Cache Creek mayor wants completely independent audit of TNRD expenses | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Cache Creek mayor wants completely independent audit of TNRD expenses

Home of Thompson-Nicola Regional District and Thompson-Nicola Regional Library
March 27, 2021 - 6:00 PM

At the TNRD regular Board of Directors Meeting of March 11, the board voted to authorize an independent, third party forensic financial audit. This audit would probe the recently revealed, exorbitant expenses of former CAO Sukh Gill and the processes and policies by which those expenses were allowed to accumulate.

“Questions have been raised about whether some past transactions and expenses at the TNRD should have been incurred at all and whether or not they were appropriate,” reads a report from the board.

This audit, which would examine the expenses from 2015 to 2020, when Sukh Gill left the TNRD under a shroud of mystery that was never fully explained, is expected to cost $50,000 to $75,000.

At the time, TNRD Director and Mayor of Cache Creek, Santo Talarico voted in opposition to the motion that the Regional District authorize staff to begin the procurement process for an independent, third party review and audit of financial records from 2015 to 2020, which would lead to recommendations to improve internal controls and oversight measures. He was the only director to do so.

Talarico later provided the Herald with an interview, which explained his reasoning for his opposition to the motion.

“I didn’t vote against the audit in principle,” explained Talarico.

“I voted against the motion as it was spoken to, regarding it being the Regional District doing an independent, third party audit. I was not in favour of that, I was in favour of someone other than the Regional District, whether it was the committee struck by a ratepayers association or someone that was totally not involved with the Regional District, to put the criteria together and proceed with the audit based on their terms so we are as transparent as possible.”

Although the end result may be the same, Talarico does not believe that the TNRD should have any further say in how the audit or the auditors progress, and that the board should not be responsible for the criteria by which the third party investigates the expenses.

“It should be a third party, independent audit,” said Talarico.

“I’m not saying that an independent audit and an audit struck by a committee of sorts will not come up with the same sort of resolution or same sort of answers to the public’s questions, all I’m saying is that it should be done outside of the Regional District, we should not have anything to do with that third party audit,” Talarico continued.

“The RCMP doesn’t investigate themselves, why would we be setting the criteria in which the audit should be proceeded with?”

Talarico also questioned the settled upon timeframe, which would only examine five years’ worth of records for what could very well be an ongoing issue. Indeed, Gill was CAO for eight years, and perhaps more alarmingly in light of his unchecked expenses, Chief Financial Officer before that, bringing his time with the TNRD to about two decades.

“Why is it five years, why is it not ten years, why is it not 15 years?” Talarico said.

“Depending on the criteria that the independent lays out. And I’m not saying independent in the sense that the Regional District hires an independent auditor, I’m talking about a group of people that will stipulate what they want to see in an audit and at the end of the day be satisfied with the results of that audit. That’s transparency at its best. And if we’re going to spend $50,000 to $75,000 without our staff’s wages, our staff costs, which could bring it well over the $100,000 mark, and the general taxpayers are still not happy with the results, then we’ve wasted potentially another $100,000 of taxpayers’ money, and I’m sorry but it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Talarico knows that as this saga of spending, which shows more than half a million dollars worth of expenses in the past five years alone, has made the residents and taxpayers of the TNRD “more than leery”.

“We’re not talking pocket change, we’re talking a sizeable chunk of money,” said Talarico.

“If transparency is really what the board wants to achieve, then, in my opinion, they’ve gone about it the wrong way.”

As of yet, no date has been announced as to when the audit will begin.

— Originally published by the Merritt Herald

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