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“Democracy demands accountability and rights require responsibility”

WELLS: Very well. Let them account, if their word means anything at all.


 

Those aren’t my words. But I endorse them completely and we are gathered here today to see that they are fulfilled at last.

They are the words attributed to Jacques Gauthier, who was the interim president of the Montreal agency Rights and Democracy when he announced it had engaged Samson Belair/ Deloitte & Touche to conduct a forensic audit of the organization’s financial transactions from 2005 to 2009. Jacques Gauthier is still a member of the R&D board, which is gathering in Montreal for a board meeting this Thursday, Oct. 21. The agency has the Deloitte report in hand and has had it since at least late August. This will be the week R&D makes the audit public.

Right?

That is, after all, what they promised eight months ago. Here is the bulk of the news release from Feb. 19. You can find it all at the first link above. I have added emphasis to those passages which today seem most germane:

Gauthier stressed in making the announcement that the purpose of the audit is to guarantee full transparency in the proper spending of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars.

“Democracy demands accountability and rights require responsibility,” Gauthier said. “As an institution that receives $11 million annually from the federal government – in other words, from the taxes of Canadians – Rights and Democracy must be accountable for the way our funds are spent. We are responsible to ensure they have been properly managed.”

The interim president said neither he nor the board of directors has direct evidence of any individual impropriety. However, financial reviews have turned up transactions that require the attention of forensic auditors.

“We’ve turned to professionals to give us an accurate picture of certain transactions and contractual arrangements for the past five years,” he said.

Samson Belair/Deloitte & Touche representatives will begin the audit immediately, and expect to report with recommendations in three weeks. Results will be made public as soon as possible after the report is accepted by the board of directors, Gauthier said.

You’ll note I didn’t highlight the bit about Deloitte reporting within three weeks, a promise that became farcical half a year ago. You’re welcome, guys.

A reminder of what’s at stake here. (Full details can be found by clicking the “Rights and Democracy” tag at the bottom of this post; it takes you to nearly a year’s worth of coverage of this issue.) First there is simply the cash. At the beginning of April — after Deloitte’s investigation was about one-third complete — the investigation had cost taxpayers more than $128,000. The agency has never accounted for further costs since then. Did costs triple? More? Less? They won’t say.

But whatever the cost of the Deloitte audit is, it is only a very small part of the taxpayer money board chairman Aurel Braun and his crew have spent since they gained majority control of the board in January. They have been spending your money to clean up the astonishing mess of things they made in 2009, when they sent the federal government a skewed and ridiculous evalution of former president Rémy Beauregard and tried to keep the evaluation secret from him. This is from my account of that episode:

Last June [2009], Rémy Beauregard, the president of a federal government-funded human rights organization called Rights and Democracy, read aloud to his fellow board members from a long memo he had written. The memo was his response to an evaluation of his job performance written by two members of the federal government-appointed board, Jacques Gauthier and Elliot Tepper. The board’s chairman, Aurel Braun, had sent along his own note endorsing the evaluation, which was highly critical of Beauregard.

Beauregard was responding now, in June, because it had taken three months for him to get his hands on the evaluation. Braun, Gauthier and Tepper had sent it to the federal government without showing it to Beau­regard. They had fought his attempts to get a copy of his own job evaluation for months, incurring hefty legal bills. Finally, Beauregard submitted a request to the Foreign Affairs Department for his personal information under the Privacy Act. Braun, Tepper and Gauthier were shocked when Beauregard showed up with a copy of their handiwork and started reading his response….

Reading Beauregard’s comments, it is not hard to spot a general tone of disbelief at his surreal predicament. He had spent 40 years working in government and non-profit organizations, after all, often in human rights. In 1986 he became the first person to run Ontario’s Office of Francophone Affairs, trying to figure out how to extend services to the province’s French-language minority. His work in that post has made him a nearly heroic figure among Franco-Ontarians. Later he ran the Ontario Human Rights Commission before working on a new constitution for Rwanda and human rights legislation for the Democratic Republic of Congao. He’d seen his share of tough fights.

But he’d never seen anything like this. His antagonists on the board were accusing him—in a secret memo they had fought to keep out of his hands—of failing to “improve the communications and interactions” between his office and the board. In his accompanying memo, Braun wrote that all this was “constructive criticism and it is hoped that it will be viewed in that light by Mr. Beauregard.” Braun had then spent three months trying to ensure Beauregard would not be permitted to view it in any light at all.

In January of this year Rémy Beauregard died in his sleep after another acrimonious board meeting. The people who had made the last year of his life hell promised to account for things. Very well. Let them account, if their word means anything at all.


 

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