When does incompetence become criminal? How far can incompetence go before someone blows the whistle and takes action, either through the courts or by other means? Webster defines incompetence as: (1) without adequate ability, knowledge, fitness; failing to meet requirements, incapable, unskilful; (2) not legally qualified.
It appears that the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority met these definitions on more than one level in past years. If we are to believe the report of the independent panel of financial experts, all individuals with initials behind their names that indicate their competency, there was no major theft or fraud (although the panel did not perform a forensic audit of the books). Bookkeeping was at fault and maybe some poor decisions by someone.
The panel of experts did not assign any blame or offer solutions. “The committee has not performed a forensic audit of and accordingly does not express an opinion on the financial information referred to in this report. The committee will not comment on the work performed by the external auditors nor will it provide an opinion on the ability of the current or past management or Board of Directors of the Authority.( Baytoday)” It is a good thing they were volunteers because one might have problems paying for a report that did little more than confirm what we already knew.
Sorry, but it wasn’t the bookkeeper who applied for that loan or grant. Indeed, one suspects that it was not only the manager of the day, but the Board of Directors who knew what they were applying for: a grant or a loan. Surely they were not so incompetent that they did not know the difference. It appears though, that the auditors did not. To say that the Heritage Fund loan was not material enough to warrant more than a cursory glance when doing the annual audit begs incredulity.
The excuse seems to be that they were working ‘the system’ so that a loan became a grant if they intentionally did not show a profit. (Expletive!) did anyone stop to think that it was our money they were wasting? Sorry, I forgot for a moment that this is how our politicians operate. We get Grants for people who have a business idea that isn’t viable enough to make it on its own feet. In fact, we’ll even create an Office to do this – we just have to get our share of all that public money!
If a medical doctor errs or makes a bad decision that adversely affects your health, there is redress through the courts. If the builder who constructed your house makes an error, that also can be redressed by contract or through the courts. These people hold themselves out as professionals, and whether or not they have initials behind their names, they can be held liable, either through the common or criminal courts.
But how do we hold the people at the NBMCA responsible and accountable for their incompetence? The bookkeeper, general manager and chair of the board have all moved on. The only ones left are the board members or the councils they represent. That they have wasted or misspent millions of taxpayer’s money seems criminal in the non-legal sense, yet we have no redress.
In North Bay, we re-elected some of those miscreants who loaned money to an incompetent organization, so I suppose we have no one to blame but ourselves. Have we learned anything from this or are we about to repeat our history again and again? Maybe if the public had more information on how the ABCs and other City businesses were doing, both financially and operationally, we could harass our councillors into action before it is too late. Obviously in the case of NBMCA, the councils of North Bay and surrounding area were not competent to take action themselves.
The present Board (councils) solution is to go to an upper level of government and beg them to forgive our sins and loans. Our Professional (paid) politicians seem prepared to forgive and forget this whole fiasco, hoping that the other citizens of Ontario will help us pay for our indiscretions. After all, it was their money (Heritage Fund) we misused in the first place (backed by a City loan – our money - to keep them afloat).
I suppose it is time to build a bridge and get over it. But from my perspective, an apology from the people on the old Board of the NBMCA for their incompetency would be nice.