AMHERST – Officials with the Cumberland Regional Development Authority are continuing to study ombudsman’s report on its financial practices that was released last week.
“The volunteer board of the Cumberland Regional Development Authority has received the report and is currently reviewing content and recommendations. Upon full review and assessment of the contents, the CRDA will issue a media statement in response,” CRDA executive director Rhonda Kelly said in a statement.
Last week, ombudsman Dwight Bishop formally called for a forensic audit of the authority. In his final report, the ombudsman slammed CRDA’s financial practices and the Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism’s oversight of the local development authority. The report said the level of oversight does not bring integrity to the accountability process for monitoring projects and expenditures of public funding.
Bishop said invoices were created and used to obtain funds from government without direct expenditures. He said the practices undermine the accountability process and brings into question matters of credibility and integrity.
He is calling for a forensic examination by the provincial auditor general. If the results are consistent with his findings, Bishop’s is recommending the matter be handed over to police.
The review stemmed from two former employees who claimed they were fired after they disclosed concerns to the CRDA board of executives that wrongdoings were taking place. The ombudsman has recommended the board acknowledge to the complainants they did not adequately address the concerns they raised.
Kelly said CRDA has co-operated fully with the ombudsman’s office and will continue to fulfill its role to facilitate regional community economic development and to work collaboratively with its partners.
“This includes the delivery of development support services expected from a regional development authority which has consistently exceeded operating expectations through the performance-based funding model of RDAs,” Kelly said in the statement. “The CRDA continues to be proud of its accomplishments and track record. We are recognized as a leader in regional community economic development in the province and we welcome any opportunity for overall organizational improvement intended to strengthen that role.”
Kelly said this is evident in the human resources strategic plan completed by Royer Thompson of Halifax and adopted by the CRDA board in fall of 2011. The plan is currently being implemented by the board and is considered a best practice model for RDAs in the province.