Rights and Democracy: Rest in peace, Rémy Beauregard

Eight months ago I began calling for the public release of the Deloitte audit of Rights and Democracy. That was about five weeks after the R&D board announced the forensic audit into the agency’s financial transactions between 2005 and 2009, vaguely alleging financial improprieties under an earlier regime.

Eight months ago I began calling for the public release of the Deloitte audit of Rights and Democracy. That was about five weeks after the R&D board announced the forensic audit into the agency’s financial transactions between 2005 and 2009, vaguely alleging financial improprieties under an earlier regime.

The terms of the audit were transparently tailored to make the deceased former president Rémy Beauregard look bad and to whitewash the current board and management of the organization. The audit period stretched from 2005 to 2009, so it would capture mismanagement that had been caught and fixed before Beauregard ever joined the agency in mid-2008. The audit period also ended before Aurel Braun, the current board majority and their appointees consolidated their control of the organization, so it would have nothing to say about the astonishing gusher of taxpayer cash which Braun, Jacques Gauthier, Elliot Tepper, Marco Navarro-Génie and others have uncorked at your expense and mine as they pursue their assorted theories and fascinations.

But Deloitte is a professional organization unlikely to tailor its findings to fit those theories and fascinations, so its audit eventually became the public’s best bet for testing the validity of the Braun claque’s claims. It has been obvious to me for many months that this best explained R&D’s reluctance to release the audit.

Today the audit was released — not through a formal process, but because somebody leaked it to the Globe‘s Daniel Leblanc. You can read it here. (Well, the main narrative of the audit, anyway. Thousands of pages of annexes, including lengthy email correspondences, time sheets and so on, remain unreleased.)

It shows what Beauregard’s defenders have long asserted: that the agency was run without scandal, and without unusually lax management, even before his arrival; that he was taking clear steps to improve its management; and that specific claims against him and his staff from Gauthier and others hold no water. In short, that Rémy Beauregard died while fighting back against an unfounded witch hunt perpetrated by scoundrels who today stand unmasked and humiliated. The government of Canada under Stephen Harper and his minister Lawrence Cannon today continues to support those scoundrels, to its shame and ours as citizens.

The audit’s major findings:

• During a Feb. 18, 2010 meeting with Deloitte’s auditors — the main meeting at which Deloitte was tasked for this little adventure — Gauthier, then acting president and (then as now) vice-chair of the board, said he suspected “a sum of $30,000 might have been transferred monthly to the bank account of the Geneva Office from Rights & Democracy’s bank accounts in Montreal, which considerably exceeded the preapproved budget.”

Deloitte found this allegation to be false. Amounts transferred to the Geneva office were traced to legitimate sources and spent under identified and approved budget lines. Deloitte quotes an independent evaluation of the office which was generally complimentary.

• At the Feb. 18 meeting Gauthier complained about a severance payment made in 2008-09 to Lloyd Lipsett, a former Assistant to the agency’s President. He said Beauregard wouldn’t tell him how much the payment was for because staff salaries are confidential.

Deloitte confirmed Beauregard’s story: his predecessor’s predecessor, Jean-Louis Roy, hired Lipsett in 2003 and told him in a 2005 letter he would be eligible for a year’s salary as severance “if he had to leave his job on his own initiative or at the request of the new President.” When Beauregard became president, Lipsett took delivery of $99,030 on those terms and left. Deloitte found that the amount he received exceeded R&D’s normal procedure by about four months of salary, or about $25,000. So in delivering on a predecessor’s promise Beauregard overspent by that amount. Deloitte also sided with Gauthier on the question of whether Beauregard should have told him the terms of Lipsett’s severance.

• Gauthier complained that R&D had given $729,000 to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights over three fiscal years, 2006-2009, without knowing where the money went. Could it have gone to the Durban II conference, which the government of Canada boycotted?

The Deloitte audit spends 13 pages tracing transactions between R&D and the OHCHR. All money from R&D was earmarked for specific projects having nothing to do with the Durban II conference. “Certain members of the Board…are worried that the amounts disbursed to the OHCHR to support the Civil Society Unit had been used to fund the Durban Conference in 2009,” Deloitte notes. The sum in question — Civil Society Unit in the year of the conference — is $45,415.00. Deloitte concludes that “it was impossible to determine whether the funds disbursed by Rights & Democracy for civil society were used by the OHCHR to fund the Durban II Conference.”

Deloitte does not add, but I will, that in 2008 the Canadian government as a whole gave  $6,452,292 to the OHCHR. Of that amount $5,096,840, or 79%, was not earmarked in any way. But that was the year Canada decided to boycott Durban II! Surely the next year our contribution to that office dried up? Nope. In 2009 the government of Canada’s contribution fell to $4,259,278 of which 93.8%, or $3,993,610, was not earmarked. (The relevant reports are here.)

So Deloitte cannot be sure about $45,415.00 in earmarked funding from R&D. Meanwhile the government that appointed Gauthier and his pals gave the OHCHR $9 million over two years with no earmarks at all.

• Gauthier’s other complaints amount to concerns about discretionary spending and lax oversight. Deloitte devotes the back half of its report to those concerns. It notes that spending on discretionary budget lines declined sharply during the period when Beauregard would have been in control of that spending, and that “it is important to note that Rights & Democracy had already taken measures regarding certain recommendations” on better accounting and management “before our work began. Indeed, in September 2008, Rights & Democracy created a new position in the Accounting Department, awarded to Ms. Josée Trottier, to perform closer tracking of contracts with the partners.”

So one of the first things Rémy Beauregard did as president of Rights and Democracy was to further improve management practices. The comparison with what Braun, Gauthier and their hirelings and contractees did as soon as Beauregard was in his grave is eloquent.

It is easy to get caught up in process distractions or little stories-of-the-day. There is some fuss this evening about whether the Foreign Affairs Committee of Commons was going to meet today or not, whether the meeting was hastily cancelled or not. That’s all entertaining.

But the broad facts of this story are now clear for the entire country to see. Rémy Beauregard was innocent of wrongdoing. Where he found lax handling of taxpayer money he moved quickly to tighten controls. He ran an honest shop.

His tormentors stand unmasked.