The vast majority of information brought forward in BDO Canada’s forensic audit of spending in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District was not known by the board, according to board chair Ken Gillis, who said he will not take personal responsibility for an inappropriate culture of spending at the regional district under former CAO Sukh Gill.
On Thursday, Dec. 16, BDO Canada noted a lack of TNRD board oversight and shortcomings at the TNRD board level and recommended the board take government ethics and financial skills training, delegate more to the audit committee and more. Between 15 and 20 recommendations will be made as a result of the forensic audit. Asked if he, as board chair, takes responsibility for a lack of financial oversight, Gillis said the board as an entity changes over time and the current board takes full responsibility.
“As chair, I feel pretty confident in what has happened since 2018, since I became the chair,” Gillis said.
Auditors found numerous examples of financial transgressions involving Gill when he was TNRD CAO. The audit studied financial information from 2015 to 2019, the same time period surveyed by KTW in its investigation into spending at the TNRD, published in February of 2021. That investigation led to the forensic audit and an ongoing criminal investigation by the RCMP.
The audit noted that during a 2019 government trip to Uji, Japan, Gill claimed per diem expenses and charged meal expenses on his personal days. Gillis was chair at that time and was also on the Uji trip, but said he didn’t know what expenses Gill was filing.
Auditors also noted meal expenses above meal thresholds contained in bylaws and policies of the TNRD. The regional district had previously said spending was within policy. On Thursday, however, vice-chair Barb Roden said policies were “abused.”
TNRD CAO Scott Hildebrand explained the regional district has meal per diems thresholds of between $100 and $120 per day. Based on a sample of management expenses, the audit found meal expenses were above policy thresholds 2,265 times between 2015 and 2019, with the most in 2018. In fact, the auditor found “frequent and excessive” spending on meals and entertainment.