Photo by Whitehorse Star
The Yukon RCMP are conducting a forensic audit into Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services, a spokesperson confirmed Thursday.
“In February 2020, a criminal investigation into this matter was initiated by the RCMP,” an RCMP spokesperson said in an email.
“Previously, the Yukon Government had completed a ‘financial review’ that did not definitively determine a criminal element.”
The RCMP’s forensic audit is “comprehensive in nature” and intended to determine whether there was criminal wrongdoing in the management of Many Rivers’ finances.
The RCMP would not provide any further details while the investigation is underway.
A forensic audit is an evaluation of an organization’s financial records to derive evidence for a court or legal proceeding.
After a bitter strike by its employees, Many Rivers shut its doors permanently last summer after accruing more than $500,000 in debt.
The government cut funding after noting “areas of concern” in the budget, including a pay raise and $25,000 doctorate degree for then-executive director Brent Ramsay.
There was also a number of expenditures exceeding the budget by thousands of dollars and missing quarterly variance reports that would have explained those expenses.
Last year, Health Minister Pauline Frost said a forensic audit wasn’t planned for Many Rivers because there wasn’t suspected criminal wrongdoing.
A third-party audit didn’t find criminal behaviour, so her department couldn’t trigger the audit, she said. She chalked the debt up to “poor management.”
Frank Turner, an ex-Many Rivers board member, told the Star this morning his investigation into the finances seemed to show a mishandling of funds.
He said he was pleased to learn that a forensic audit is underway, though it was a “huge surprise” given Frost’s previous stance.
Turner has previously denounced the government’s lack of management over Many Rivers.
“(The government) was giving these guys $2 million a year, and what went down at Many Rivers didn’t just happen in six months or one year,” Turner said.
“They weren’t providing oversight, because there were questions and red flags being raised.”
When Turner and his fellow board members resigned last August, they hoped it would push responsibility and accountability onto the government.
Now, Turner said, the forensic audit will have to dive deep to find the roots of the problem.
“They’re doing an audit on what the board did and it wasn’t just incompetence....” Turner said.
“It wasn’t just one year – I hope they go back; it’ll be really interesting to see.”
Turner said he dove deep into Many Rivers’ meeting minutes in an attempt to sort through the finances – but found many decisions were made during in-camera meetings.
“They didn’t put a lot of stuff into the minutes,” Turner said.
He said he has not been contacted by RCMP regarding the investigation.
Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod, the Yukon Party’s health critic, pressed the ministers of health and justice on the audit during question period Thursday.
Neither Frost nor Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee would provide details.
“The Government of Yukon is fully co-operating with the RCMP in this investigation,” McPhee said.
“As the matter is under investigation by the RCMP, the Government of Yukon will not be providing further comment – it would not be appropriate to do so.”
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