The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is once again asking Manitoba Hydro to open the books on $251 million in consultations with northern indigenous communities after obtaining an audit summary suggesting $465,000 in questionable spending by a single band.
The CTF has obtained a summary of an audit ordered by Manitoba Hydro in April 2013 after its own officials became concerned a year earlier about claims into $5-million worth of dam-consultation expenses incurred by York Factory First Nation, one of five northern Cree communities affected by the proposed Keeyask and Conawapa hydro-electric developments and involved in a co-owner partnership deal with Hydro with the two generating stations.
Hydro had attempted over about six months to informally resolve issues before the audit was ordered.
The audit’s findings, presented to Hydro’s board earlier this month, suggest
- mileage claims did not match amounts paid to staff,
- at least $78,500 to $108,000 in overpaid airfare expenses,
- an attempt to recover a $250,000 advance, and
- five other non-compliant items with an estimated value between $29,995 and $105,495.
Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, CTF Manitoba director Colin Craig said the audit and the irregularities it highlighted show a need for Manitoba Hydro to be more transparent.
He also said Manitoba Hydro refused to disclose information for the full $251 million paid to the communities over the past 14 years, and denied freedom-of-information requests submitted by the CTF.
Craig said he does not believe all expenses are illegitimate, and sees no need for what he described as unnecessary secrecy surrounding the Crown corporation's spending, especially on compensation for third-party expenses.
Last year, the CTF said documents it obtained found close to $75,000 was spent on a signing ceremony involving Manitoba Hydro and Tataskweyak Cree Nation upon conclusion of a deal to partner in the development of the proposed Keeyask dam.
The audit of York Factory made a number of recommendations for Hydro and York Factory to better monitor and manage expenses.
A number of issues have already been resolved with York Factory’s new chief Ted Bland, who was elected in April.
The one item that has yet to be resolved is what was spent on airfares, documents supplied to the CTF say.
York Factory First Nation is located at York Landing, on the Nelson River.