It isn’t clear whether the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency has any conflict-of-interest rules when it doles out millions of dollars in economic development money.
After the agency refused comment on a potential conflict involving a $213,000 grant, a survey of the agency’s website found no information on program criteria.
Cannor, as it’s known, might suffer from the government-wide gaps in conflict of interest rules identified by auditor general Sheila Fraser in her fall report issued last week.
“Departments need to do a better job of determining the areas where they are most exposed to conflict of interest, and of taking the required action when conflicts are identified,” she said in her report.
Cannor’s recent $213,000 grant to Kilrich Industries Ltd. for a truss plant raises troubling questions, and answers are not being provided.
The money came from a Cannor program administered by Dana Naye Ventures, a local banking adviser and lending service.
But Dana Naye also owns a stake in Kilrich.
After that information was made public, Dana Naye, Kilrich and Cannor all refused comment.
Wanda Thompson, Cannor’s communications director, wouldn’t even say whether its program criteria had any rules on conflicts of interest.
Its website has just one sentence on the program that funded the Kilrich truss plant.
The Aboriginal Business Development Program “provides business development support to Aboriginal entrepreneurs and organizations,” it says.
When the agency was created earlier this year, president Nicole Jauvin gave assurances the grant process would be fair.
Processes are in place to ensure everyone would have access to grant money, said Jauvin when asked whether the agency could be used as a slush fund for well-connected companies.
Now it won’t discuss those policies.
“I have no further comment,” said Thompson when asked about conflict-of-interest rules last week.
Cannor won’t answer how Dana Naye found out about the grant and whether Cannor questioned Dana Naye about its stake in Kilrich.
The Treasury Board of Canada defines a conflict of interest as an ethical oversight that undermines the public’s trust in government.
“A real conflict of interest denotes a situation in which a public official has knowledge of a private economic interest that is sufficient to influence the exercise of his or her public duties and responsibilities,” says the board’s policies on conflicts and interests.
There’s a complaint process set out in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act for public servants who find a conflict of interest.
But the auditor general found the Treasury Board still hadn’t implemented the necessary policies required under the act.
Another interview with Jauvin was requested this week. No response was provided by press time.
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