Sharing the blame for what took place at CRDA

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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.

 

Organizations: Cumberland Regional Development Authority, RCMP

Geographic location: Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • more of the same
    July 23, 2014 - 09:03

    Can't see why this has any requirement to be reviewed by the RCMP . Juggling monies between projects and submitting paperwork in time to meet Provincial budget cut off isn't criminal behaviour . Buying local or overindulging in office perks isn't either ...This seems to be a case of putting an image out into the public and the negative image overcoming reality ...

    • more of the same
      July 23, 2014 - 13:28

      P.S. the only thing criminal in this situation is the creation of these monster agencies to rip off taxpayers and the present witch hunt ....Nothing to see here , move along now !!

  • Rob
    July 22, 2014 - 05:22

    The *ONLY* reason the taxpayers of Cumberland County have the chance to see justice done for the abuse at CREDA is because the previous government had the political courage to go ahead with the the uncomfortable (and unpopular) option of an independent audit. Make no mistake, the old line Liberals and Tories,who now have their hands in taxpayers' backpockets again, will never allow this kind of transparency and accountability again.

  • Jim G
    July 21, 2014 - 02:41

    The first way to ensure sound financial management is to have monthly operating statements prepared in house by a designated accountant. Failing this because such a person may be too costly for an organization this size would be to have a junior accountant prepare the operating statements and have an accounting firm review the reports periodically. The same accounting firm should do a review or better still an audit annually although an audit may be too costly. If there are no monthly statements and no annual review in a timely manner you know there are issues. This could have been identified on the 16th day of the following month of the first month this group started managing the organization. That would be 1st day that the monthly operating statement would be overdue assuming it is due on the 15th day of the following month. Everyone involved should go back to that day. Remember, to generate $200,000 in corporate tax assuming a 50% tax bracket and a 10% profit margin a group of companies have to have revenues of 4,000,000. Go down town and look around at the stores. How much revenue are they bringing in. How many days will it take the entire downtown to generate $4,000,000. This is just to cover money squandered. Best thing to do is reduce these organizations and reduce taxes. The business owners will figure out where the profits should go. It is usually back into the business and usually results in more jobs.

    • All about Control
      July 23, 2014 - 09:34

      From where I stand, you can hire all the accountants and accounting firms you want, but if the person at the top has control over who attends meetings and what financial information is presented, which, by the way, was the case here, then that person with the POWER is fully to blame.

  • noodle
    July 20, 2014 - 21:14

    In defence of the municipal reps, they may have been sold a bill of goods by a slick talker trying to protect a powerful position and hide the preferential treatment of certain businesses.... It's hard to fathom in just five short years CRDA spent nearly $200,000 on personalized trinkets - that's an average of $40,000 a year on ball caps and canvas gift bags! Yet even though it was tax dollars being spent no public tender was ever called. Such a massive contract would've given a small local company a huge advantage over its competitors and suggests a profound lack of objectivity by CRDA in making these purchases.