Last week, when auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers released their findings into the financial dealings of the former Cumberland Regional Development Authority, it sent a strong message to our elected officials that they need to play closer attention to what’s going inside the boardrooms of those boards and agencies that they throw tax dollars at but fail to hold accountable.
It’s also a bit of a mea culpa for local and provincial media who were getting signals that all wasn’t well at CRDA, but without concrete evidence to back those claims up either could not or would not proceed with a deeper examination of some of the things that were allegedly going on there.
The picture painted by ombudsman Dwight Bishop two years ago and repeated by PricewaterhouseCoopers is much different than what everyone believed was taking place at CRDA. We cannot forget that the development agency was considered a model for community and economic development and how a taxpayer-funding agency could create partnerships with communities to facilitate economic development.
For years, municipal representatives were reporting back to their respective councils that things were progressing as they should at CRDA. Monthly reports to town and county council indicated an organization that was the darling of economic development.
Still, the shuffling of money from project to project should have raised at least a few eyebrows on its board of directors and the municipalities that funded the organization should have begun demanding increased accountability much earlier than they did.
While Cumberland County was wise to step away when it did, the forensic examination shows concerns were evident long before that happened. If only it had taken its stance earlier the mess that followed could have been avoided. The same is true for Amherst and the other funding partners.
No one questioned CRDA’s activities until two former employees complained to the ombudsman’s office setting off a chain of events that has led to where we are today – a forensic examination and now an RCMP investigation. Hindsight is 20/20, but someone – including those who provided the funding for the organization – should have kept a closer eye on things to ensure accountability and transparency.