careless grants can cause problems

Sometimes little paws can make big tracks. Such is the case with a daycare on Range Road. Little Paws moved out of its old location…

Sometimes little paws can make big tracks.

Such is the case with a daycare on Range Road.

Little Paws moved out of its old location — which had been condemned — to swanky new digs on April 10th.

There was a media release. And a ribbon cutting. And a $50,000 government cheque, dubbed a security deposit, graciously provided by Social Services.

Just eight months later, the operation is defunct.

Fifteen daycare workers are out of work, a loss made worse coming a week before Christmas.

Parents are scrambling to find new caretakers for their kids.

The $50,000 has flowed to the developer.

The bankrupt nonprofit is on the hook to pay back a portion of that money to Social Services, though it’s unclear how it will do so. Or who, specifically, is going to be held responsible for the loss of the government’s security deposit.

All that remains is a really nice building equipped with toddler-height urinals and sinks. (We wish them well trying to rent the facility.)

It’s a mess.

So how did it happen?

We have to go back to that security deposit cheque that was, apparently, cut on the fly.

Department officials put their faith in the daycare, said Social Services spokesperson Pat Living, citing the operation’s solid reputation and 17-year history.

“All parties anticipated this would not be a problem,” she wrote.

Oops.

Just proves faith is best confined to churches. Government, entrusted with public money, has an obligation to meet standards that are more concrete and prosaic.

Sadly, the cash-flush Yukon government often waives its obligations.

In this example, the math never worked.

The lease went to $12,000 from $4,000, said Andrew Robulack, the centre’s executive director.

The only way for the centre to cover such an increase was for it to double the number of children it accepted, to about 100. Fine, except the government only permitted it to have about 60, said Robulack.

An official should have examined the business case before writing a government cheque.

It seems so simple.

But according to a recent government audit, it isn’t.

In fiscal year 2006-07, the government issued 3,092 sole-sourced contracts.

Of those, 351 surpassed the $25,000 limit on sole-sourced contracts.

Of those, 102 were issued by Health and Social Services.

Of the sampled service contracts reviewed by the auditor, 65 per cent did not meet compliance requirements.

That sounds so bureaucratic. But Little Paws demonstrates what can happen when you don’t follow the rules.

Had a responsible official evaluated the proposal, they would have seen the problems. They could have asked questions.

They might have challenged the business case.

They might have noted the proposal didn’t make financial sense.

And, in doing so, they might have prevented this problem, which has affected the lives of dozens of people.

Sure, it would have caused problems for the daycare.

It probably would have made its board angry.

A local developer wouldn’t have built the building — at least, not one with ankle-high bathroom fixtures.

And the daycare wouldn’t have expanded in the way it did. It probably would have found more modest accommodations.

But turning a critical eye to funding proposals is the government’s responsibility.

Look what happens when cowboy capitalism takes over.

Officials simply issue the money and, by extension, give tacit approval to a losing venture that, after just eight months, has left people without jobs and parents without daycare.

A landlord is owed rent and a developer is saddled with a facility built to handle 100 little people.

That’s a government grant at work.

Nice!

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