VANCOUVER, B.C.: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling for increased financial accountability and transparency across the province in the wake of the Thompson Nicola Regional District audit into allegations of flagrant misspending of taxpayers’ money.
“What we heard from the auditors today was very concerning and taxpayers need to know if this happening in other regions of British Columbia,” said Kris Sims, B.C. Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Outside auditors were called in after investigative reports in the Kamloops This Week newspaper showed the former chief administrative officer for the regional district had spent more than $500,000 over five years using taxpayer-funded credit cards.
The charges were largely for hospitality expenses such as high-priced meals at restaurants, gifts of jewellery for staff, and renting a champagne room at Whistler.
BDO Canada presented some of its findings at a Thompson Nicola Regional District board meeting Thursday afternoon.
During his summary presentation, BDO’s Canadian director of forensic investigations, Simon Padgett, told the board that the auditing team found an “inappropriate culture of spending at the TNRD which had the effect of drawing in and involving many employees.”
The BDO report also stated that the former CAO’s remuneration and expenses “were significantly higher than his peers in similar roles,” and there was a “frequent and excessive level of spending on meals and entertainment.”
Padgett also expressed concern that whistleblowers on staff did not have clear avenues to report questionable spending and concerns.
A more fulsome report is expected from BDO in the coming days.
“This situation highlights our need for a strong Municipal Auditor General in B.C., so taxpayers know what’s happening at the local government level and whistleblowers have a place to call,” said Sims.
The RCMP’s serious and organized crime unit is conducting a separate, parallel investigation into the matter.