Au­dit into Rich­mond County coun­cil ex­penses go­ing ahead

Is­sue was de­feated in tied vote in De­cem­ber

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY CHRIS SHAN­NON cshan­non@cb­

Rich­mond County coun­cil­lors voted unan­i­mously Tues­day night to move ahead with a foren­sic au­dit of coun­cil travel and other ex­penses in­curred over the past five years. It’s a re­ver­sal from last fall when a rou­tine ran­dom check of busi­ness ex­penses over a four-month pe­riod by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’ s au­di­tors, Grant Thorn­ton, turned up charges for such things as air­line ticket changes for a spouse, valet park­ing and liquor store charges.

A re­im­burse­ment for al­co­holic pur­chases isn’t per­mit­ted by pol­icy.

In De­cem­ber the mo­tion seek­ing a foren­sic au­dit was de­nied when coun­cil­lors chose sides and it re­sulted in a tied vote, killing the mo­tion.

Steve Samp­son, who served as war­den for two years fol­low­ing the 2012 elec­tion, voted against the idea of an ex­pen­sive foren­sic au­dit when it was first brought be­fore coun­cil.

At the time he didn’t be­lieve it was war­ranted be­cause of the cost and the fact the mu­nic­i­pal- ity’s au­di­tors had made 20 rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove the level of trans­parency when fil­ing mu­nic­i­pal busi­ness ex­penses.

On Wed­nes­day he said he voted for the foren­sic au­dit be­cause, “it is not so much a chang­ing of my mind as it is maybe try­ing to ap­pease ev­ery­one at the ta­ble as we try to get back to work at the job we’re elected to do.”

He said per­sis­tent “ru­mours and in­nu­endo” in the com­mu­nity spread mostly through so­cial me­dia about pos­si­ble crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity tak­ing place were also fac­tors in his de­ci­sion to seek a foren­sic au­dit.

Al­though it hasn’t been for­mally de­cided, Samp­son said he ex­pects Grant Thorn­ton would un­der­take the foren­sic au­dit be­cause the ac­count­ing firm is most knowl­edge­able of the coun­cil ex­pense is­sue.

The pro­vin­cial Om­buds­man’s Of­fice has also launched in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter res­i­dents com­plained of im­proper spend­ing by coun­cil­lors and se­nior staff a cou­ple of months ago.

It’s un­clear how long the re­view by the Om­buds­man’s Of­fice will take.

Coun­cil has al­ready voted to im­ple­ment rec­om­men­da­tions from its au­di­tor, in­clud­ing post­ing all travel ex­penses on­line.


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