans to crab fishermen are so far in arrears. ((CBC))

The loans were designed to help the fishermen access snow crab licences from the mainland. The cabinet wants to find out why the loans were approved even though the Treasury Board and the P.E.I. Lending Agency turned them down.

With interest and late payment penalties, those fishermen now owe the government $18 million.

"The state of affairs in 2009 is that there's a significant amount of money owed by a small group of people, and cabinet was updated on the state of the accounts and had some questions and the decision was made to turn the file over to the auditor," Innovation Minister Allan Campbell told CBC News on Thursday.

"It's our goal that we do what we can to try and ensure that that money gets returned."

Campbell said cabinet wants to know why the loans were approved and whether proper procedures were followed. The fishermen have repaid the debts to varying degrees, and the government wants to know why some of the loans are so much in arrears.

All eight fishermen are still in business, Campbell said.

No timeline has been set for when the auditor general must report back to cabinet.