About five years after allegations of financial mismanagement among senior staff at two Iqaluit women’s shelters came to light, an RCMP investigation looking into the matter is still ongoing.
A report issued last week by Nunavut’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Graham Steele confirms that the police investigation is ongoing.
In 2017, CBC News reported that the Nunavut government was launching a forensic audit of the YWCA Agvvik Nunavut amid the allegations.
At the time, it was reported that the allegations were made in a trove of anonymously leaked documents, obtained by CBC News, that purportedly detailed the organization’s financial statements over the past few years.
The documents were sent to local politicians, federal authorities and YWCA Canada CEO Maya Roy.
According to the leaked documents, staff salaries and reimbursements were under scrutiny by the organization’s auditors, chartered accountants Lester Landau, for the organization’s 2015/2016 financial statements.
A letter from auditors at the time noted that YWCA Executive Director Agvvik received about $75,000 in “shift replacement payments” that were “outside of the employee’s regular salary and there was no evidence of review or approval of these additional payments”.
Auditors also noted that offer letters were made to employees that were not consistent with the board-approved salary scale and that staff received annual bonuses of $200 without board approval.
Auditors also raised concerns about how the former board chairman signed blank checks in advance, so “checks can be issued when the board chairman is not available.” Auditors also noted that staff had been reimbursed for travel expenses that appeared to be “of a personal nature”.
The Government of Nunavut confirmed at the time that the Department of Family Services was investigating: It conducted an audit of YWCA Agvvik, conducted by a private accounting firm. The Department of Finance later initiated its own audit of the organization, conducted by the Government of Nunavut’s internal audit division, and produced two reports.
In March 2021, the RCMP confirmed to CBC News that the allegations were being investigated by the Nunavut RCMP and that the federal Serious Organized Crime Unit is the lead on that investigation.
Government audits must be withheld
Last week’s report by the information and privacy commissioner was in response to a recent access to information request by CBC News, which sought to obtain the audits.
Commissioner Steele stood by the Nunavut government’s decision not to release the audits, citing the ongoing RCMP investigation.
The departments consulted with the RCMP, according to Steele’s report, and declined to release their audit documents on the grounds that the audit reports were compiled as part of an investigation and that disclosure could harm the research
The Departments of Family Services and Finance said they would withhold their external audit reports unless criminal charges are laid in connection with the investigation or the RCMP publicly states that no criminal charges will be laid.
Steele agreed with that position, saying “there is a reasonable possibility that the RCMP investigation could be prejudiced by the release of the reports.”