TNRD CAO Scott Hildebrand said the final cost of the audit is not yet known, but it is expected to cost at least three times the initial estimate of between $50,000 and $75,000, meaning the audit will cost at least $150,000 to $225,000. Much of what was reported in the TNRD audit on Thursday was previously reported by Kamloops This Week.
TNRD board chair Ken Gillis was asked if it was worth it.
“To answer your question, absolutely it was worth it,” Gillis said. “It was worth every cent of it because we had to do this. We had to get to the bottom of what was going on.”
Gillis said he is not confident every stone was unturned, due to limitations in records that date back to 2014, but noted significant findings came to light. Asked if taxpayers should be on the hook for the audit cost, Gillis said the audit was done for the benefit of the region and that, when BDO Canada recommendations are enacted, taxpayers will ultimately save money.
Gillis said he expects to accept and act on all BDO Canada recommendations.
“No, there was no consideration given to demanding the return of any funds from Mr. Gill,” Gillis said when asked if the former CAO will be asked to reimburse the regional district and taxpayers.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian declined to comment on the audit after Thursday’s bard meeting and deferred to Gillis and board vice-chair Barbara Roden.
The auditor also said the finance department — which in the case of the regional district is led by finance director Doug Rae, who has been with the regional district since 2012 — is the ultimate “gatekeeper” of money.
The audit found both Gill and Rae approved most expenses. Rae remains in his role at the regional district. Hildebrand said Rae succeeded Gill as finance director and was trained in his role by Gill.
“I’ve been here for 16 months and, from that time, my interactions and my business dealings with Mr. Rae have been nothing but professional,” Hildebrand said. “Nothing but a high level of integrity and ethical standards, so, for me, that’s my perspective from 16 months. What’s happened and what we’ve found out in the audit, certainly the board is going to need to discuss that.”
Roden said the board received the report on Saturday, Dec. 11, five days before the audit was presented publicly. She said the board is still digesting the report.
Gillis reiterated a number of changes that have taken place at the regional district since Gill’s sudden — and as yet unexplained — departure in February 2020. Gillis said additional policy changes to come include a new procurement policy, new travel and meal expense policy for staff and the board and updates to corporate credit card policies, as recommended by BDO Canada.
“I’m really looking forward to having all these changes in place and restoring the reputation of the TNRD with our voters,” Gillis said.
Roden also touted CAO Hildebrand for a “completely different tone from the top.”
In addressing concerns about taxpayers’ trust in the regional district, Roden said: “All I can say is we are determined that this will never ever happen again in the TNRD.”