Axed merger proposal of Sask colleges to be investigated

Provincial auditor will investigate alleged irregularities in proposed merger of Carlton Trail Regional College and St. Peter’s College

An investigation by the provincial auditor of Saskatchewan will be launched into the axed merger of Carlton Trail Regional College and St. Peter’s College.

The deal was called off last week after a review by the province revealed concerns with the governance and leadership of the two schools.  A memo leaked to Saskatchewan media also reveals that the colleges’ boards had been informed of issues with the schools’ finances in May 2010, including concerns over travel expenses for Cartlon Trail CEO Glen Kobussen and St. Peter’s accounting practices.

Acting provincial auditor Brian Atkinson announced last Friday that his office would launch an investigation, after concerns were brought forward from members of the public over potential irregularities with the merger. Atkinson explained that the results of this investigation will likely not be available until December, though the NDP are calling for his office to speed up the process, according to the StarPhoenix. An Opposition motion demanding to have the investigation’s results  delivered by May 12 was blocked in the legislative assembly by the Saskatchewan Party government Thursday.

On Monday, the NDP called for Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris’ resignation after documents leaked by NDP advanced education critic Cam Broten showed that Norris had been sent three emails containing information that raised potential ethical concerns with both schools. Norris denied ever receiving the emails, while  Broten argued that there were “too many instances where he should have known and it’s not a believable story,” according to the StarPhoenix.

The emails show Carleton Trails employees being criticized for bringing concerns directly before the board. “When will the staff start concentrating on doing their job and let us do ours. Do they realize they don’t have a say, they are employees. They need to do the best job in their position and stop whining,” writes board chair Marlene Latreille-Gillespie, who was vice-chair at the time the email was sent.

Norris admitted Monday that there had been a lack of surveillance over the proposed merger on his ministry’s part, and said that both schools will be subject to an audit before receiving provincial funding from this week’s budget.

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