Justice mum on Finance department probe

It’s a question few want to ask and the Justice department doesn’t want to answer. Have, or should, Justice officials be investigating…

It’s a question few want to ask and the Justice department doesn’t want to answer.

Have, or should, Justice officials be investigating the Finance department?

Recently, Canada’s auditor general Sheila Fraser reported officials broke the law — the Financial Administration Act —when they invested in third-party asset-backed commercial paper that wasn’t guaranteed by a bank. As a result, $36.5 million in public funds is currently in limbo.

There was no malicious intent behind the investment, noted Fraser in her audit.

Nevertheless, the law was broken and the degree of intent behind an action is for the courts to decide.

The Justice department refused to confirm if there is an active investigation, if one is being considered or even who would make the decision to trigger one.

In fact, officials refused to offer any details about an investigation that may or may not be underway.

Is the Justice department investigating the Finance department?

“We’ll make no comment until we’re ready,” said Justice spokesman Dan Cable.

Can you talk about procedure?

“I’m not going to go into it at this time,” said Cable. “In the fullness of time we’ll make a statement.”

Is the department considering an investigation?

“I have no comment.”

Who makes the decision to start an investigation?

“I have no comment.”

All questions about the Financial Administrations Act are directed back to cabinet communications, he said.

Several calls to Justice Minister Marian Horne have not been returned.

Finance Minister Dennis Fentie also did not return calls.

Calls to deputy Justice minister Dennis Cooley were redirected to Cable.

In the Department of Justice Act, the minister is responsible to “advise heads of the several departments of the government of the Yukon on all matters of law connected with those departments.”

Someone who breaks the Financial Administration Act could be fined $1,000 and jailed for up to six months.

While Justice is mum on a possible investigation, others are more candid.

The Finance department is not under investigation, said its deputy minister David Hrycan.

“I can’t speak for Justice, but the auditor general said there was nothing malicious or willful behind (the investment),” he said.

“The investigation we had was the auditor’s review. We got the report — everything’s in the public domain.”

The Finance department had not been contacted about a possible investigation, said Hrycan.

The RCMP M Division, the commercial crimes unit, is also not conducting an investigation, said Cpl. David Yule.

“We haven’t been notified,” said Yule.

“We have no ongoing investigation.”

Whether or not the RCMP would investigate is unclear until a complaint is made, said Yule.

Complaints have not been registered, he added.

“It really would depend on the auditor’s assessment of it. I can’t really speak to it.”

The Crown prosecutors’ office could not confirm if an investigation is underway.

Opposition parties are uncomfortable with a legal investigation.

Both Liberal and NDP leaders were cool to the idea.

Having one department investigate another is complicated, said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell last week.

“I’m not going to comment (on a Justice probe) because I don’t have a legal opinion on hand,” he said.

“The issue is not clear.”

There are other ways to determine who was responsible for the financial mismanagement, said NDP Leader Todd Hardy.

The errant investment does not merit an official Justice probe, he said.

He suggested the Public Accounts Committee, which reviews government spending and has subpoena power, is a better avenue.

“I feel more comfortable if there is a follow through to this, but with the Public Accounts Committee instead of internally,” he said.

An independent, public investigation would be more beneficial, he added.

There are several questions that Fentie and deputy premier Elaine Taylor still must answer about who knew what, when? said Hardy.

“I think they misled the house, intentionally or not we don’t know yet,” he said.