This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Picture Attawapiskat

Last year, when the whole unwholesome public alarm was raised over hugely sub-par housing conditions on the remote northern reserve of Attiwapiskat, with band Chief Theresa Spence accusing the government and Aboriginal and Northern Affairs of wilfully ignoring the needs of her two-thousand population, a scandal brewed loud and long.  And the federal government scrambled to assure the public that it would do everything in its power to remediate the situation.

And then questions began to be asked.  More than enough funds were regularly funnelled to the reserve, a good portion of it specifically earmarked for housing and upkeep and emergency housing, so what went wrong?  The Chief and her council had no need to respond to those questions; they had no idea what went wrong other than that it was all the fault of the federal government and please send more money.

Then it was revealed that on top of the $104-million received over a five-year period, an additional $50-million was earned over another nine-year period through De Beer mining leasing land for a diamond mine.  And signing contracts valued at another $320-million over the life of the mine for service contracts to be delivered by Attawapiskat's own service enterprises.  Lots of money, money dripping all over the place.

But evidently not enough money for housing upkeep. Can we be assured that Chief Spence's own quarters are spacious and well tended?  Can we assume that those families that lived without bathroom facilities and in crowded conditions in mouldy dwellings were not the most privileged of Attawapiskat residents? But they were privileged to be made a cause celebre by the machinations of Chief Spence.

Who grandstanded magnificently.  And then got another opportunity to do it all over again months after a damning audit was delivered to her.  Which may or may not have stimulated her to action to present herself as a martyr to the cause of native empowerment and blame, so as to throw off any potential suspicion that she is also a hypocrite and a fraud.  Bit of a criminal as well, appropriating funds for no one knows what and in the process shortchanging her people?

Her partner in life, Clayton Kennedy, claims his two-year tenure as band general manager alongside his lover's stint as reserve chief didn't represent any kind of skulduggery; nothing like nepotism, that kind of thing.  He was trained as a certified general accountant.  And as someone skilled in accountancy can we derive the opinion that he was either purely incompetent, scornful of process, or openly indulged in aiding his partner and her council in evading responsibility.

For this he charged $850 daily; expertise doesn't come cheap anywhere, let alone on remote northern reserves.  They screamed bloody murder when the Prime Minister and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, appalled at the situation in Attawapiskat, appointed an outsider to take the helm and begin managing the band's affairs and economy.  A court challenge by the band removed the irritant.

Aboriginal network APTN reported the yearly salary of Clayton Kennedy to be between $153,000 and $204,000.  Not bad for incompetence.  He thought he was a bargain.  The going rate for the work he did on behalf of the reserve, he said, was more like $1,500 daily.  Clearly, he was a bargain.

His review of the reserve's financial information and federally funded programs led him to initiate "a number of positive changes that have been implemented to strengthen programs and in particular, financial measures regarding acquisition and approval of expenditures."

An inappropriate relationship between band chief and general manager complementing one another in reserve affairs? Perish the thought.

One of the statements of principles in the preamble of the latest contract Mr. Kennedy signed with the band and his consulting company reads: "Both parties [the band and Mr. Kennedy] are not aware of any past or present relationship between the First Nation and the Co-Manager that may be thought to be a conflict of interest."

Glad that's clarified.  So what's all this business about auditors stating that they found no documentation in 80% of spending instances to explain in any manner what money was paid out for; no receipts, no names, no descriptions of what was being paid for, just cheques being cut and that's that.  Deloitte wrote to Chief Spence copying the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to express their frustration.

"...no evidence of due diligence on the part of Attawapiskat of funding provided by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for housing projects and Health Canada for health-related projects."  Of 505 transactions reviewed more than 400 lacked proper documentation. 

Well, oops.

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