Audit: Native education fund is a mess

Feds aren’t tracking $300 million per year in aboriginal funding, says report

The Harper government flunks accountability, says a new audit that blasts lax controls over almost $300 million meant to help native students get to college or university.The bruising report calls for tighter tracking of that cash and says funding has not kept pace with tuition hikes.

Ottawa does not trace how many native kids beat staggering odds to make it through high school only to be denied help to go on.

It spent $292 million last year to help 23,000 students — that’s down from a high of 27,000 funding recipients a decade ago.

“No analysis has been conducted by program management at headquarters on the impact these factors are having” on the Post-secondary Education Program, the audit says.

Instead, it has been left to the national Assembly of First Nations to estimate that more than 10,000 qualified students are on waiting lists.

“It is important that clear and appropriate performance measures, results indicators and targets be developed,” the internal Indian Affairs audit concludes.

“Sound performance measures allow management to track progress, measure results and make ongoing program adjustments to improve results and achieve objectives.”

Conservatives hail higher education as a top priority in their efforts to ultimately raise native living standards.

But auditors found the post-secondary program is hobbled by lax reporting, growing education costs and haphazard disbursement. The result is glaring gaps across the country.

In 2007-2008, the audit says, per capita amounts disbursed to First Nations ranged from $1,609 for each individual aged 18 to 34 in Ontario compared with $941 in the Atlantic region.

“No rationale was found to support the different allocation methods used in the different regions,” it says.

Moreover, the per capita amounts do not reflect fluctuating needs on reserves and are considered “flexible.” Auditors found surplus post-secondary funds in some communities are then spent on other needs — while students in other parts of the country go without.

– The Canadian Press