Rights and Democracy: We now return to our regularly-scheduled delay

And now an update for followers of this blog’s relentless chronicling of the Deloitte audit at Rights and Democracy. (A considerable library of previous posts and print columns on the Montreal quasi-governmental agency can be found here.)

The first we heard of an outside audit at R&D was from a news release from the new board majority in February. That release promised the audit would take three weeks. Months later, in April, members of the board testified before the Commons foreign-affairs committee and couldn’t say when they would be able to produce the audit. In late May, Gérard Latulippe wrote to the committee and said the audit would be public sometime in June. (The odd thing is that the only people who now periodically demand the release of the audit are the critics of the same board majority who took it into their heads to commission the audit in the first place, and who, as of April, had spent more than $120,000 on it.)

Anyway. By half-past July I decided it was time to check in on the February audit that was due in March and had not been delivered in June. On July 13 I wrote to an R&D press officer:

My name is Paul Wells and I’m the Senior Columnist at Maclean’s magazine.

It’s now five months since M. Gauthier announced, on behalf of the R&D board, that the Deloitte audit would be released in three weeks. And it’s now mid-July; M. Latulippe told the Commons foreign-affairs committee, who like to receive reliable information, that the audit would be released “sometime in June.”

So, depending which account one trusted, the audit is now between two weeks and four months overdue.

Given the considerable public interest in this audit; the truly impressive sums of taxpayer money that had already been spent on it by April, with Heaven only knows how much more has been spent since then ; and M. Gauthier’s own words, when he announced the audit in February, that “Rights and Democrcy must be accountable for the way our funds are spent;” I have some specific questions which I would like you to pass along to M. Latulippe and/or the board, and reply with specific answers as soon as possible:

– when, precisely, will the Deloitte audit be made public?

– will it be released in its entirety, along with certification from Deloitte that no part of their work has been redacted?

– how can you explain the series of delays in this audit’s release?

– how much more money has been spent on this audit since April?

I look forward to an early reply. In the interest of transparency, I intend to publish this email to you, and any final reply from you or other representatives of Rights and Democracy, verbatim and in whole, either in Maclean’s or electronically on my weblog.

The R&D staffer wrote back immediately saying Gérard Latulippe, the organization’s new president, was traveling but would respond soon. And indeed today I received this reply from Latulippe, which you are welcome to discuss in the comments.

Dear Mr. Wells,

I understand your concern about the Deloitte report and we share the same interest in the transparency of the process as well as the outcome of the report that was initiated by my predecessor last January.

We will fully expect to receive the report before the end of the summer but we cannot give a specific date for its reception. It is unfortunate that we missed the deadline of the end of June as the vacation period considerably slowed the process. Once the board receives the report, it will be first transmitted to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for distribution to committee members as a measure of respect for the parliamentary institutions. The release of the report will be done in consultation with the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Deloitte has given us the assurance that the report has been done in conformity with all norms, ethics and rules of the profession.

The delays in this forensic review are especially due to the changes in the organization and the fact our administration department has been overwhelmed by conflicting priorities such as the financial statements, the requests of the auditor general for his report as well as the full compliance with the requests of Deloitte.

The contract signed by my predecessor has been transmitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee in order to ensure full transparency. The contract includes provisions for the honorariums to be charged by Deloitte. The total amount of those honorariums will be known when the works is completed.

With regard to your request for a guarantee that nothing will be redacted from the report, and that it will be published in full, it is obvious I can give no such undertaking without knowing precisely all the legal and personnel implications its content. In keeping with our mandate of transparency and accountability, however, you have my assurance it is our intention to publish everything that legal counsel and managerial prudence permits. For instance, we are in litigation with employees who have sued Rights and Democracy for unjust dismissal. We would not release information which would violate solicitor client privilege. It would breach our duty to safeguard the public interest to do so.

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