APTN National News
Indigenous Affairs has called in auditing firm KPMG to do a financial review of Peters First Nation in British Columbia after an APTN National News investigation found questionable payments last month.
“If the review uncovers evidence of what (INAC) believes to be fraud or other illegal activity, (INAC) will refer the file to the RCMP. This referral would take place upon completion of the review,” said Colin Stobo, a senior investigator with INAC’s Assessment and Investigation Services Branch (AISB).
The RCMP is already investigating Peters band council, as reported by APTN Tuesday.
The RCMP received a complaint against the band council in early March following the first of seven stories APTN has published on the First Nation located between Chilliwack and Hope, B.C.
The RCMP investigation ramped up after APTN opened the books on Peters last month.
It was after that story that the RCMP received more detailed documents, including a breakdown of financial documents belonging to Peters.
While the RCMP has refused to comment, APTN has learned the investigation has been assigned to two officers who are in the early stages of their investigation.
The complaint was made by several members of Peters band, and APTN has also learned the investigators have been contacted by additional potential witnesses in the last few days.
Meanwhile, INAC has developed terms of reference for the KPMG probe that were obtained by APTN. View the terms here.
The terms basically mirror APTN’s story in April that focused on a two-year period from 2013-15 based on court documents, audits, emails and financial ledgers for those years.
The RCMP investigation goes back more than a decade based on documents it has obtained.
APTN uncovered questionable payments and outlined how Peters First Nation’s three-member band council were allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars over a two-year period to operate a band with 12 homes on 131 hectares and little infrastructure.
The money was much more than what band council claimed to Indigenous Affairs for the fiscal years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 according to the First Nations Transparency Act.
KPMG has been directed by INAC to focus on those years in its financial review of Peters, and the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
“Examine (Peters’) financial records for fiscal years 2013-14 to 2015-16 to determine if the allegations can be substantiated or refuted,” the terms state. “Determine the amount of INAC funding, if any, that was misappropriated during that period.”
APTN uncovered how money was allocated to members who are known to vote for council every two years. A closer look at the finances between 2013-2015 indicated that over 90 per cent of all expenditures to band members went to those who voted for council.
Documents show a young child of Coun. Victoria Peters was allocated thousands of dollars for addiction treatment but APTN couldn’t determine that the child had any addictions, and Victoria Peters refused to comment.
Victoria Peters also had over 10 jobs during that period, including band manager and social worker but she refused to say what qualifications she had.
Chief Norma Webb wouldn’t comment on why jobs weren’t posted for all members to apply.
APTN also found that a former councillor’s mother had been allocated tens of thousands in social assistance and allegedly didn’t qualify.
A 2015 audit uncovered that the band kept little paper trail of supporting documents for social assistance, and council members were signing cheques over to themselves, all of which the auditor said opened the band to the potential for “inappropriate payments”.
Indigenous Affairs approved the audit without question.
That same year Indigenous Affairs approved funding for a health program, run by Victoria Peters, without any supporting documentation on how the money would be spent.
APTN has repeatedly asked Webb to comment on the allegations, including the RCMP investigation, but she has refused and questioned if the RCMP was actually involved on Wednesday.
“We have asked for details of the alleged police investigation from those who we presume are your sources and received no response, nor have we been contacted by the R.C.M.P.,” Webb wrote.
APTN was told Webb was made aware of the financial review last week and didn’t respond to APTN’s latest questions on the review.
KPMG is expected to submit a draft report to INAC by July 31.