Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A little more important than the PBO thing

Tonight in Bruce Carson, the prospect of the auditor general taking a look at the use of funds at the school Carson directed, the Canada School of Energy and the Environment, is getting some attention:
Industry Canada, which signed the $15-million funding agreement with the school, did not say whether it would attempt to recover the money or ask the auditor general to review its records.

"This is (a) matter between the CSEE and Bruce Carson," said department spokesman Michel Cimpaye, in an email.

The agreement between the government and the school, obtained by Postmedia News through access to information legislation, says that the auditor general could audit spending records to ensure value for money was obtained through the funding.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis also declined to comment.

The school was originally set up as an academic partnership at three Alberta universities for research into sustainable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

But under Carson, the school's mandate was "re-energized to include a crucial role in the elaboration of public policy on energy and environment as well as informing the climate change debate in Canada and internationally," according to a 2009-10 annual report released by the school.
Seems to be a bit of a theme with the Conservatives. Using taxpayer funds in manners that may not follow the public commitment they made. See also the Border Infrastructure Fund that ended up funding the Tony Clement G8 Gazebo-athon. There should be public accountability about such commitments. Based on the CBC report last night, there seems to be about $5 million of the $15 million that was expended under Carson's watch that may not have aligned with the original federal purpose for the funds. When did this shift take place and what did the funding arrangement permit for in deviating from the academic partnership? Was this a case of saying one thing officially in Ottawa on the funding but on the ground it became something much different? What did the board of the school know? Again, based on that report last night, doesn't seem like they knew much.
"We don't fully understand some of the things the school was involved in, so we simply said that we're not spending any more money, and we're not actively pursuing the things we might have been pursing before, other than the scientists who have pre-approved grants."
Oversight of federal funds requires greater diligence than that. This doesn't seem to be just about $15,000 in personal expenses, as important as that is.

P.S. Mr. Auditor General, careful with your speaking invitations...