Spending always requires rules

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Anytime there’s free money, there’s always a danger someone will take advantage – or at the very least, not be careful with it.

Nova Scotia’s regional economic development groups wound down last year, a result of the end of ACOA funding and a decision by the province to move toward a different model that will involve municipalities, the province and business community in each region. The aim is to support small, local businesses.

Now we learn that an audit ordered by the former NDP government into the now-defunct Cumberland Regional Development Authority alleges the organization filed $789,548 worth of false and questionable invoices between 2008 and 2012. The information has since been passed on to the RCMP.

That’s not exactly small change. We can only speculate how much the follow-up police investigation will now cost.

The audit calls into question accounting practices by the authority and says it failed to annually audit project activity. The Canadian Press story on this outcome says the audit also alleges management and employees at the authority while in operation routinely submitted false invoices and cheque copies to the province to surmount certain hurdles. This allegedly was done to get around rules regarding provincial funding in relation to project deadlines.

Like any allegation, of course, this suspicious pattern needs to be investigated, and we’re sure to hear more.

The public is left to wonder, however, why controls aren’t in place to ensure accountability of anything involving public funding – and the report adds the province had insufficient monitoring to see conditions were met.

When we’re desperate for ‘economic stimulation’ these kinds of lapses become that much more possible. Too many blind eyes are turned.

As communities around the province line themselves up to launch the new economic kickstart model, the regional enterprise networks, let’s see that the checks and balances are in place to ensure the rules are closely monitored.

Organizations: Cumberland Regional Development Authority, RCMP, Canadian Press

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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