Audit cites 'seriously deficient' financial practices at two non-profits

An audit of two publicly funded non-profit societies linked to Kamloops has revealed "serious errors" and "seriously deficient" bookkeeping practices.

The audit, obtained by The Daily News through a freedom of information request, also suggests that the remuneration for the woman who heads both organizations is "excessive."

The White Buffalo Aboriginal Health Society, based in Kamloops, and the MÉtis Commission of Children and Families of B.C. are separate organizations. However for the past several years they shared the same top executive, Deborah Canada.

Canada worked four days a week as CEO for the commission, drawing an annual salary of $134,000, and one a day a week as executive director of White Buffalo for a salary of $60,000.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development hired Grant Thornton LLP to conduct an audit after allegations of financial misconduct arose in the judgment of a wrongful dismissal case involving the commission as well as in conversation with the former employee's lawyer and in an anonymous letter to the ministry.

The MÉtis Commission receives just over $580,000 and White Buffalo just over $400,000 in provincial funding each year, according to the province.

Each organization has different mandates, staff, board members and banking records however Canada created the budgets for both organizations without consulting with operational staff or board members, according to the audit.

The auditor's findings and recommendations for both organizations were nearly identical.

The auditor recommended that Canada's remuneration be reviewed after discovering not all board members were consulted on her salary.

The auditor was also concerned that despite her relatively high compensation for 52 annual hours of work, Canada also invoiced White Buffalo for anything above her seven-hour week.

"Those at an executive level are generally compensated on the basis of salary irrespective of the number of hours that individual performs," stated the audit. "(A)dditional consulting per invoices she submitted would be considered excessive in many other organizations."

The audit also questions Canada's travel reimbursements.

She receives $1,000 per month from White Buffalo for out-of-town travel as well as compensation for mileage accrued when travelling.

"The executive director was compensated each month for the equivalent of about 2,000 km of local travel," states the audit. "Given her employment one day per week, in our view, this would appear excessive albeit that it would be in the board's purview to provide such benefit."

Sloppy bookkeeping practices at both societies led to vastly different financial outcomes than those reported to the ministry over the last four years.

In just one example, the MÉtis Commission's 2012 year-end report was off by $190,000.

The auditor attributed the problems to inexperienced financial officers, adding that the positions have now been filled by qualified personnel.

Canada did not respond to requests for comment.

Her executive assistant at White Buffalo sent a brief email stating that "the results of the audit noted that no criminal activity, fraud or financial misconduct occurred."

It's unclear who sent the letter to the ministry or was the complainant in the wrongful dismissal case that sparked the audit. However last June, the Daily News received an email from Robert Shapiro-Ballantyne outlining similar concerns.

Shapiro-Ballantyne also wrote B.C. Premier Christy Clark after being fired from the White Buffalo society on the day he was to start his new job as co-ordinator of a suicide prevention program.

"In our aboriginal community, there have been questions raised regarding why we do not have a suicide prevention team in place when it appears (White Buffalo) has been receiving funds to develop such a program for the last eight years," he wrote to Clark.

Family development minister Stephanie Cadieux responded to Daily News inquiries with a brief emailed statement noting the initial audit contained inaccuracies that were rectified and that the ministry intends to continue working with both agencies.

"We have held discussions with both organizations regarding audit results and we are collectively working towards next steps."

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