APTN National News
A federal probe into the spending of the former grand chief of a Manitoba organization representing some of the poorest First Nations in the country has found tens of thousands of dollars in questionable claims, according to numbers contained in draft portion of a report provided to APTN National News.
The financial probe of former grand chief David Harper and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) was conducted by auditing firm KPMG under a contract with the federal Indigenous Affairs department.
The investigation was launched in September 2014 after the federal department received complaints over alleged spending irregularities by Harper and MKO. The department authorized KPMG auditors to review the organization’s books all the way back to 2010.
While the department says the review of Harper and MKO’s books is still “ongoing,” APTN National News has been provided some of the results contained in a draft copy of KPMG’s findings.
The auditors examined about $450,000 of expenses incurred by Harper and determined only 36 per cent could be substantiated, according to the draft report.
About $77,000 worth of travel claims filed by Harper did not match-up when cross-referenced with the former grand chief’s cell phone records, according to the draft report.
Current MKO Grand Chief Sheila North-Wilson said in a statement she would not be commenting on the issue until the final report is released and she has discussed the findings with MKO’s 30 First Nation chiefs.
APTN National News has learned that North-Wilson, elected as grand chief in September 2015, received a draft copy of the report in a package late last year. The package included a letter from Anne Scotton, head of Indigenous Affairs’ audit and evaluation branch, an about 20-page report summary, and the draft report which was about 200 pages in length.
Harper could not be reached for comment. It is rumoured that he is considering a run for chief of Garden Hill First Nation, which is one of the 30 MKO-member First Nations.
MKO-member First Nations are some of the poorest in the country.
The KPMG probe of Harper and MKO included a review of the use of funds from Indigenous Affairs and Employment and Social Development Canada, Harper’s expenses, money paid to the organization’s former director of finance and contracts issued by MKO.
While he was grand chief Harper faced allegations of financial mismanagement and of using MKO funds for personal purchases like guitars, flights for his girlfriend and car repairs.
MKO chiefs had previously asked Winnipeg-firm Lazer Grant to conduct a full forensic audit into the organization’s books after they discovered the former director of finance was making $250,000 a year.
The Lazer Grant audit discovered some electronic equipment submitted for review had hard drives wiped-clean. Harper was also accused of obstructing the forensic audit.
MKO sank into the red by nearly $1 million under Harper’s leadership and the organization was on the brink of being put into co-management by Indigenous Affairs.
Indigenous Affairs said it would be posting the final report will be posted on the department’s website.