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New boss takes over troubled CanNor

The embattled Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency is getting a new president. Patrick Borbey takes over the job agency on Dec. 19.

The embattled Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency is getting a new president.

Patrick Borbey takes over the job agency on Dec. 19.

Currently a senior assistant deputy minister in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Borbey has his work cut out for him.

CanNor has been under intense scrutiny ever since an audit released in October revealed the agency to be in a financial mess.

The audit found that CanNor had been violating almost every rule of sound financial management. 

The agency broke all but one of 13 different financial policy directives examined by the audit.

In addition, the report said CanNor may have broken the law in the way it awarded and administered contracts.

The results of the report prompted Dennis Bevington, NDP MP for the Western Arctic, to call for an investigation by the auditor general.

But those calls have fallen on deaf ears, said Bevington.

“We haven’t had a very good response from the auditor general,” he said. “We may have some more information to give to the auditor general in the future and that my change the tune, but right now it’s not looking positive.”

Bevington said he’s still pushing for an operational review of the agency, and after talking to Borbey last week, he’s is optimistic about it.

“He understands the issues and I think the fact that he called me up right away was encouraging,” said Bevington. “I think it’s clear that the Conservative government has to put some effort into fixing the mess they’ve made out of CanNor and Mr. Borbey, being the senior civil servant that he is, should have all of the qualifications to do that.”

Leona Aglukkaq, the minister in charge of the agency, has taken over, bypassing the normal non-partisan process of the civil service, said Bevington.

“Everything is up in the air,” he said. “The minister is signing off on every expenditure no matter how small and that kind of thing slows the operation down to a point where it may not be effective in getting the money delivered to the projects in a timely fashion.

“The agency’s been so disrupted by bad financial management it needs to be put back on a straight track again,” he said.

Over the last two years, CanNor has had five different financial officers.

The report said that high turnover rate may have contributed to the lack of financial controls.

Borbey will be taking over from Colleen Swords, who was appointed interim president in September.

Swords’ predecessor, Nicole Jauvin, stirred up some controversy when she retired last summer.

Shortly after Jauvin’s departure from the agency, Aglukkaq rehired her as a temporary advisor with salary of more than $200,000 a year.

When Borbey takes over later this month, he’ll be responsible for implementing the audit’s recommendations.

Aglukkaq has pledged that CanNor will put all of them in place.

The audit made a total of 19 recommendations. These included, creating a system to verify what the agency is spending money on, developing a process to ensure that contracts are awarded based on specific terms and conditions, making sure that there is evidence to support those decisions, and ensuring that travel, hospitality and acquisition cards are properly documented.

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