“…did not find evidence of conflicts of interest, or indications of fraud or wrongdoing.”
That’s the line from the Saskatchewan Auditor that the provincial government has used over 60 times – in the last two weeks! – in the Saskatchewan Legislature, to defend their government from the increasing towering stack of evidence that something went very wrong indeed at the Global Transportation Hub (GTH).
To recap this issue, here’s a simple summation: the GTH is, or is supposed to be, a landlocked shipping and receiving port for both rail and road (semi) transport. Building this thing meant the government had to buy, or take, land from private citizens. One transaction in particular has come under scrutiny, including from the RCMP, because to put it mildly, it’s sketchy as hell.
After this story broke, the Sask Party government reluctantly agreed to have the provincial auditor look into GTH mess. They gave auditor Judy Ferguson free reign, supposedly, to investigate and write the report, which was released in June 2016, right before the Canada Day long weekend. Convenient.
The quote I reference above, regarding wrongdoing and fraud blah blah blah, was not actually in the auditor’s report – it was in the accompanying news release. In fact, the word “fraud” doesn’t appear once in the report, because as she’s said over and over, Ferguson’s office conducted a process audit.
I don’t know much about white collar fraud, thankfully, but isn’t the whole point that the fraudster manipulate existing processes to secretly do shady things? I don’t think too many fraudsters outright change or eliminate processes to suit their nefarious needs, because that would be rather obvious, no?
All Ferguson did, according to her own words, was audit the existence of processes. She did not audit whether or not those processes were manipulated inappropriately, or god forbid, criminally. Her report could have been titled: Processes – They’ve Got ‘Em! because that’s all it was.
So why she saw fit to suggest she didn’t find evidence of fraud when she herself admits she didn’t look for it, is beyond me.
I’ve asked the auditor’s office, twice, what exactly in her report she was referring to when she cited no “wrongdoing”. I asked because when the auditor’s office issues a report containing numerous subheadings like “Initial Estimates of Land Acquisitions Not Realistic or Supported by a Business Case”, or “Compensation Not Always Determined Consistent With Policies in Effect”, I’m struggling to understand exactly which of these kinds of doings the auditor considers not wrong.
I didn’t get any kind of answer that’s worth leaving here. (In summary it was “we wrote stuff”.)
As for conflict of interest – that’s pretty much the least of our worries on this one anymore.
Even if the auditor can still look the taxpayer in the eye and tell us that no “wrongdoing” was the right word to use to
nullify interpret her lengthy report, it never applied to the government anyway, because the full sentence reads (emphasis mine):
“…the audit did not find evidence of conflicts of interest, or indications of fraud or wrongdoing by the GTH management or Board of Directors.“
Yeah yeah, this might include Boyd as the Chair of the board of directors; but if that’s true, is also inexplicable, because the auditor takes great pains throughout the report to decouple Boyd from that board of directors. Either way it certainly doesn’t apply to him as a Minister; to any Minister; to Cabinet, or the provincial government.
It’s time for the auditor to admit to the government, and to the taxpayer she works for, that she made a mistake in her choice of verbage. The no wrongdoing-fraud-conflict line from the news release does not exonerate the provincial government on anything, despite the fact they’re hiding behind it like a naked guy behind his last, really tiny fig leaf.
PS – I have another, better (so humble) post on the GTH coming shortly, but figured I’d dash this one off quick. Tam
For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills specializing in media and public relations. Email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.