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Government cuts funding to Lethbridge drug site after serious irregularities found

ARCHES has received more than $14.4 million in taxpayer dollars over the past two years.

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The Alberta government has cut funding for a Lethbridge safe drug consumption site after an independent audit discovered a litany of problems including ” financial irregularities.”

“The review substantiated allegations of asset and funding misappropriation, non-compliance with grant agreements, and inappropriate governance and organizational operations. The ARCHES organization was found to have seriously mismanaged taxpayer funds meant for the most vulnerable in our society,” the government said in a Thursday release.

The government is now meeting with officials to determine whether a police investigation is required.

ARCHES has received more than $14.4 million in taxpayer dollars over the past two years.

The accounting firm Deloitte found:

  • $1,617,094 unaccounted for due to missing documentation for expenditures from 2017 to 2018.
  • $13,000 of interest off ARCHES bank accounts was used to fund parties, staff retreats, entertainment and gift cards.
  • A senior executive’s compensation totalled $342,943 for calendar year 2019. This includes $70,672 in overtime for fiscal year 2019-20. The grant agreement allows for a salary of $80,000.  
  • The Everyone Comes Together (ECT) program staff salaries and benefits also exceeded the amount allocated by the grant agreement by $16,000.
  • The number of ARCHES employees is greater than allowed by the grant agreement.  ARCHES maintained up to 126 employees. However, the exact number could not be verified.
  • $4,301 spent on European travel for management to attend a conference in Portugal.
  • Thousands of dollars in unverifiable travel expenses, including trips charged to company credit cards but not recorded in the ledger.
  • A senior executive’s family member was hired, earning $9,900. The auditors could not locate a resume or personnel file to verify any qualifications.
  • $7,557 for management retreats, including meals and mileage where documentation for spending was unclear.
  • The grant agreement requires the organization to maintain the funding received from Alberta Health within a separate bank account; however, the audit revealed that it was comingled with other funding sources. As a result of ARCHES comingling their accounts, the auditors could not verify thousands of dollars of expenses.
  • Proper personal conflict of interest declarations were not recorded when related individuals or vendors were hired or utilized.
  • Vendors were repeatedly secured in secrecy with a lack of transparency and accountability.
  • No petty cash reconciliations have been completed.
  • $1,129 was used to buy gift cards for board members for The Keg, iTunes, Boston Pizza, Earls, Gap, Shell, Chapters, Cineplex, Amazon, Starbuck’s, Tim Hortons, MasterCard, and Bath and Bodyworks. The expense was recorded as “Gift cards – Board Members.”
  • $2,100 was spent on gift cards to The Oil Changer – a business owned by a senior executive’s spouse.
  • $2,205 was spent on a television with no receipt documentation to support the purchase.

“It is disturbing and extremely disappointing to me that taxpayer funds allocated to this organization in order to serve the most vulnerable in Lethbridge would be used for European conferences, expenses for retreats, entertainment and gift cards. Our government will not stand idly by while millions in taxpayer funds are missing or misappropriated,” said Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

The auditors said they were unable to complete the grant expenditure review in respect to all allegations received or provide a complete financial value attributable to each allegation, due to the state of ARCHES’ records and the related outstanding documents.

The government said to ensure people struggling with addiction can continue to receive services, government has asked Alberta Health Services to set up a temporary mobile overdose prevention site in Lethbridge. It will also be adding three recovery coaches to the region to assist in expediting individuals into treatment.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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B.C. NDP committee blasts own party on diversity

The email said the election has been “terrible” from the perspective of people of colour

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A B.C. NDP committee is slamming its own party for lack of diversity and says it should apologize.

The damning memo was from the NDP’s IBPoC (Indigenous, Black, Persons of Colour) executive committee was obtained by the Vancouver Sun.

The email said the election has been “terrible” from the perspective of people of colour, and that some IBPoC members have left the party, the Sun reported.

The committee called for anti-white supremacy training and diversity/equity training for all party leadership, as well as commitments to address policies important to people of colour, such as banning street checks and protecting hotel-worker jobs, said the paper.

The email said their committee voiced their displeasure in an Oct. 14 phone call with NDP provincial director Heather Stoutenburg and that some action was promised, including a written apology from the campaign leadership team and a video apology from Premier John Horgan “addressing what he did wrong and how he plans to do better.”

“While we have done a lot of work to ensure diverse representation in the legislature through our slate of candidates, we still have much more work to do — specifically within our campaign staff and campaign leadership team,” Stoutenburg said in a statement to the Sun.

“We’re working to assess and improve our hiring practices with a lens on diversity.”

B.C. voters go to the polls Saturday.

Polls taken this month point to a Horgan majority.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Trudeau gave $237-million contract benefiting Liberal buddy’s company

The $237 million was given to FTI Professional Grade, a company that was only established seven days before. It’s website said the company had two employees.

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The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is demanding answers after it was revealed the Justin Trudeau government gave a $237-million no-competition contract to a firm that had been created just seven days before and overpaid by nearly $100 million.

The details were revealed Thursday in the Journal de Montréal.

The report showed during the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the $237 million was given to FTI Professional Grade, a company that was only established seven days before. It’s website said the company had two employees.

The contract was for the manufacturing of 10,000 ventilators. 

After getting the money, FTI hired the firm Baylis to handle the manufacturing of the ventilators, said the paper.

Baylis belongs to Michael Baylis, an ex-liberal MP and an active member of the party since the 1980s. He is also a close friend of Trudeau.

According to the Journal de Montréal, the Trudeau government overpaid by nearly $100 million. 

“The company Medtronic is one of the main ventilator manufacturers. Medtronic sells its unit for approximately $10,000 US, or $13,700 CAD. The ventilators manufactured by Baylis were based on the Medtronic model, but Baylis charged the Canadian government $23,700 per unit,” said the paper’s report.

“This definitely needs to be looked into by a parliamentary committee. It’s possible that there are special circumstances given the urgency, but there’s no reason now, after the fact, not to go back and examine what those might be. If there is any evidence of inappropriate favouritism, it needs to be answered for. This is taxpayer money and it needs to be used prudently, not used to line the pockets of politically-connected individuals,” Aaron Wudrick, Federal Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation told Westphalian Times.

The Tories are also demanding answers.

“The awarding of the contract to FTI Professional Grade raises huge questions, because of the ties and proximity of Frank Baylis, who was a Liberal MP until 2019,” said Conservative MP Pierre Paul in an interview with the Journal.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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New test means travellers to Alberta can escape quarantine

“We just can’t allow (coronavirus) to shut everything down,” Premier Jason Kenney said.

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Alberta will give international arrivals at the Calgary International Airport a chance to escape the federally mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

The announcement was made Thursday by officials, including Premier Jason Kenney, who is currently in isolation after his municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard came down with COVID-19.

Kenney said starting in early November, international arrivals at YYC and Coutts will be offered a chance to participate in a pilot project that will see them get a COVID-19 test when they arrive.

The traveller would then have enter into quarantine until the test results come back. If negative, the person will be allowed to leave quarantine as long as they promise to have another test within six to seven days after arriving.

Kenney said every traveller would have to check in daily with health officials and stay within Alberta until the 14-day period expires.

Also on Monday, essential Alberta workers who have to leave the country will have access to a $150 fee-for-service test that will see results come in 72 hours before the person arrives at their destination.

“We just can’t allow (coronavirus) to shut everything down,” Kenney said.

“The impact (of the 14-day quarantine period) has been enormous.

“We must find a way to bring back safe travel.”

Kenney said in 2020 international visitors will spend $3.5 billion in Alberta, a whopping decrease of 63% for the previous year.

He said currently, only 3% of Alberta cases have been as a result of international travel.

Kenney said it’s hoped the pilot project can be expanded to Edmonton’s airport early in the new year.

“This announcement is welcomed by WestJet. WestJet has been advocating for a science-based rapid testing solution to help safely ease the quarantine requirements. With our home and largest hub in Calgary, guests from the province will be the first to experience this extremely important trial as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine,” said Ed Sims, CEO of WestJet.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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