Attawapiskat First Nations chief Theresa Spence arrives for a press conference on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River on Jan 4, 2013
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
A new audit of the Attawapiskat Indian reserve was released Monday. It was shocking.
The accounting firm of Deloitte randomly chose 505 financial transactions, between April 1, 2005 and Nov. 30, 2011, to review. They found "81% of files did not have adequate supporting documents and over 60% had no documentation of the reason for payment."
A lot of that money was supposed to go to housing. Attawapiskat is the reserve where some houses have leaky roofs, poor insulation, broken plumbing and are generally unfit for habitation. But Deloitte wrote, "There is no evidence of due diligence in the use of public funds, including the use of funds for housing."
Deloitte can't find where the money went. But maybe the long list of people on the band's rich payroll might know, starting with Theresa Spence, the chief, or her boyfriend, Clayton Kennedy, who just happens to be the town's financial manager. He bills the band $850 a day to manage their finances.
In fact, there are 21 politicians on the band payroll. Plus plenty of full-time staff. But Deloitte didn't find that reassuring: "Attawapiskat First Nation did not provide us with any job descriptions for individuals who are involved in the financial management of funding agreements."
The band doesn't even produce annual budgets. High school football teams have budgets. The band council doesn't keep regular minutes of their meetings, either. Ordinary band members can't find out what their politicians are doing. (Spence, in a news release Monday, dismissed the audit's release as "no more than a distraction from the true issue" and said it was an attempt to "discredit" her.)
So what does this all look like, if you pour $100 million through such a system, as the federal government has done since 2005? Well, here are a few of the findings in Deloitte's sample of 505 transactions.
In September, 2011, at the height of the housing crisis, they spent $4,333 on breakfast supplies. No documentation. No contract, no invoice.
In April of 2011, a "consultant" got paid $303,256. The identity of the consultant is not known. The documentation is incomplete.
What kind of consultant did Attawapiskat need for $303,256 last year? In the middle of a housing crisis? Was it a roofing consultant? Someone to develop a roofing strategy? Is that why they didn't have money to actually hire a roofer?
There are many of these employment contracts - often six figures, always anonymous.
Another common one is "other purchases." One was for $87,150. Auditor's note: "Occurrence questionable." Was anything even bought? Who knows?
Countless money was spent on legal fees. One payment was for $68,910 - lawyer unknown, no supporting documentation. Was it band business? Or maybe someone's divorce?
What about a real estate deal three years ago for
$1.1 million? But it's an Indian reserve. The band already owns all the land. And the vendor is anonymous. There was zero supporting documentation. Was this $1.1 million property deal even in Attawapiskat? Or was it in Florida?
There are a flurry of these property purchases - all secret, no street address or even a general geographic location given.Eighty-one percent of the files the auditor checked are this way. Not 1% or 2%. This isn't an error. It's a way of life.
If the people involved had Italian names and were from the Montreal construction industry, or French-Canadian names from Montreal ad agencies, instead of Indian "consultants" from Attawapiskat, there would be resignations and criminal charges flying.
But it would be racist to ask tough questions of Chief Spence and her boyfriend. And, she's so close to starving herself, it would be mean, too.
Is Stephen Harper really going to meet with her on Friday? Shouldn't the RCMP do so first?