"Just because First Nations communities publish audits, it does not mean money is well spent. Where does the money go? Is it being properly spent ... and more importantly, is it going to the people who have needs?"
Senator Patrick Brazeau
Properly spent? Seems not. The most recent audit found that the Attawapiskat band council paid no attention whatever to the inconvenient requirement to keep records. Senior reserve administrators hadn't even bothered to set yearly budgets. Payroll cheques were printed with no band council oversight. Chief Theresa Spence's salary and travel expenses included.
There was no supporting documentation for band spending. No minutes in support of band council resolutions. And as far as bookeeping, it was "incomplete, insufficient and inaccurate"according to auditors.
But then, according to one former aboriginal affairs minister, the state of affairs in Attawapiskat, whose chief Theresa Spence is now the darling of the Idle No More movement, leading her famous hunger strike to force the Prime Minister into submission to her will, the situation is reflected in most reserves.
"There are a good number of them, like Attawapiskat, that it just seems to be difficult to do the basics, and then that raises red flags in the community and for the government", explained Chuck Strahl, aboriginal affairs minister from 2007 t 2010. Of the $104-million given to Attawapiskat since 2004, 80% of transactions have no supporting documentation.
The band council was repeatedly warned about the housing situation with Health Canada inspectors speaking of mould and inadequate housing for several families. The band had performed a "relatively poor job" addressing health inspectors' recommendations. "Case in point -- families are still living in 'condemned' homes years after the fact. Whether that's because of funding or other considerations, I can't really say", a Health Canada email reads.
"The independent audit from Deloitte and Touche LLP speaks for itself, and we accept its conclusions and recommendations", affirmed Jan O'Driscoll, spokesperson for Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan. The $104-million in total funding included $8.3 million for housing, $6.85 million for housing maintenace, and $1-million for housing needs, with $450,000 for housing renovations.
All these headache-inducing and intrusive questions have been denounced by hunger-striking Theresa Spence and her aides as irrelevant and rather annoying. The audit itself was an obvious attempt to be bothersome since it was "no more than a distraction" whose purpose was meant to "discredit" Chief Spence; a wholly intolerable situation.
Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence holds hands with fellow hunger striker Jean Socks as she stands beside supporter Danny Metatawabin during a press conference outside her teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa on Jan. 4.