PEI

PNP auditor investigated for potential conflict

The potential for conflict of interest at the accounting firm that audited a controversial immigrant investor program is being investigated by the P.E.I. Institute of Chartered Accountants.

The potential for conflict of interest at the accounting firm that audited a controversial immigrant investor program is being investigated by the P.E.I. Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Arsenault Best Cameron Ellis Chartered Accountants audited the provincial nominee program for the Crown corporation in charge of the program. The potential for conflict of interest has been raised at the legislature's public accounts committee, because the firm was also an intermediary in the program, which matched potential immigrants with P.E.I. companies they could invest in.

Potential immigrants put up $525 million in 2007-08 in order to move to the front of the line to get into Canada. The program was designed to raise money for investment in local business, and that's where $120 million of that money went. But the program was also very lucrative for the seven companies that acted as intermediaries, which took $144 million in fees of that $525 million.

Innovation Minister Allan Campbell dismissed the conflict concerns.

"We have a large professional firm, and these firms are regulated and they have to follow standard auditing principles," said Campbell.

"We have great confidence in this firm, so no, I don't think there is any conflict at all.

The institute of P.E.I. Chartered Accountants will meet Thursday and the conflict issue is on the top of the agenda. Spokesman Albert Ferris said no formal complaint has been filed, but there has been sufficient public discussion to warrant a review.

The institute will also look into potential conflict at a related company, Arsenault Best Cameron Ellis Consulting.

Premier Robert Ghiz's wife, Dr. Kate Ellis, is a shareholder in the consulting firm. The premier's office said her involvement in the company is part of Ghiz's financial disclosure statement, and that it had no further comment.