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New director appointed for Indian and Northern Affairs office

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OTTAWA —  Indian and Northern Affairs Canada has appointed a new director for its Manitoba regional office, more than 18 months after the last director was removed in the middle of a departmental audit.

Anna Fontaine, who has been with the department for over a decade, took on the post as the regional director for Manitoba on June 15.

Fontaine, originally from Saskatchewan, was a teacher on various First Nations before starting at INAC as an economic development manager in 1998.

She rose up through the ranks quickly, holding various director positions until December 2008, when she was appointed the associate director of INAC’s Manitoba office.

She will now oversee a department still emerging from the glare of an external audit, and years of low morale.

INAC ordered an audit of the Manitoba regional offices in October 2007 in the wake of anonymous complaints and an internal management review. In December 2007, the regional director, associate director and associate director of funding were put on administrative leave.

Only the latter of the three eventually returned to his position. The other two were to be reassigned within the department.

In January 2008, the audit report was made public and showed senior managers in the Winnipeg office had overspent or failed to account for as much as $9 million over the previous decade.

INAC chief auditor Anne Scotton blamed the fiscal problems on "mismanagement and inappropriate use of authority," but noted there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

The audit also found the bosses had run the Winnipeg region like their own dictatorship, ignoring departmental checks and balances designed to account for taxpayers’ money.

The result was high staff turnover and high rates of absenteeism.

Following the audit’s release, the department said it was continuing to look at aspects of the Manitoba office’s fiscal picture, including whether it can recover any of the $9 million.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

 

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