Saskatchewan auditor questions equipment purchases made by highway patrol

Saskatchewan's provincial auditor Judy Ferguson questions some of the purchases made by highway patrol in Volume 1 of her annual audit report. File / Global News

Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor is questioning some of the purchases made by Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure-governed highway patrol.

On Tuesday, Judy Ferguson released volume one of her annual audit report which stated the ministry “did not sufficiently oversee the purchase of firearms and ammunition bought to support the highway patrol duties.”

The ministry spent about $700,000 in equipment for the Saskatchewan Highway Patrol since the team formed in August 2017.

Read more: Saskatchewan looking to equip highway officers with heavy body armour

Ferguson deemed some of those purchases “questionable.”

“Not the normal type of equipment a ministry has to buy so what we are asking for is that additional little layer in terms of thinking about it when they’re buying them,” Ferguson said.

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In her report, Ferguson said highway patrol was in possession of firearms not included under The Municipal Police Equipment Regulations.

Those firearms include three nine-millimetre pistols, two fully automatic rifles, an AR-10 carbine and 12 silencers.

The ministry told Ferguson legislation “allows the ministry to possess these firearms and weapons for training purposes even though it cannot use them in its highway patrol duties.”

Read more: Saskatchewan police oversight body struggling to keep up with record-high number of complaints

While the ministry has the authority to own these, Ferguson said, the ministry did not document a “business need” before purchasing.

She also pointed out in the report the ministry possesses a shotgun although Saskatchewan’s deputy minister specifically told staff not to purchase any shotguns.

Many of the purchased firearms were made with a purchase card, Ferguson said.

Under Treasury Board policies, transactions made on p-cards cannot exceed $10,000 on a single purchase including taxes unless approved otherwise by the provincial comptroller or an immediate supervisor.

Ferguson said it looked into 34 purchases made with p-cards and found several purchases that did not comply with Treasury Board policies.

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“We found the following instances where ministry employees divided an individual purchase into more than one purchase either to stay within the $10,000 purchase limit, or to avoid having to use competitive purchasing methods,” Ferguson wrote in the report.

Read more: Sask. RCMP commanding officer ‘wouldn’t stand in the way’ of civilian oversight

In one instance, bulletproof vests were purchased costing over $10,000 from a single supplier split into three different p-cards.

The same thing happened when $19,000 was spent on highway patrol equipment and belt systems to carry equipment.

The ministry said one employee was fired over the matter.

“We found some instances where some of the rules related to purchase card transactions were not followed,” said Doug Wakabayashi, ministry of highways’ spokesperson.

“We referred the matter to the provincial auditor and the employee involved was subsequently terminated.

“For a purchase card holder, it’s that person’s immediate supervisor that signs off on every month and I think in one or two instances there wasn’t proper approval.”

Ferguson recommends the ministry “implement policies to better oversee purchases of regulated firearms and ammunition to ensure they support its business needs.”

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Saskatchewan police oversight body struggling to keep up with record-high number of complaints – Feb 20, 2020