‘There’s too many secrets’: Sagkeeng resident calls for health centre audit to be made public
Members of a Manitoba First Nation are demanding an internal audit done on the community’s health centre be made public.
Employees at the Sagkeeng Health Centre received more than $1.3 million in questionable payouts – including thousands in cash advances and extensive entertainment costs – over the course of 18 months, according to an internal audit detailing the allegations and obtained by Global News.
“That document was secret. When I saw it in the news I was glad,” community member Anita Prince said. “(I’m) glad that this happened … that somebody was going to do something for Sagkeeng. Our people are in pain. That money should be used in a good way.”
But band members said the audit hasn’t been shared with those in the community.
“This is another secret document. There’s too many secrets,” Prince said through tears. “Why be secret about community dollars?”
The audit uncovered instances of $1,000 cash advances, extensive travel entertainment costs (including escape rooms, movie theatres and toy stores), and tens of thousands of dollars in “finders fees” for writing grant proposals.
The majority of staff were also given a monthly “travel allowance” of $400 and were still reimbursed for travel expenses.
The current Chief, Derrick Henderson, ordered the audit after firing the previous board of the health centre.
Prince was employed at the centre as a mental health worker, but said she quit her job last July after the chief told staff about the audit.
Global News has heard from a number of community members who have asked for the internal document to be made public to members of the band.
“It really hurts my heart when I see that happening because I do care about my community,” she said.
“I wanted to work in my community and help our people but when I knew this was happening, I knew that healing wasn’t going to happen.”
Prince said the community is struggling and knowing that $1.3 million meant for health centre expenses and its programs may have ended up elsewhere is frustrating.
“Our kids are suffering,” she said. “Things need to be brought forth and shown. I think the community has to fall in order to come up and build up again. Our community is struggling.”
Prince said not only would she like to see the entire 800-page audit released, but said she would like to see external audits done of all the programs on Sagkeeng.
Chief Henderson has refused repeated attempts by Global News for an interview to speak about the audit or to explain why no money has been ordered to be repaid.
Henderson previously told Global News the federal government had “cleared” the people involved of any wrongdoing.
Despite the allegations of mismanagement of funds, no money has been ordered to be repaid and the federal government has not committed to investigating any further.
“They are the ones that saw there was a problem. They are the ones that are proving accountability and transparency to their members and we’ll support them any way we can,” Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan said. “That’s them who will look into that. That’s what it’s all about, this is reconciliation.”
But for some community members, that’s not good enough.
“The way things are going our kids aren’t going to get what they need,” Prince said. “It’s not right.”
“We have to start fresh and clean again in order to bring our community up,” she said. “A lot of people will be angry because people are angry already.”
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